Saturday night we went to one of Madison’s finer establishments to help celebrate the birthday of a friend. Nice place, great steaks, locally owned. Jacket and tie not required, thank heaven.
It was a fine evening from beginning to almost the end, when I had to endure one of those modern-day problems that no one will take the blame for, and no one seems to be able to solve. It was a great meal with great service, worth the price I knew we’d pay.
It was my friend’s birthday, and I wanted to treat him.
A moment here, to give you some background. My wife and I do not have any credit cards. We use debit cards exclusively, and I’m obsessive about knowing the balance on our accounts every day. We’ve had enough trouble with both our debit cards in the past year to make me constantly vigilant.
So when the waiter came back and discretely told me my card had been rejected twice, I gave him our other debit card. We’re so well acquainted with the friends we were dining with that I could “vent” to them. I said “there’s got to be at least three thousand bucks in that account, and they’re going to hear about this Monday”. The bill was a bit north of 300 bucks, and there was no problem processing the transaction on the other debit card.
To mitigate my pique, the birthday boy was kind enough to relate a tale of how he’d once been embarrassed by a credit card company, while he was conducting a transaction with his business. We’ve all been in these situations, when there’s no logical or apparent explanation for the failure of our credit or debit card to “go through”.
So yesterday I called the bank and asked why my card had been rejected on a 300-dollar purchase Saturday night. We agreed that at the time of the rejected transaction there was $3163.84 in the account, and every cent was “available”. (Another favorite bank trick: they love to restrict YOUR access to YOUR money.) Had I exceeded the one thousand dollar daily limit on the card?, the bank asked. It’s there for my protection, the banker-ette quickly explained. No, I had NOT exceeded the one thousand dollar daily limit. And by the way, just a couple months ago I paid a hotel bill in Mesa that was over $1500 with that card, and there was no problem then. So don’t talk to me about “thousand dollar daily limits”, unless you’ve changed policies since March and haven’t bothered to tell me. No response to that.
She then theorized that it was the restaurant’s problem.
In 30 years of being a news anchor, I’ve developed uncanny skills at tracking down stories. High-level skills like using the telephone to call the restaurant and ask if they had ANY trouble with ANY of their other credit- or debit-card transactions Saturday night. Nope.
So I called the banker-ette back and reported the restaurant denied having any issues with their equipment. She said she simply couldn’t explain why it didn’t “go through”. No apology, no offer of any further action on the bank’s part. Not that I expected anything.
This bank was good with us, when my wife had a debit-card issue in New York City a few months ago, so now, as far as I’m concerned, the score is even. One to the good, one to the bad. Next incident - and I know there’ll be one - and I move past the “talk” stage. If they’re reading this, I’m pretty sure they’re not scared, and they don’t really care. I'm a small fish, and if I swim away, they won't even notice.