Friday, July 3, 2009

Never on Saturday

Oh dear, I hope it never happens to you, but, just in case, may I offer you a few tips on how to cope in the alien world that doesn't recognise someone without a credit card! Being without a credit card in our society (even during a credit crunch) is, so I now realise, akin to being adrift in a foreign land. With no knowledge of the language, you are left impotent and frustrated.

The first tip I’d offer you - never lose your card on a Friday night, or a Saturday morning!

Having partially recovered from the shock of losing my purse, and thinking it would be relatively simple to do my shopping by cheque, I went down to M&S in the High Street. In advance of filling my basket, it seemed wise to check this fact. I consulted an assistant. She looked a little uncertain, before passing the buck. I should go, she said, to the Customer Enquiry Desk. Oh yes, the assistants behind the desk assured me helpfully, I could most certainly pay by cheque - just so long as the cheque was backed up by a current credit card.
“But my card has been stolen . . . “ I protested.
They were sympathetic. They were charming. They were very sorry for me . . but the rules were the rules.
"But it's my weekend shop!" I pleaded., foreseeing a cheerless, foodless future.

A motherly woman took pity on me and went in search of the Manager. He, too, had a sympathetic nature. Although, he said, it was company policy never to do such a thing, perhaps . . . in this instance . . . he took out a card, and, looking very furtive, did something to the computer. Urging me never to say what he'd done (an unnecessary request as his actions had left me totally bewildered) he told me to do my shopping, say the magic password "Pay away" to the cashier and return to him with the cheque.
All around me, shoppers were clucking sympathetically and showing me the zipped pockets on their coats that prevented such disasters. Feeling like one of the foolish virgins in the parable, I humbly admitted to my folly in carrying a purse loose in a bag and promised never to do such a stupid thing again.
And do you know what struck me in all this . . . the basic kindness of people, the sympathy I was receiving. After all, I had only lost money and credit cards and stamps - I hadn't been mugged.
So I celebrated! I bought asparagus, and blackberries, and chocolates, and marmalade with whisky in it - all extravagances that I would never otherwise have purchased. But there was a lot to celebrate!

After all this, it seemed wise to go to the bank and get some cash. I rushed into the bank ten minutes before it was due to close. The Manager in charge was sympathetic, and although admitting that she could do nothing herself, the cashiers were all away on a Saturday, said that she did know someone who could help. The Thomas Cook office was approached, unquestioningly they accepted my cheque and provided me with fifty pounds in cash. Full of gratitude I left the bank.

I bought a new purse in a sale, some stamps at Smith's . . . and finally staggered home. The moral of the story - never carry your purse loose in a crowded 'bus or, if you must, never do it on a Friday night or a Saturday morning.
However, if the worst comes to the worst, you will be rewarded. You will learn how kind people really are . . . and you'll end up with asparagus for lunch!