Sunday 23rd October
I had an incredibly annoying and actually quite upsetting experience the other day, and, in my mind, completely unnecessary too. I was in Waitrose, where I often shop these days, I had actually just popped in for some of those small tubs of Sheba for Puddy-Tat but ended up buying a few other items, as one invariably does. Getting to the till, the amount was a surprising twenty pounds or so, and I knew I didn’t have that much in my purse, so without thinking I presented my credit card. I don’t really use it that much; putting some more pre-pay on my Oyster card, or for any large-ish purchases and that is about it, I also have an arrangement to pay it always by Direct Debit, so they have never earned a penny interest from me. I do get reward points, but they simply convert this into a small sum which is credited automatically so it is hardly an inducement either. I was miles away and waiting rather impatiently for the transaction to clear and the message ‘please remove your card’ to appear when suddenly it said Transaction Cancelled. I knew I hadn’t made a mistake with my Pin number, and asked the assistant to try again, but she said she couldn’t once a transaction had not been accepted, there must be something wrong with my card. I was almost starting to panic, when embarrassment overtook any alarm I might have felt, I could almost feel the looks of slight derision from the small queue behind me. Worse still I had no other way of paying; for some reason I had left my bank Debit card at home. I checked my purse, about ten pounds only. I quickly worked out that I could pay for the cat food and nothing else, so I asked the girl to take off the other items, which I hadn’t really wanted anyway, and left the shop with some sort of dignity intact. Ten minutes later, yes, all of ten minutes, my mobile rung and a woman from a call-centre somewhere in the Indian sub-continent asked me if I had just tried to purchase items at Waitrose. I hadn’t quite caught that she had said she was from card provider at the beginning of her garbled introduction, so I furiously demanded to know how she had obtained my number. She repeated, and this time I understood, that she was from my card company; it was starting to make some sense now, but I was still angry and demanded to know why my card had been rejected. Unbelievably she said it was a random security check, in case my card had been stolen or lost or cloned. I told her in no uncertain language how embarrassed this whole palaver had made me feel, and how dare they just refuse a transaction I was making and just whose money was it anyway. Actually it was still technically their money until I settled the account of course, but this only struck me later. Then she tried to explain that this was a security procedure, entirely random so she assured me, designed to protect my card from abuse. I was beginning to allow myself to be placated, when she dropped the coup-de-gras, had I ever considered taking out insurance against my card being lost or stolen, and that they had very competitive rates etc:. Fury again erupted, and after receiving an assurance that my card was still okay to use, I cut her off. So, was this really a case of a random security check, or just a sophisticated way of trying to sell me insurance?