Yesterday, I spent the morning trying to untangle a mystery surrounding my credit card.
For the past few days I have been trying to figure out why I had been getting messages from my dry cleaners, iTunes and even SunPass telling me that my card wasn't working.
So I called the dreaded 800 number on the back of the card.
The automated voice welcomed me asked me to enter the card number and listed 7 options like ... would you like your balance? has your card been stolen? or what's in YOUR wallet? (none of which related to "my card sucks and suddenly doesn't work"). So I pressed 0 for an attendant.
"Hello, this is Antoine can you give me your card number?"
"Hello Antoine. I entered it when I called "
"Yes sir. This is just to verify who you are."
"The same guy who entered it 5 minutes ago."
"Antoine? Okay ... I'll read you my number."
"Thank you sir. Now what can I do for you?"
"Well. My card doesn't work any more. I have been getting calls from companies that tell me the charges aren't going through and yesterday the ATM rejected it."
"I see. Will you hold?"
Antoine must have taken a cigarette break because it seemed like an eternity until he came back. "Sir? When was the last time it worked?"
"I don't know. I think probably about a week ago."
"Sir. I'm going to connect you with card services ... Please hold ..."
Too late. I've been through this before. Being passed off to different departments is a fate worse than death.
"Hello sir this is Sarah. Can you give me your card number?"
I gave my number. Explained my problem, held for another 10 minutes and sure enough ... You guessed it ... was transferred to another department. I repeated the process for Bambi or Brandi or Bimbo I can't remember. She told me that there was nothing she could do because my account was locked and I would have to take my card to one of the bank branches.
"Bambi, you can't be serious. You can't fix it? What are they going to do at the bank?"
"Sorry sir. It has to be done at the bank. "
Well now all kinds of thoughts were bouncing around in my head: Was my account compromised? Did someone steal my identity? Did I make a purchase that triggered this?
But I persevered. Bright and early yesterday morning I showed up at the bank. The lobby didn't open until 9 ... It was 8:30. I went to the drive thru and told my story.
"Well, sir. I can't help ... But ... You know one of our banking reps is here. I'll see if he can help you."
Finally, someone who actually went out of her way to really try ...
"I'm sorry sir. He said you have to come in to the lobby."
"He's right there and can't just do it?"
"Um I guess not." Even she was embarrassed to tell me.
So I waited in the parking lot as the minutes ticked away.
At 9, I went into the lobby and spotted one bank rep in his office showing a guy who obviously never had a credit card in his life how to use it. "That's right ... this side has the magnetic bar and you put it in the machine this way ... and you wait ... and then you push in your numbers ..."
The anger was rising. I wanted to physically grab the poor slob who never had a card in his life by his throat and throw him to the ground. I could take him. He looked at least ten years older than me.
Finally he came out. "So what can we do for you today?"
I retold my story, he took my card and called THE 800 NUMBER! I kid you not... The same people I called.
"Hi this is John from the Gateway Branch calling .... FT 1256-78P ... (Something like that. These guys probably use code when they go to the bathroom). Yes... Customer has a lock on his account. That's right ... uh huh ... Yes ... "
He hung up and handed me my card. "Okay. You're all set. She took the lock off your account and you're ready to go."
Now I'm seething. Sitting there staring at this guy with a big smile on his face. "Really? REALLY? I came in so that you could do the same thing that I did at home and was told it couldn't be done?"
"I ... um ... guess they wanted you to come in for identification."
"Do we know each other?"
"Sorry sir. I really don't know ..."
"Did she say what was wrong with the account? Why it was locked in the first place?"
"I don't think she could tell."
"So you guys lock my account, don't know why, can't fix it through the automated system that messed it up to begin with, make me come to the bank and you pick up the phone and call the same people ... And it's now fixed. Right?"
"When you put it like that ... I guess so. Well sir ... Have a very nice day. Is there anything else I can do for you?"