The Buck Stops Sales Here

Today may be a holiday, but my daughter has her first Japanese class. We’ve opened our home to other homeschoolers and the wonderful Japanese teacher.

This morning I followed a haircut at the local barber shop with a trip to the local CVS for some last-minute munchies for the Japanese students. One of my pet peeves: People using credit cards to buy stuff at stores like CVS or Rite Aid. Oh, how I just love to stand behind three or four people, each one buying a few dollars in items using a credit card. C`mon, who doesn’t or shouldn’t have five bucks in the wallet or purse—more purse, as most of the credit card purchasers do appear to be women. Is there some cultural or gender factor at work? 

Today, I found myself cash short. Since the local bank recently moved down the street, there was no ATM handy. Gulp, I, me, would have to use a credit card. I bulked up the purchase with stuff I needed but had been neglecting, like shampoo, and bravely approached the counter when there was no line. My nearly $20 purchase just about justified the credit card purchase.

The CVS sales lady took my goods, I swiped the credit card in the electronic reader, and she then handed me the receipt. “Don’t I have to sign something?” I asked, finally looking up long enough to make eye contact. “No, the purchase was under $25”. Seeing my baffled look, she added, “It’s new”.

Oh my. Maybe the CVS folks recognize the cashless purchasing trend and maybe the credit card companies, all too happy to get all the more usage, have agreed on this no-sign policy. I assume the policy applies elsewhere.

The no-sign-under-$25 policy might explain a problem I had on Friday. I tried to use my credit card and got a decline on the purchase. So I called customer service to see why. Apparently, my account had been placed on hold because of a suspicious Internet transaction. I recently signed up for the Alienware e-mail newsletter and got 90-days full access to site GameSpot as a perk. So, I applied the 90 days to my daughter’s account. Free or not, the service still required a credit card number, which I gave, to use the free access. Apparently, GampeSpot sent a test $1 purchase to the account to test that it was valid.

That suspicious Internet purchase was for a dollar. One buck! But after today’s CVS experience, I differently see that buck-stops-credit-card purchase. If people no longer sign for purchasers less than $25, credit card companies may have to increase diligence around smaller purchases. I’m speculating, of course.

One phone call got the hold taken off my credit card account, and this wasn’t the first time. Strange thing, and I use it as evidence to support my supposition, past holds only have been applied to small Internet purchases. Big purchases easily cleared.

I will continue to spend cash when I can. But I wonder what changing credit card policies foreshadow.

Then there is the question of who is spending what. According to an Associated Press story, consumers 18-24 use plastic more than paper, whether cash or checks. Shoot, I’m suddenly old fashion. My daughter’s piggy bank is a play ATM machine—that’s what she wanted. I should have deduced something from her behavior.

Photo Credit: Sean McMenemy