Credit Card Alert – The Uncut Version

creditcardsI’ve been abducted by the Visa police. It’s horrible, I know. A complete stain to my shopping reputation.

Yes, I was declined today – after years and years of faithful, frugal usage of my L.L. Bean Visa card. My card went on SHOPCON 1 – Oh, horror!

And from me, the faithful paying merchant – foryears! Never a late payment – never just the minimum. I am a pay-in-full person.

It all started innocently enough – perhaps a bit too generous on my part, in retrospect. Or lazy.  A temporary lapse in shopping decorum. Here’s how the crime unfolded:

My two oldest kids — the unsuspecting suspects —heading off to college in the next few weeks.

Me— the unsuspecting mom—wants to support their life choices and independence.

They both decided it was time to get chummy, you know, spend time together – at the mall.

“Mom, let’s go shopping,” my oldest son, Jake, suggested a few weeks ago. “You’re so good at helping me pick out shoes… ”

I admit, I was flattered, and yes, because he has a discernible inward gait, which I just sent him to a specialist recently for, I thought, Well, the specialist did suggest maybe it was a shoe problem.

So I was all for the shoe shopping thing. And Jake is known for his frugality. Shoes and a pair of jeans was all he needed for his junior year at college.

Chloe on the other hand… well, she is a girl. She wants to outfit not only herself, but her dorm room, wall to small-wall. She needs things Jake had never considered during his college career: thick towels, matching bedding, area carpet, a mini fridge, and framed photos.

“Geez, Chloe, your room at college will look nicer than our starter home!” I exclaimed. A little jealous, I admit.

I was onto them. But I trusted them. So I handed over my plastic – willingly, completely, to my two young adult shoppers.

“You don’t need ME – I’ll just get in the way – Go have fun!” I exclaimed, shooing them off to the minivan, clipped coupons planted in their eager young hands, proud of my newfound shopping generosity. After all, I had raised them right. They had learned the word “coupon” before “no.”

The first day went great. Jake and Chloe gleefully hit Target, HomeGoods and Marshalls, buying various and sundry on-sale essentials, using every coupon I had provided them and making Very Wise Buying Decisions.

The second day, things heated up. “Off to the Wrentham Outlets, Mom — for shoes!”  they informed me.

“Have fun!”  I waved them off. “Just buy what you need… OK?”

What I didn’t know was that that the activity on my card was starting to look highly suspicious to the Barclays Big Guys. I mean, if any computer looked at my Visa shopping habits in the last 12 months, they wouldn’t have to go much further than the Westborough Stop and Shop.

Their third purchase — a pair of $16 shoes —was declined. My daughter, who had successfully bartered the clerk down by a few dollars, was shocked.

“Mom, your card got declined!” she texted me.

Declined? Declined? How could that be? Someone must have accessed my account and was wildly spending their way across New England! I called customer service to stop this free-spending thrift thief.

I frantically punched in my four-digit security code and mother’s maiden name, ready to help catch the cash-sucking criminal.

The automated system answered back, asking me to verify the latest purchase at The Gap for $140.20.

I pressed “1” for Yes, certain at any moment, the Visa overseers would come online, and ask me to corroborate a string of highly suspicious purchases on my coveted card, and then thank me for alerting them to Consumer Fraud. I imagined my photo in the Westborough Patch, with the caption, “Mom Exposes Illicit Shopping Spree!”

But no. It ended there. Turns out, the credit card algorithms had identified my recent shopping habits as, shall we say, Highly Irregular. I mean, what mother of four would go from weekly grocery shopping of sale items at Stop and Shop to a non-stop free-for-all spree, to the tune of $500 in two days??

I haven’t mentioned that I was in Iceland last week on vacation and bought a souvenir mug (very practical purchase, I must say) on a vacational whim.

I think it was the Icelandic mug and the $16 shoes that took me down.

I can see the creditors’ logic now… “Wait—this is a confirmed mother of four – a certified coupon shopper that just paid full price for a frivolous Icelandic mug and outlet shoes, all in just four days? Shut that woman down! She is obviously deranged, and needs to be Declined!”

So now, I’m afraid to order pizza for delivery. I need to lay low for a few weeks. Will the cops be escorting the Papa Gino’s delivery car, presenting their badges at my doorstep along with my large pepperoni pizza?

“Excuse me M’aam.  We see that you’ve bought a mug in Iceland, shoes at the Wrentham Outlet, AND a meat-laden pizza —with NO Coupons — in the same week.  We need to step inside and inspect your day-old bread purchases for verification…”

I think I’ll use cash for a while. You know, keep a low profile.

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