Yuletide Anger

December 16, 2002

I had a bit of shopping rage today. I needed to run out to the local Best Buy and get a Y-cable and some rechargeable batteries for my MP3 player. The Y-Cable allows two headphones to be plugged in at one time, and the batteries are, well, batteries.

The total purchase price was $23.75. My debt card was declined two times in a row. I was embarrassed in front of half a dozen people. It felt like the whole store was watching even though I knew better. I shame-faced made my way out of the store and back to my car. I decided to go to the nearest teller machine and double check my balance. I had well over 10,000 available to me. Since the teller machine was at my bank I went into find out the reason why my 23-dollar purchase was declined when I had thousands in the bank.

I am afraid that I took my frustration out on the first person I spoke with; he was very understanding but couldn't provide any definitive answers why an account with so much available cash in it would be declined. He asked about my daily limit, as it would be in effect from Friday afternoon until Monday. Ours is set to $2000, and I knew we hadn't spent anywhere near that amount.

Eventually the account representative came out and reviewed the transaction log for my card. She could see the $100 in cash I had just gotten from the teller machine, and she could also see the two-transaction attempts from Best Buy. Both had been approved and then immediately reversed. She said this was indicative of Best Buy's system being down.

You'd think that there would be some way to inform the clerk what the denial reason was so the shopper wouldn't have to be embarrassed by a flat refusal. I don't know if a credit attempt would have worked; maybe that server would have been active.

Because there isn't a human I can really lay this at the feet of I am left holding my anger and upset. I could vent it at the store, the clerk, or the bank; but none of them are really to blame. Instead, it's the system that is at fault. We want to spend money immediately, with security and confidence. This means that when the lines of communication are down the systems errors on the side of safety and declines the purchase. I know that this is for my protection but I don't like it when I run afoul of these kinds of arbitrary boundaries. I hate it when the worst-case scenario runs my life; I don't like the lack of control.

So my shopping rage left me high with anger and helplessness. I had no place to express my emotion at this situation. Some would argue that I shouldn't get upset in the first place, or that I should just not let it bother me. My belief is that keeping this kind of upset inside; that not acknowledging it; leads to disease and illness. I'd rather have it and express it and remove the toxicity of it from inside of me.

In the end I went to two other stores without finding my items. I had to return to Best Buy and get the items there. I avoided the same line even though it was the shortest available. I wasn't sure I could keep a civil tongue to the clerk. Since I don't do well eating when I have unexpressed upset I came back to work without getting anything for lunch.

Writing this posting has given me a release about this whole situation. I feel better for having gotten it out in the open this soon after it happened. I think now I could eat without throwing up.

Only 2 days, 1 hour, and 57 minutes until my Hawaii vacation starts. Not that I am counting down or anything...

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.