I’m sweating. The line behind me in Target is growing longer, and I’m a mess. I have my youngest child on my hip. I reach for a pack of Tic Tacs to entertain the baby, and help my older sons rip into the holiday party goody bags that they insist on opening at this very moment. I can barely hear the cashier. I do my regular nod-and-smile routine. She hands me back my credit card. I realize then, as I hear the huffing and puffing of the customers behind me, that the cashier is not being friendly as she repeats, “Your card doesn’t seem to be working. Do you have another?” I sigh and quickly try to save face. I ask the cashier if she can try punching the numbers in (heaven forbid), or even the good ol’ plastic bag trick to swipe the card. She begrudgingly punches the number of my Visa into the register. I exhale as I hear the receipt printing, and start to gather my keys and wallet. Much to my surprise, the now annoyed cashier points to the words, “Insufficient Funds.” I feel like everyone in the entire store is staring at me. My boys have taken up residence on the floor and are trading candy canes and Hershey’s Kisses. I politely ask that they hold my cart and suspend the transaction. I smile, sweat some more and pull out a crumpled one dollar bill from my pocket.
Naturally, the first thing I think is, “Oh no — I really maxed out my card. I have used every last dollar. I can’t tell my husband”. I’m (pretty) responsible, and always know when it’s time to slow down the shopping, and/or borrow my husband’s card. Once I have the kids settled in their car seats, I do the unthinkable: I call my husband’s cell phone and turn myself in. Much to my surprise, my husband is confused and mentions that he has just checked our balance, and he thinks there may be a mistake. He is calm and happy to postpone this crisis intervention until he gets home tonight. I, on the other hand, am not calm. I have no cash, a car full of hungry kids and a very guilty conscience to deal with.
After a seemingly endless evening, I sit down to investigate my credit card woes. (I’m ready to go and return every new-with-tags-still-on purchase I have made). After trying to log in and eventually lock myself out of my own online account, I am too frustrated to call the 1-800 number, or click on the link to answer security questions. I sit on the couch, indulge in some trashy TV and wait for my husband. As soon as he arrives, I start talking. Looking back, I most certainly dug myself into a deeper hole. I explain my recent purchases at Saks, and even remind him that I bought him a new watch not long ago.
In his usual calm-and-collected manner, Jason logs into our account (without any trouble at all), and starts asking me about my recent charges. All I need is a dark room and a spotlight. I feel like I’m being questioned and have nowhere to hide. Jason wonders, out loud, what on earth I can possibly buy so much of on Amazon.com. I am quick to tell him that the baby needs formula, diapers, wipes and bottles (I purposely leave out the new Cacharel perfume I just purchased). The interrogation goes on for a while. I explain that we actually save money buying at Costco, and that December is an especially expensive month due to Hanukkah and birthdays. Jason is slightly annoyed, but also amused, as he asks me if it was necessary to visit Target four times in one week. (He has no idea just how many hours I can spend in Target — four visits may be on the low side). We review my Starbucks habit. We even discuss why the kids need Smoothie King every day after karate. Just as I am about to zone out, and apologize for my spending, Jason lets out a heavy sigh and says, “Wait. We haven’t been in Miami this month.”
I do love shopping in Miami. I quickly inventory my month: I don’t recall any girls’ trips or orders placed over the phone. Jason goes on to explain that someone has taken our credit card and gone on a real shopping spree. Apparently, many purchases for high dollar amounts were made in quick succession at a Miami-area mall. Skateboards, sneakers, and even electronics will make somebody very happy this Christmas, compliments of my Visa.
My husband spends the next 15 minutes asking me what I did and did not purchase. He wants to make sure we get credit for any purchases we did not make. He speaks to the bank and spends an ungodly amount of time and energy explaining the charges we have discovered, and why we know they are fraudulent.
In some weird way, it feels good to have this confession. Not only am I happy to know that my shopping was not the cause for my card being declined, but I’m more excited that I was able to help uncover the criminal activity with my card. I smile at Jason as he explains that we do not live in Miami, and that yes, the card is in our possession. I remind him that it could always be worse — I could have actually gone on the shopping spree in Miami. Furthermore, I smile and tell him that he should congratulate me for being such a careful spender.
A few days later, I see an envelope on my night stand. I recognize Jason’s handwriting. I’m excited by the prospects of an early birthday present or holiday gift. Instead, I see a new red Visa card and with a note from Jason. It reads, “Here is your reward: A brand new, scratch-and-teeth-mark-free credit card.”