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Universally Surreal Postal Service

I had a migraine on Friday. Bad. In hindsight, I suppose I should have expected one -- it had been slowly barreling its way northwest for a while now, and its name was Fay. Stress, sleep, hormones, and barometric pressure are all the [mostly] unavoidable migraine factors. I had four aces. The universe had a straight flush. 

I also had a short story deadline for this workshop I'm doing in Portland in a couple of weeks. So I took the day off, turned the air conditioner down, and sat propped up in bed typing in the dark. It was slow going. I took breaks to nap and eat. Needing the story done and printed and in the mail kept me hammering away at it.

Right on the verge of passing out, I finished. I went for a 20-minute walk on the treadmill and took a shower, hoping to perk myself up, but wanting nothing more than to pass out. Dizzy and probably not in the best frame of mind, I read the story over once, and then proceeded to print out three copies in manuscript format. It took forty minutes. I felt every blessed one.

I threw on an old pair of jeans and a stained t-shirt, slipped on my flip-flops, and was ready and waiting the second the last sheet printed. I knew a truck left the main post office at 6pm. It was 5:05. I wrote the address on a post-it note, grabbed my sunglasses, and left the house. The heat hit me like a fist. I took shallow breaths.

When I got to the post-office, the parking lot was pretty empty. I ran inside, grabbed a Priority Mail envelope, and scribbled the address on it. I pulled the strip off and sealed it three seconds before the clerk invited me to step forward. I had my credit card out and ready. It was 5:25. Perfect.

"Is this anything fragile, liquid, or perishable?" the clerk asked.

Like she hadn't just seen me shove 100 paper-clipped pages inside. But I knew she had to ask. "No."

"Do you need any insurance, delivery confirmation, or--?"

"No." God, my head hurt.

"Do you need any stamps, packing supplies--?"

"Nope." It even kind of hurt to talk. I wiggled my credit card, anxious to complete the never-ending transaction.

The clerk gave me a wry smile. "I have a question you will answer 'yes' to," she said chipperly.

Any other day, I would have been in the mood. Hell, any other day, I would have said the same thing. I used to do stuff like this to grumpy customers when I worked at the bookstore, just because I could. And it never hurt anyone to smile. I raised my eyebrows. Her grin got huge, and her eyes twinkled.

"May I see your ID?" she asked. The woman behind me in line chuckled. Yeah. Wasn't she clever?

Now, I have this small pet peeve about cashiers who ask to see my ID when I'm purchasing an item that's less than $5.00. If someone wants a bottle of water/pack of gum/Priority Mail sent badly enough to STEAL MY CREDIT CARD for it, then they're welcome to it. Seriously. Chances are, I would have given them the five bucks in the first place had they asked for it. Most credit card machines don't even ask for your signature if the transaction is under $25.00. It doesn't take but a few brain cells to figure out that all this "asking for ID" nonsense is just a power trip. A few more brain cells, and I would have had my own chuckle.

Unfortunately, my brain cells were otherwise occupied trying to keep me vertical. I flipped open my wallet with all the effortless grace of Fox Mulder, and the clerk made a big show of comparing the credit card to my driver's license. The TSA give less thorough examinations. And as she handed the wallet back to me she said, "I liked the book."

I honestly had no idea what she was talking about. "What book?"

"The Sherrilyn Kenyon one."

I froze. "Oh my GOD, you MUST be kidding."

She wasn't. We went on to chat about Sherri, and she asked me how the Acheron signing at the Parthenon went. I told her that after they kicked us out, we signed books on the steps until one o'clock in the morning. She told me about all the "pseudo-writers" who come in from time to time to send a manuscript one place or another. She told me about another children's author who had never heard of The Giving Tree. I told her about how that book had been banned in several school systems, and why. And because there were still people behind me, I broke off our lovely conversation and excused myself. She invited me to come back soon. I said I would. And then I went straight home and called my mother.

I got recognized by a perfect stranger at the post office. ME. In my ratty jeans and ancient t-shirt and flip-flops and big, dark sunglasses. Like I was Nicole Kidman or something. I may as well have been...that's just Nashville. Look, ma, I'm a celebrity! Holy crapinoli.

I just hope to god my envelope got on that last truck.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 27th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)
That's AWESOME. :)
Aug. 27th, 2008 08:52 pm (UTC)

That is fantastic! :D :D :D

(And sort of scary when i think about it too long... but mostly fantastic! ;))
Aug. 28th, 2008 01:29 pm (UTC)
Yeah...it sort of scares me a little bit too.
Aug. 27th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC)
Aug. 28th, 2008 01:08 am (UTC)
I love that story.
Aug. 28th, 2008 11:55 am (UTC)
yah for flip-flops & ratty t-shirts... that's awesome!! =)))
Aug. 28th, 2008 12:10 pm (UTC)
you're a star, baby!
Aug. 28th, 2008 01:30 pm (UTC)
I certainly didn't *feel* like a star at the time...but maybe that was the point.
Aug. 29th, 2008 07:57 am (UTC)
Credit Card/ID
You should be upset any time that you are asked to show all of your personal information to some unknown cashier when using a credit card. Nice big risk of identity theft to show them all of your information and allow their security camera to also record the image of your ID with all of that information. The back of your credit card needs to be signed. The merchant cannot require ID of you unless your card is unsigned. However, if your card is unsigned, it is technically invalid and you will be liable for all fraud should your unsigned (or "See ID" card be stolen.

The procedure to process a Visa transaction is shown here:

The procedure outlined above states to swipe the card and obtain a signature and then verify the signature on the card against the signature on the receipt.

Also from Visa's website, Visa's rules below on Print Page 29 or PDF page 34 of this document: http://usa.visa.com/download/merchants/card_acceptance_guide.pdf state that merchants may not make identification a condition of sale.

MasterCard rules are similar.

Below is in regards to the MasterCard "Chargeback Guide" located at: http://www.mastercard.com/us/wce/PDF/TB_CB_Manual_5_08.pdf

Please read pages 76-78 of the "Chargeback Guide" which explain acceptance procedures and discuss when to call for authorization. Note that nowhere in the acceptance procedures does it say to ask for ID, and nowhere in the reasons to call for authorization does it say to do so when a cardholder refuses to provide ID.

Item 7 on page 77 discusses "unique transactions" and says that the merchant is to request identification for those transactions (excluding truck stop transactions). If you go to pages 97-99, it shows what type of transactions qualify as "unique transactions." The transactions I have had to show ID for at your establishment do not fall into the "unique transactions" listed on pages 97-99.

Now moving to page 131 is the "honor all cards" rule which states that a merchant cannot have a policy in place that discriminates against customers who pay with a Card. By requiring customers who are paying with a Card to show ID, you are discriminating against a customer who pays with a Card by requiring them to present identification which you do not have non-Card customers do.

Also on page 131 is the "cardholder identification" rule which states that a merchant may not refuse to complete a transaction solely because a cardholder has refused to provide additional identification.

Also on MasterCard's website is a "Contact Us" page that records reports of merchants who are not following their terms which can be found here: http://www.mastercard.com/us/personal/en/contactus/merchantviolations.html

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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