Debit Cards – Pay As You Go

The expression “pay as you go” can mean a lot of things. It can refer to getting laid to rest in a cemetery only after a surviving family member coughs up enough dough for the burial plot and funeral services. It can also allude to the former practice, at least where I live, of the local airport having pay toilets. They had to cut it out because people made a stink (sorry).

For me it means using a debit card more often than using a credit card. When I tell friends that I do so they usually roll their eyes and indicate that only poor people or those with bad credit use debit cards. I reply that it is just the opposite. I have the best of credit. Why? Because I only use a credit card for items that have big ticket prices or where I need an element of protection. By that I mean when I buy something that I am concerned it may not work properly or it may not get shipped so quickly, I use a credit card as leverage. How so? I can always tell the credit card company that I am challenging the sale. No merchant wants to get into such a hassle.

One time I tried to purchase a handful of computer accessories over the Internet. (That was when I was frivolous with my spending as I was actually making money.) Two of the items were readily in stock but the third was back-ordered and the company had no idea how long it would take for the stock to be replenished and subsequently shipped to me. They decided to hold off shipping what was available because they did not want to get stuck paying for two shipments. In the meantime, they billed my credit card for all three items. The only reason I knew this is because I use credit cards that are tied to my bank account. I frequently go online to check my bank and credit card balances and saw the posted charge. I then checked to see if a shipping acknowledgment for my order was sent. Nothing, zilch, zippo. I called the customer service department for the company and they explained about the back order.

I asked why then did they bill my credit card if nothing was shipped? They replied that they took two items out of stock and when the third was available they would ship it all together. I then asked if they always did this and they replied in the affirmative and didn’t understand why I was making such a fuss. I told them that it was proper business etiquette to not bill a credit card until the ordered items went to the shipping department with a shipping label. And that if something was back-ordered, you marked it as such and shipped it when it came in at the company expense. I knew that because as a computer consultant, I set up a few companies order processing systems.

I told them that even if what they were doing wasn’t illegal, it was immoral. They had no policy on when to ship what was available at a point when an item had been back-ordered for a certain number of days. In the meantime, my credit card company gave a you-know-what if I was satisfied or not. All they knew was that I had a posted charge and expected me to pay because they had already given the merchant the money within three days of the charge.

I told the company to cancel my order pronto and to give me a credit. I also called the credit card company explaining to them what had transpired and to put the transaction on hold. They agreed and did so and three days later the business where I had placed the order issued me a credit.

I use a debit card when I go buy groceries at a couple of different regular places. ( Yes, I often have to remind the checkout cashier that I am doing the purchase with a debit rather than a credit card.) This way I discipline myself to not spend more than I would like to emotionally. I know that the money is coming out of my checking account immediately rather than after I write a check to the credit card company a few weeks later. Otherwise, using credit becomes play money. People spend without concern for the impact because it doesn’t become real until they see the aggregate bill on the credit card statement. They are caught trying to figure out how to pay off the balance in one shot and not incur finance charges. They promise to be more careful about throwing around the plastic the next time. Yah, sure.

I’m waiting for the day that I can pay for funeral services by debit card. This way I can guarantee that I ain’t going until I say so.

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