THE HASSLES OF CREDIT CARDS
We are moving to a cashless society, we are told. All we will have to do to pay is wave our credit cards or our keys or our phone or our finger prints at some device and leave.
Oh really! Do we really want this, when our computers and credit cards and phones and even our body parts routinely have glitches. When too many monthly bills have black holes.
People ask me how I fill my days. After all, I'm a survivor of the 24/7 demands of big city journalism as an editor, columnist and commentator, and appear to content myself now with the occasional blog, with reading, lashing out at the modern media, and volunteer duties.
I find myself rather busy. For starters, there is a wasted hour or so every bloomingday just dealing with the hassles of the big city, and I'm not talking about traffic and the TTC tripling the time of every appointment.
It's doing the household chores and solving the latest bill snafu. (Only older readers will know that started as a profanity before its Sanitized initials became part of our English.)
Consider the last week.
Early call tells me someone is using my credit card number. Good news is that the company knows the $1,200 in charges in the last 12 hours are fraudulent. Bad news is that now I need a new card and have to phone its new number to all the newspapers, telcos, CAA and various companies that deduct monthly from that card.
Home Bell bill arrives with a $70 charge for a call to China from my home when I'm actually at the cottage.
After 30 minutes in waiting and then arguing with the Bell person, I give up. She insists it was dialled from my house and unless, she says sarcastically, someone shimmied up the pole and tapped my line, it's my responsibility.
I think about it for a couple of days, then try calling the number in China. Nothing. So I phone Bell again. I point out that no one is ever going to get through to that number in their records because there are not enough digits. Bell refuses to accept this explanation but cancels the charge because records show I have never phoned China from my home.
Cottage Bell bill arrives. It's over $100, which is interesting because I was there and suspended that service for the winter on Oct. 30 (ironically the day I supposedly called China from my home.) I phone Bell and say that you can't charge the $49 to suspend the service and then keep charging me for supposedly using the service. Pick one, but you can't have both, although you will certainly try
We chase our tails for a few minutes. When I called in October, Bell demanded a couple of days extra to suspend service, which it didn't need before. So now it charged me for another week as well before cancelling the rest of the charge. I argued to the rep, saying the company's stock was at a record high and it really didn't have to cheat around the edges, but was ignored.
Rogers bill arrives. It listed a monthly charge for a paper bill and four magazines. I pointed out that I was promised it would waive the paper bill charge as an old customer and didn't want the four magazines since I didn't get two of them and didn't like the other two. Everything seems fine except the confirmation emailed by Rogers two days later cancelled only one magazine.
Costco has severed its relationships in Canada with Amex and has now partnered with a new credit company. So Mary and I had to apply for the new cards and go through the activation process.
Time consumed for all this would be at least four hours. I made eight phone calls and Mary made two just to sustain our credit and eliminate seven errors. The harvest? I reclaimed $140 and now have two new cards and two new PINs to remember, not that the absence of my PIN prevented the last frauds. And four fewer magazines coming to the house if Rogers stops screwing up a routine request.
Just another chipping at my confidence about the joys of a cashless society. It seemed simpler when I paid cash.
It certainly makes me suspicious about all the companies wanting to eliminate the monthly bill. Just let us tell you what you owe us over the Internet, they say in their whining saving-paper way. I'm with the politicians and consumer agencies who have criticized this.
First of all, it assumes that everyone has and uses a computer regularly. Secondly it assumes that you will be happy with every charge. I find that my Internet billing isn't as complete and easy to check as the paper bill. Then there are their computer glitches. TD now charges me a monthly passbook fee for most of my accounts. It's sheer gravy for the bank, since the cost is probably not even a penny even when one of my passbooks was so scrambled with double entries that I threw it out.
Ah yes, there are those who anticipate the wonderful cash-free days. As for me, I can wait.