My Credit Card

Muga-Golden-Credit-CardGOOD GRIEF!

My wife was opening mail.

From where I sat in the living room, I could not see what she was doing, but I recognized the Good Grief as her mail opening one.

“You haven’t been redeeming your rewards!” she cried.

“What rewards?”

“Your credit card rewards.”

The very mention of my credit card makes me grumpy. Every time I use it, it is a major struggle.

There I will be – standing before the altar of commerce at the Quickie-Mart, where a surly Quickie-Mart clerk will be annoyed that I have interrupted his texting. He wants me gone. It is what I want too, but before I can go, I must pay for my purchases and to do that, I must pay homage to the dreaded Quickie-Mart card reader:

Please Insert You Card

Following its instructions, I insert my card.

<-Credit

<-Debit?

Excuse me? My card is clearly marked as a credit card.

The magnetic strip on the back contains my name, my address, my birth date, my security number, my political leanings, my dining preferences and the fact that I once accused a Quickie-Mart employee of being a jerk.

Like all bank cards, the magnetic strip also holds a GUID (global unique identifier). It is a 32 character digital link that provides instant access to my purchasing history, my internet browsing history and every rude comment I have ever made on Facebook.

Yet this machine cannot tell if my card taps into a credit or debit account?

Perhaps it is just making sure that I am paying attention, so I poke at the space on the screen that indicates credit.

Please try inserting card again. Chip cannot be read

“Turn it around,” the jerk behind the counter commands, “Put the chip end in first.”

He tells me this every time I come in.

“The chip end is in,” I tell him.

He is not impressed. “Try it again,” he tells me.

Please try inserting card again. Chip cannot be read

“Again…,” the clerk growls with growing annoyance.

Please try inserting card again. Chip cannot be read

“Swipe the $%#@ thing through the reader,” he says in utter disgust.

I swipe the card.

Card has chip. Insert card into reader

“Now what do I do?” I ask the clerk.

“Insert your card into the reader,” he says.

I do.

Processing….

…and for this I get rewards?

“You have 38,000 rewards points!” my wife tells me.

“Is that a lot?”

She gets a funny look on her face. “I don’t know, but it sure sounds like a lot.”

Things like this baffle me. It is not the rewards gimmick that confounds me, it is the ease with which bewildered consumers will so readily accept such absurdities.

I mean….. who pays for rewards?

Clue: it is not the bank.

It is usually skimmed off the retailer, who simply passes the cost back to the consumer. So in effect, we are charging ourselves to reward ourselves for spending money that we do not have.

It sounds like something only a bank could come up with.

“Why don’t you go to their website and see what you can redeem for 38,000 points?” my wife suggests.

Not a bad idea.

I go to their website and browse. The stuff they offer is the exact same stuff you see in those in-flight catalogs. Let me be clear on this, I have never once been tempted by anything in a sky-mart catalog.

Later that day, I find myself in line at the Quickie-Mart, watching as the guy ahead of me inserts his card into the reader.

Voila!!

The reader reads it without even asking the dreaded debt or credit question.

“Wow!” the clerk exclaims, “that’s a first.”

“What do you mean?” the guy says, “I’ve never had a problem with that card.”

“Hey, wait a minute,” the clerk says, “let me see that thing.”

The guy hands it over.

“It says FIFTH STREET RAMP.  This is your parking pass, what are you trying to pull?”

“Like I said,” the guy tells him, “I’ve never had a problem with it here before.”