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Opinion February 2017

Who’s Taking Credit for the Credit Card?

By Lois Greene Stone

I don’t exist, but I’m sent a credit card because I do – and have – existed. And it must be used to be active, yet it can’t be used until I become a new user!

Remember when the phrase “Catch 22" evolved after a 1961 book came out? Its interpretation: conditions must be met before an event can happen yet the event must happen before the condition can be met: a no-win situation.

A major newspaper’s business section discusses marketing/investments, often noting national retail chains and bankruptcy, decline of malls’ foot-traffic, and increase in online orders. Can we bring back the consumer? is a question in board meetings as CEOs are caught in a dilemma.

A replacement crimson charge card that included the new identity chip arrived in the mail. I activated, signed, put it in my wallet, and found that the single item to purchase would be 20% less if I swiped the crimson at the specific department store. The service center clerk noted the chip, remarked that these are new to the machines and I’d be saving $8, but the card isn’t valid as it hadn’t been used in two years.

I haven’t had it for two years! She phoned someone, read embossed digits, my name, and repeated the card isn’t active.

Catch 22? A credit in plastic was sent to me with no former notice except to tear up my existing card. The store wants customers, and I’m just that. An inactive card, but definitely newly produced with chip, cannot be activated unless used, but can’t be used unless I open a new charge account but not even with the same number. And, according to the clerk, every bit of paperwork must be new as well.

I don’t exist, but I’m sent a credit card because I do – and have – existed. And it must be used to be active, yet it can’t be used until I become a new user!

The clerk asked for my driver’s license and typed in the information on her computer so I’d have a new account; then my Social Security number was provided but with a lot of hesitation. When she asked my income for a line of credit, I said to put the smallest amount down as I was not giving my income – identity theft seemed quite ripe here. She said she could not complete the process without my income. Then, did I own a house? At that point, I asked for a manager.

The latter played dumb about billing procedure, yet must enjoy the title of manager. I explained the catch 22, produced a valid card with a valid expiration date, and that I didn’t request it but had previous accounts so that’s why it came. But she held her body language in a closed position and said I must complete the income information and get a new account. I asked if she had a coupon for the 20% as the come-ons appear almost weekly. She said I could buy the item and come back to the store on Friday and there would be coupons for all customers.

I refused to complete the computerized questions, and am upset with myself for taking it to the level where my Social Security number was entered even hearing ”nothing is saved as the account didn’t go through.”

Maybe department stores are failing because there are few clerks, fewer dressing rooms, and one must carry garments a distance to find a cubicle with poor lighting and single mirrors. Maybe also because of little attention to the shopper, and the good will to encourage a potential buyer to feel good about the store have vanished.

The media reports downsizing, people laid off, malls becoming outlet stores to survive, and so forth. Maybe a “people perspective” is a bigger reason than CEOs consider!


Lois Greene Stone, syndicated writer and poet, has work included in several book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/photos/memorabilia are in major museums including 12 different divisions of The Smithsonian.