Last week in this space we very nearly talked about sex, which is pretty remarkable when you consider that most days this is a queer blog that seems as if it might be edited by Jane Austen. Today we broach an even trickier, more intimate subject: money. Go away if that makes you uncomfortable, darlings. Click over to the discussion of a prominent academic's sexy memoir that's been going on between and among Tenured Radical (part I, part III), Historiann (part II), and Comrade PhysioProf (part I and only) if that's where your head is at on this steamy summer morning. My typist has something she wants to get off her chest, and, by golly, she's going to unload it on my poor, unsuspecting readers. Welcome to the rant zone, my pretties. You have been warned.
For very nearly a quarter of a century, the moms have been loyal customers of a certain locally owned bank that shares a name with a town in Maryland and a former star of Saturday Night Live. About eighteen months ago, in the midst of the mortgage meltdown, it was announced that this "local banking icon" was being acquired by a Virginia-based bank holding company whose slogan has probably been annoying you for years: "What's in your wallet?"
A few weeks ago, Moose started making reservations and other plans for the moms' upcoming trip to the UK. When she attempted to purchase theater (pardon me, theatre) tickets (because that is what tasteful queers do when they go to London, darlings), the transaction was declined. She figured the transaction looked fishy because she usually uses her check card for far less glamorous things than tickets for the hottest play in London. She immediately called the bank, confirmed that was the problem, and had a long, friendly conversation explaining that she was making plans for a trip she would be taking in a month, so please don't be alarmed by international transactions. Yes, yes, she was told, but be sure to call us back right before you go to make sure we enter the information into the system again so that you won't have any problems using the card while you are there. Sure thing, Moose replied, thanks so much for your help. My pleasure, ma'am. Have a nice day.
The very next day, Moose tried to use the card again to order some new clothes for the trip. She was feeling all virtuous for planning ahead rather than realizing the day before departure that she had absolutely nothing suitable for hiking, conferencing, and London theater-hopping. To her considerable consternation, she got an e-mail the next day from the merchant (a merchant she and Goose matronize so regularly that they argue about who should be able to order this shirt or these pants in that color) saying that the transaction had been declined. She called the bank again and was again told the transaction had been flagged as suspicious by the bank's anti-fraud system. "But I don't understand," a frustrated Moose said. "I went through this yesterday and thought we had everything worked out." "I'm sorry, ma'am, but you'll need to speak to the people who investigate suspicious activity. That is done by a third party, not the bank. You need to call them and verify these transactions." "But, but, I, but, yesterday -- " spluttered a frustrated and puzzled Moose.
It was no use arguing with
Here are two things you need to understand: 1. Moose loves her check card. She loves the convenience of plastic and the simplicity of having charges immediately debited to her account. She doesn't care about racking up points or miles and doesn't like the idea of being slammed with a big bill at the end of the month. She is that rare creature, a pay-as-you-go liberal. Blame it on the German accountant who lives in her brain. 2. Moose is also an anxious traveler, which you probably already know if you hang out here regularly or know her in Real Life.
So, after two frustrating rounds with the bank and the fraud
She hung up the phone, a seriously unsatisfied and deeply anxious customer. She went out on Facebook and trashed the bank, started asking friends for recommendations on alternatives. She considered pulling her vast wealth out of the bank soon not to share a name with a town in Maryland and a former star of Saturday Night Live and putting it into the state employees' credit union after reading an article affirming that banks suck nowadays because they are ginormous corporate entities that view customers as nuisances while credit unions are small, not-for-profit, and member-owned.
And then of course, because it is summer and there are papers to be written and blogs to be redesigned, she did nothing. She went to the movies, a couple of times. She obsessed about birds that seemed to have taken up residence in the chimney. She got a haircut. And then yesterday, realizing she had neglected one small bit of trip planning, she tried to make reservations at a charming hotel in Wales. And the transaction, of course, was declined.
She called the bank. Initially she was told the charge was declined because the 3-digit security code that had been entered was incorrect. Moose didn't think that was true but kept the person on the phone while she reentered the information. Declined, again. Now she was told it was being flagged as suspicious. Further, some previous transactions had been flagged and she needed to verify those: movie tickets, the chimney service (which was called in to install a second damper to prevent future bird incursions), and, yes, even the haircut.
Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, convinced that she is being denied access to her money as part of a sinister totalitarian plot to turn her into a breeder for a brutal patriarchal regime. (Woo, yeah, good luck with THAT, fellas!) You might feel that way, too, kids, if you found yourself in the midst of a conversation that suddenly took this turn:
Moose: The hair salon? You're flagging a transaction at my hair salon? I've gotten my hair cut at the same place for twenty years!
Bank: Well, yes, ma'am, but the amount was substantially higher than usual.
Moose: Oh, for dog's sake, are you kidding? I bought product, not that it's any of your business, but I bought product! (Meanwhile, in Moose's head, which was on the brink of explosion, she is saying something like: Oh, dear bank, I do humbly apologize for being so vain as to require both conditioner and styling lotion to create the illusion of actually having any hair at all. I realize it is not fiscally prudent to expend my meager, furloughed resources on such trifles, and I will endeavor in the future to be less extravagant, but in the meantime, you deranged mother frackers, will you get your big corporate a$$ out of the way and let me spend my goldurned money!)
Goose overheard this conversation and can verify that it was as baffling and frustrating as Moose felt it was. She is sympathetic to The Handmaid's Tale view of the situation, as she is nothing if not a conspiracy theorist. She offers another view, though, which is that this bizarre episode of corporate Big Brother/Shaming Mother-ism is a small yet frightening example of what can happen when automated software systems take too much control of our lives and our ways of doing business. She may be right, but poor Moose, in the meantime, is in a dither, wondering if she should travel with cold hard cash or a stash of jewelry to sell along the way in case her card doesn't work.
She's ready, though, for her next conversation with the faceless, heartless, clueless corporate drones from the bank soon not to share a name with a town in Maryland and a former star of Saturday Night Live. Next time they ask her for the last four digits of her Social Security number and her mother's maiden name, she will dutifully spit out the number, but then she'll take a deep, cleansing, Betty White-channeling breath and calmly reply, "Blarfengar!"
Peace out, darlings, and have a pleasant weekend.