Sunday, September 11, 2011


Last weekend I was at Costco provisioning up, and what with the membership renewal and everything else, the bill came to around $350.  I swiped my debit card, but after all the button pushing, the transaction was not approved.  "That's strange," I told the clerk,  "there should be plenty of funds in there."

"We've had problems with the network today," she admitted.  "Maybe try again."

I smiled apologetically at the people behind me in line, re-inserted my card, and entered my PIN when prompted, but once again received a message saying "$ NOT AVAILABLE".

Now I had a couple of problems: since it had been payday not 5 days prior, I needed to get home or to a bank branch right away and find out what the heck was going on, but I also didn't like the idea of someone having to re-stock the nearly $300 worth of groceries in my cart.

"Do you take Visa?"  I asked.

The clerk shook her head,  "Only American Express."


"Did you want to apply for a CostCo cashback American Express card?"

Not really, I thought.  "Is it instant approval?"

"Yes, it should just take a few minutes."

"All right, let's do that then."

Ten minutes later, I was headed out to the parking lot with the groceries and a temporary paper credit card. Had I been hacked?  Did I forget about some huge, post-dated cheque written months earlier?  Was I shopping at Amazon in my sleep?  Once I got home, I raced downstairs and logged on to our online banking.  At first glance, everything appeared kosher, and there were no suspicious looking Interac transactions, but one of the cheques actually looked a bit out of line.

I went upstairs to get the chequebook and looked at the carbon, and snorted in disbelief.  "What is it?" Audrey asked nervously.

"C'mon downstairs," I answered, and once there, I pulled up our transactions log.  "Do you rember writing this cheque for school fees for Fenya for two hundred fifty one dollars?"  She nodded, so I continued.  "Well, the school's bank went and cashed it for two thousand, five hundred and ten.  So, I think that's the problem."

She looked at me incredulously; "Why aren't you freaking out?  Why are you smiling?"

"Because I am just so relieved it is not my fault!" I replied.  "It's easily explained, easily verified, and as soon as I get the bank on the phone, it will be someone else's problem."

The telephone banking rep's shocked response once he pulled up an image of the cheque was very gratifying, and although it meant we had to use Visa for everything else that long weekend, they had everything sorted out by Wednesday.

Now, for those of you who would not miss two grand from your chequing account, my compliments to you, but I am thinking the rest of us could probably stand to give some of these transactions a closer review at month end, because if it had only been a hundred dollars difference, I might never have known that something was wrong!

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