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Food for Thought

Is it a law now?

My dad taught me not to buy anything unless I have the money to pay for it, so I seldom use a credit card. Without it, I can get hardly anything online. Does that mean that I’m not entitled to them? Has some law been passed that requires me to have a credit card in order to maintain my rights as a citizen? There are several things that aren’t available to people who don’t have credit cards, such as tickets, rental cars, ordering flowers or making motel reservations over the telephone.
More and more of the things that are advertised on television require you to have your credit card handy when you call in to place an order. This has the effect of making the product unavailable to people without credit cards, especially when the sales pitch is based on the fact that the product is not available in any store and the only way to obtain it is to respond to the TV ad. (Not that I want to order whatever it is, anyway, but it’s unfair to people who do. I’ve always suspected that those companies are more interested in my credit card number than they are in selling me anything).
Not only am I denied the opportunity to purchase some things, I even have trouble giving money away if it can’t be done through my credit card account. The last time I made a pledge to public television, the phone volunteer asked for my credit card number. Since I don’t like spreading my account number around any more than necessary, I asked if I could send a check. She seemed stymied, as if I’d offered to pay in cowrie shells or glass beads. Now, if my pledge had been for merely five dollars, or even twenty-five, I could understand the reluctance to spend the dollar or two on secretarial and mailing expenses to handle the payment by mail, but this was a sizable donation because I really wanted the thank-you gift they were offering. (Another of those things that can’t be purchased in any store).
Eventually, my pledge was accepted and I was told that I would be billed and there would be some delay before I received my gift. I assume that they were so busy running the festival that nobody would have time to send me a bill until the event was over with and things settled down to counting their money and nagging the deadbeats who made pledges and didn’t follow through. I’d wait.
I waited, and I waited, and finally received what at first appeared to be a gracious thank-you letter which was sort of ruined when it turned into a strong reminder to fulfill my pledge promptly. They seemed to be admonishing me for not paying sooner, even though I’d only just gotten their bill. Hoping to appear to be honest and conscientious, I sat right down, wrote the check and put it in the mail. Now I could expect to receive my thank-you gift. I waited some more.
I may not have a long list of virtues, but if patience is indeed a virtue, then I have at least that one. I supposed that they would have the good sense to make sure my check was good before they mailed me my gift. Maybe they don’t check their bank account regularly, but for whatever reason, it seemed a rather long interval before my gift arrived. The gift was followed by another gracious letter thanking me, and it too turned out to be something else– a request to send them even more money. I ignored the request, feeling I’d given them more than my fair share. A month later, another request for a further donation arrived. I returned their request form, accompanied by a note explaining that I had given as much as I could afford and that they should stop wasting the money I’d given them by sending me letters asking for more money. It wouldn’t be forthcoming.
The next month another begging letter arrived. I ignored it.
The next month another letter came. I thought that perhaps it took a while for my message to work its way through the system before the right person received it and took my name off the mailing list. I began to wonder just how much of my donation actually went toward programming and how much was wasted in paper, envelopes, postage and secretarial wages. When yet another letter arrived showing me clearly that nobody had paid the slightest attention to my note, I wrote a much more strongly worded one explaining that, if I received any more letters asking for further donations, I would make absolutely sure that I never sent them another cent in donations– no matter how much they tempted me with attractive thank-you gifts.
The letters, at last, stopped coming, but I am sorely tempted to give them my credit card number next time. It might make things simpler.