I never carry any cash. I figure, anything I need can be bought with my Visa check card. I use it for small purchases at Starbucks ($1.87 every weekday for a grande coffee in a venti cup with a cold soy topper (they used to charge me for soy, but not after I complained that New York City Starbucks provided a soy carafe at the “creation station”)) lunch, the bookstore, video store, grocery store and whatever else asks me for money. The Check Card transactions get posted to my bank account allowing me to track all my purchases. I don’t have to deal with change and tip jars. It reminds me that I’m living in the twenty first century.
Last night, with pockets empty of cash, I tried to use my Visa check card to pay the Naperville Public library $2.20. The $.20 covered a previous late fee (I know I returned the book on time, they just didn’t process it until the next day). I was paying the $2 for renting the American Splendor and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow DVDs.
Here’s how it went down:
- Waiting in line: Usually I use the self checkout, but when renting adult fiction DVDs I have to deal with a circulation clerk. Some guy steals my clerk just as I’m about to step up to the counter. He needs a body manning the Information desk. I have my Visa Check Card in hand.
- At the counter: I hand over my three books, comic book trade and the two DVDs.
- Payment in vain: Clerk: “Would you like to pay your $.20 overdue charge?” Me: “Sure, put it on there.” She waits. I dig out my library card. She scans everything. I notice the VISA/MASTERCARD sign behind her head, it gives me confidence. I offer the Visa. Clerk: “Oh no, we do not take that.” Confused, I point toward the sign and then notice the little “$10 minimum” label between the two credit card logos. Clerk: “It must be at least $10.” Me: “But…” (the but is meant to imply the thoughts racing through my head: that’s against Visa policy, illegal, didn’t you read about that little ice cream shop?) “Fine, take off the videos.”
- I leave with my books. I feel the same embarrassment as if my credit card got denied. I’m angry.
Here’s why I was so mad: Visa card acceptance is offered to the customer as a convenience. If a merchant limits that service with minimum charges the implied convenience is lost (I know every small merchant’s excuse is Visa’s transaction fees, but tough, it’s part of the program). The situation at the library is especially perplexing because they only ever charge people micro fees: you’d have to rent ten DVDs or have massive overdue fees to meet their policy violating $10 minimum.
Besides the consumer convenience factor, I figure the library owes me. My property taxes increased by 120% this last year (senior citizens owned our house before us and we lost their discount this last tax cycle). $200 a year (or maybe $100, I can’t remember if $100 was every six months or the math I did in my head for a year) goes to the Naperville Library. I want to get my money’s worth by checking out DVDs, CDs, how-to books, cinema books, children’s books, young adult fiction, comic collections and whatever else the Dewie Decimal system has to offer.
So here’s my plan: I’m going to complain. I will file a complaint with my bank (as Visa advises); I will file a complaint with the library. I will keep complaining until the policy is changed (or it takes up too much of my time, I can only do so much).
How dare the library deny me a method of payment. Now I can’t share American Splendor with my wife, which I described as “A movie about a comic writer with that guy from Sideways.” And I wanted to add, “who’s also a county clerk,” but decided against it.
How many of these “$10 minimum” signs do you encounter a day? Do you cave and carry cash just in case instead of fighting for enforcement of a well known credit card policy?