Saturday, December 04, 2004

For Whom the Credit Card Machine Declines

As if going to the mall isn't bad enough, technology -- which is meant to make our lives simpler -- screwed me over today. Today, technology cost me $2.00 in ATM fees. You owe me, Technology! Pay up, bitch!

I haven't been to the mall since before Thanksgiving, and there's good reason for it. I hate the mall. And I mean I really really hate it. Not any specific mall, but all malls.

When I was a teenager of about 15 or 16, I loved the mall. And I mean really really loved it. I got my first job when I was 16. (I'm a late bloomer in a lot of things: didn't get my driver's license until age 18, didn't get drunk for the first time until later that same year. I've still never "done it" with another dude.) The job was at Richardson's Canal House in Bushnell's Basin in Rochester. I'm told it was a very good restaurant, the former owner even had a license plate that said "5 Star." She was a real bitch. She's not my boss anymore so I can say that.

My boy Cialini actually got me the job there. He and I worked like dogs at that place. We were dishwashers, but in addition to that very important task, we also mopped floors, broke down boxes, peeled green beans and all sorts of other skilled duties. The kitchen was always hot as hell, the waiters were assholes, as were some of the people that worked there. My boss, Dave, was a raging prick. In fact, one Saturday night when I came into work he yelled at me because I had left early the night because I had to take my SATs that morning. He said to me, "That's bullshit. I oughta fire your ass right now. [Long pause.] I'm not gonna but I should." Yeah, you're not gonna because your ass is gonna be down your only dishwasher for the night. To this day I wish I had said, "Go ahead and fire me, bitch. Go ahead." He never would have done it, he would have been screwed. That very same night he got violently ill and had to spend several weeks in the hospital. He ended up being okay, but I never saw Dave again. I put in my two-weeks notice the next week.

Anyway, I'm getting way off track. The mall. Yes, working in that hell's-kitchen was always worth it, because every other Saturday or so, Cialini and I would cash our paychecks and then spend the bulk of it at Camelot Music at Eastview Mall. Over the course of the 8 months of my junior year of high school, I wouldn't be surprised if I spent close to $900 on CDs and (mostly) cassette tapes. Mike and I listened pretty much only to rap music at the time, so we would snap up all the new releases, then go home and "dub" them off each other (this was before downloading and burning, young children). I actually would calculate my paychecks in terms of how many rap tapes I could buy with it. Back then, tapes were about $8.99, so with tax they were just right around $10, so if my check for the week was $120, I would think, "Wow, I can get 12 tapes this week!" CDs were usually about $17 back then. Of course, at chain record stores they still are. I had no idea you could go to a indie record store and get CDs for like $11. This is why I have three large plastic crates positively overflowing with cassettes. That's forward thinking, eh?

I was so obsessed with stretching my cassette tape dollar, that I became a cheap son of a bitch when it came to spending money on anything else. In fact, once I was at the mall with my brother Mike and his friend (I think his name was Rajit, sarcastic little Indian kid), and they were hungry, so we went to Burger King. It was right across the way from Camelot. I was the only one with a job, so I had the money. My brother and Rajit wanted hamburgers, so I said they could get hamburgers, but no cheese. (I swear this is true.) The cheese would have been 10 cents extra per sandwich, but I put the kibosh on the cheese. Rajit later found a dime on the floor after they ate, and he asked me, "If I bring this up to the register, do you think they'll give me a slice of cheese?" Punk kid.

Was there a point here? I don't know. But the point is, now the mall is the last place I want to go. Not only is it a soul-sucking place of commerce, especially around Christmas time, but it's filled with old, slow-walking people; gaggles of teenagers, girls with shirts too tight, boys with pants too big; loud obnoxious noises everywhere; and all that walking. I hate the walking. I'm always too hot, but I don't want to leave my jacket in the car. It's miserable, but yet I love to buy things, so what else am I going to do?

Today I went to a place that Willie, Toastie and Javen have told me about called Steve & Barry's. They said it was a treasure trove of t-shirts that were usually under $10. And I'm a sucker for "gimmick" t-shirts with wacky or ironic sayings on them. That they know of, there are two stores, one in Albany, one in Auburn. When I got there, I was positively floored by the amount of merch available, and how cheaply. If you ever have a chance to get to one, take it, especially if you are a t-shirt person. Not since the heyday of the soon-to-be-defunct Champion Outlet (moment of silence...) have I seen such reasonably-priced, awesome shirts. They have shirts that range from legit college logos, funny slogans, and the obligatory double-entendre shirts. ("Dick's Wood Shop," "Go Hairy Beavers," et al.)

I got 5 shirts: four for myself, one for someone else. The shirts I got for myself are one that says "I'm with Stupid" and has an arrow pointing upward, one that has the "Parental Advisory, Explicit Content" logo on it, one baseball-type shirt that just says "Buffalo" (awesome!), and one that says "Canada" with a logo of a hockey player taking a slap shot. For all these shirts, I paid $27.

Well... I tried to pay $27, but unfortunately, Steve and Barry were having a bit of a credit card machine malfunction. I have a check card from Visa that withdraws the money direct from my checking account. The credit card number is 4456 8.... that's not important right now. The problem is that the card "wasn't going through." Rage, who was with me, had a similar problem at the register next to me, but her's was cleared up on the second swipe. With me, the cashier had to call a manager over. Great.

I've worked in retail, and it's a very awkward situation when you have to tell a customer that their card didn't go through. The customer invariably will say, "There's money in there, run it through again," at which point the cashier will gladly oblige, only to advise the customer 15 seconds later that it declined again. Few retail situations are more awkward: for the cashier having to break the news, and for the customer having to be told he has no money.

I'm no stranger to credit card decline. In fact, many years ago when I made less money than I do now -- and I'm still no Michael Bluth when it comes to yearly earnings -- such an occurrance was routine. Every purchase I made with a credit card back then was a fingers-crossed game of chance. This is why many of the major credit card vendors still prefer that I don't use their cards for at least a couple more years.

But this time, I knew I had the money. I went to get an oil change earlier today and the card worked like a charm. LIKE A CHARM! (Good thing, too, because if that hadn't worked, I would have had to have walked home.) I frantically ran outside to check my account balance on my cell phone. Because even know I knew I had the money, I didn't know if I had the money. I punch in my account number, 3024 873... sorry, off track again, and yes, I did have at least a couple hundred bucks to play around with this month. But the people in the store don't know that. The cashier, the manager, the line of people who were waiting for my deadbeat ass to get out of line didn't know that. So I had to walk all around the mall looking for an ATM. (And by the way, I've never been to a mall with such a dearth of ATMs as the Finger Lakes Mall.) I took out the money, and walked back triumphantly to Steve and Barry's with cash in hand, as if to say, "See, haters? I got the money, bee-otch!" But I'm sure they thought I just borrowed the money or beat up some kids for it. I had considered just walking away, not only to save face, but to penalize Steve and Barry's for their faulty computers. But that "I'm with Stupid" shirt? Ha ha! It's priceless! And appropriate.

1 comment:

Gene S. said...

I'm sure that it USED to be like that-- when your credit card was declined, the people thought you had no money. But now I think everyone knows that technology sucks, and it's probably even happened to them at one time. I used to work at a hotel that didn't have credit card machines, we had this online server processing system, and it would frequently go down. Since we were a chain hotel, we were told to just take down the numbers, give them a room, and charge them when the system came back up. Well, more than once, I'd have to call up to someone who had already settled into their rooms and who may have already gone out for the day that their credit card had been declined. Talk about awkward when they have to pack up their stuff and leave! Gotta love technology. :)