Today I had another one. International banking can be a challenge, so when I head to the grocery store, I always check my bank balance first to make sure everything is cool before I shop. I did that today, and went happily off to the grocery store. I made quick work of it, zipped through the check-out line...and my card would not authorize, even though I had enough money in there to pay for the groceries twice and then some.
That's when you get "the look". The look that says, "Gee lady, way to over-spend" or "Maybe you should put some of this stuff back." Either way, they never look as if they believe it's a problem with your card/bank. I tried a credit card next. Nope. At that point I knew there must be some issue with the connections to banks in the US. I ran over to the cash machine and tried to get cash out. Nope. At that point I know my face was red and I must have looked like I was guilty of something. She put my bill on hold while I went to try and sort it out. I was afraid to hand her my Spanish cash card (we normally only use our Spanish account to pay rent and utilities) because I had no idea if there was enough money in there to cover it. So I went to another cash machine and managed to get enough out of our Spanish account. I was very relieved to walk back and hand her the crisp new bills, but I resisted the urge to point out to her that I was not a total loser after all!
I came home and checked my balance and I still have the same amount in there as before I left, so I guess it's a temporary electronic glitch. Whenever this happens I always swear that I will always always shop with cash. But I hate to carry around cash because it's just easier to spend.
A couple of other monetary cringe-worthy moments:
- In our old house we had a 1,000 liter gasoil tank in our garage that ran the boiler which provided us with hot water, and our hot water heat. When it was empty, they would send a tanker to fill it up. The problem was, that it would show up as a gas station purchase. Once, I had ordered 500 liters, which was well over 300 euro at the time. My cards were all denied (even though I had money) because the computer didn't believe anyone would be spending that much at a gas station. The tanker driver gave me "the look". I had to frantically rummage through the house for cash and borrow 50 euro from interns that were staying at our house!
- A few years ago, I went back to Quito, Ecuador, for my little brother's wedding. When you leave Quito, there is a $25 airport tax that you can only pay in cash. I had forgotten about it completely, but thankfully the friends I was staying with remembered. I went to the airport with just enough cash for the tax (and not enough money in my checking account to get any more out.) When I got to the check-in desk, the airline informed me that it was obligatory for me to have my suitcases plastic-wrapped because of looting. It cost $4 per bag, and no, they weren't paying. It was 6 am, and my friends had dropped me off and left. I only had the $25 and couldn't pay either bill with a card. So I had to ask a total stranger (a very nice American man who took pity on me) to loan me the $8 that I was lacking. He was very nice and wouldn't give me his address so I could pay him back. That STILL makes me cringe when I think about it.