There are a lot of tantrums going on in our house these days, ever since Evelyn entered her “Terrible Twenties” (my term for 20 months onward…), but I’m very sorry to say the biggest melt down this week came from yours truly.
I had a relatively good afternoon at work yesterday, but it was rainy and dark and cold, and I was excited to get home. First, though, I needed to pick up just a few of the basics at the store – bread, TP, milk, a bit of chicken, and some fire lighters. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stretch my last €5 note that far, so I pulled out the trusty credit card to carry me through. I hate the shame that comes with using the forbidden bit of plastic for a paltry amount of groceries, but with a hungry family and several hours left between me and payday, I did what I had to do.
Let me note here that my credit card is still an American one, originating with my bank in the States, though they know my residence is abroad. It’s all legit. But still, I save it for emergencies because it’s a dickens to try and pay between banks and transfers and exchange rates and overseas charges!!! But I have used it on occasion when the situation dictates need and it has not been a problem.
Until last night. There I was, at the end of the queue at a Tesco check out, all my groceries bagged and my Club Card points tallied, when I handed over the sacred Visa. They wouldn’t take it.
“We aren’t allowed to take these kind any more,” someone said, examining the card suspiciously. “We can only take cards with a chip-and-pin.”
“What?!?” I cried. “But I just used it here last week! This is how all American cards are still designed, with a strip, not a chip-and-pin!”
“Can you not just go to the ATM and get some cash?” one of the cashiers asked.
“No. This is a credit card.” I was completely embarrassed now, the woman in line behind me sighing loudly and a small crowd of Tesco employees gathering to witness my shame.
So, I sort of lost it. I went off on a tangent about how unfair this was and how I didn’t have any cash until pay day and I had never encountered this problem before and, the coup de gras, “Thank you very much, now my family won’t get dinner tonight.” I turned with a flourish and stomped out, leaving the still-full bags on the counter.
I was fuming.
I was mortified.
I was really sad.
So I called Frank, ranted and raved some more, and went across the street to Dunnes, where I used that last €5 euro note to get the very BASIC basics. I hung my head the whole way home and cursed the Irish ground I walked on.
It really was a crappy situation, no doubt about it. And I think it’s ridiculous that Tesco has changed their policy to exclude all American credit card sales. But.. I also knew in my stubborn heart that I had acted badly. It wasn’t the fault of the poor checkout guy, or his co-workers, and they had to take the brunt of my frustration. I’ve worked in the service industry off and on all my life, and I know just how miserable it can be to end your day on a sour note as some unhinged American woman loses her cool.
And the thing is, Tesco is my favourite grocery store. They have good deals, they stock pretty good food and appear to have a social conscience about supplying free-range, sustainable and organic products on their shelves. Plus, I collect “points” every time I shop there and save them up for my Christmas baking. So the fact that I’d just embarrassed myself in a place I frequent daily forced me to make a decision – do I go back and pretend it never happened? Do I never go back? Or do I go back and appologize?
This morning, I put Evelyn in her buggy and walked slowly down to Tesco. I pushed my way in through the glass doors and meekly went over to one of the girls who was subject to my tirade last night. I told her how sorry I felt afterwards, and how it wasn’t her fault, and that I was terribly rude, and could she please pass the message on to the others? She was lovely and understanding and seemed surprised that I had returned, proverbial hat in hand. And I felt a bit better as I went back through the aisles and bought the items I had left on the counter last night.
Humble pie tastes like poop, don’t let anyone tell you any different. And I’m still thinking about sending the Tesco Corporation a letter of my annoyance. But I’m glad I calmed down and I’m glad I can go back with a little bit of pride.
Now, if I can just figure out WHY all my problems in Ireland seem to hinge around MONEY??? Worst invention ever. Open up a shop where I can trade you one of my cakes for a chicken and some potatoes and we’ll all be grand.