The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about the embarrassment of having your credit card bounce while waiting in a long line at the cash register. That had all come to mind because of the funny Facebook message somebody sent me about deploying new strategy of “Tebowing” every time he used plastic during the holidays.
Pretty funny, except when it happens to you.
Which it did to me just the other day while out of state during a Christmas shopping foray.
On a double whammy.
I decided to help a friend who was shopping with me when his card tilted due to a miscommunication with his wife about which account to use.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said smugly. “Just use this.”
I whipped at my card, the one with the TV commercial that proudly boasts, “It’s what in your wallet!”
After all, they had just upped my credit limit for some inexplicable reason that I still don’t understand, because the last time I had inquired about such a matter five years ago, some guy named “Peggy” laughed at me.
This time, after paying for my own purchase without a hitch, I passed my card along to my friend in need and sat down to rest my weary shopped-out body and revel in my self-made, charitable moment, only to see my card back in front of my nose in a flash.
“Sorry, Buddy, but they’re having problems with your card going through,” said my friend.
Dadgummit, I had forgotten about Tebowing.
How could this be when fewer than 72 hours ago I had been the recipient of such monetary swag, the all-important increased credit limit that you can’t ever seem to get when you need it?
“Try this,” I said, handing him the card that you never leave home without.
Mission accomplished. So I decided to treat us to lunch and we sort of chuckled about how the electronic gods were conspiring against us.
Then the check came, I generously offered to buy and, this time as an insurance policy, I took out my debit card, knowing full well I had just deposited ample cash for my trip.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with your card,” said the server, “but I can’t get it to go through.”
Now I’m thinking maybe I have been a victim of identity theft, as my son and his wife were last week when a hacker ripped them off for $600.
Not to panic — I pulled out the old reliable gold Amex again. But I immediately began tapping my I-phone for the link to my bank account.
During the holidays, of course, the circuits were all overloaded.
Were they going to come and haul me off to Alcatraz now?
I immediately remembered the story Chris Rock had repeated about Oprah on her show when she was denied credit once in Europe. “So what did you do next, Oprah, take out your ‘Kryptonite’ card?” said Rock.
Lacking Kryptonite, I had resorted to the Ol’ Reliable which I had not left home without.
However, we had been Oh-for-three on the other cards.
Once home and on my laptop, I discovered it had been pilot error on one card and a precaution by the credit card company on the other to protect my account.
“Mr. Martin, we can release that now, but we put a restriction on that card because it wasn’t your normal routine,” said the nice lady.
Translated: I was out of state and had made back-to-back purchases for more than I normally spend.
Good thing I hadn’t bought a car on that card, which by the way, my friend once did. They could have come and arrested me on the highway.
As for the debit card, I simply forgot to move money from my checking account to my debit account, which I did in two minutes via computer.
In my moment of humility, I stopped to think about so many families in need who had neither credit card nor cash, nor any means of buying a gift — or for that matter, even a meal to eat or maybe even a place to lay their heads.
Like so many of you, my wife and I decided to go light on Christmas this year. Instead of toys and clothes and the like, we are focusing on providing clean water for a family through Samaritan’s Purse. And we are giving locally to Innerfaith which has reached out to those in need of food and shelter.
Of course we will have a few small gifts under the tree this year, bought locally, but not frivolously. And mostly by check. I am pretty sure the bank won’t bounce them based on the fact that they were outside my normal spending habits.
Just to be safe, however, maybe I will “Tebow” this Christmas. It wouldn’t hurt.