Tuesday, 24 November 2009


The festive season has caught me unawares this year. I am without a doubt behind the curve. My puddings and onions are steamed and pickled but otherwise the cupboards and hiding places are bare, so a couple of days ago, spurred on by the fact that there are only four weeks or something until the big day and the seven year old’s list is as long as her arm, I thought it best that I make a start, sharpen my elbows, don a pair of comfy shoes and hit the shops.
As I drove into Plymouth, the car, which is German and lives up to its Teutonic reputation of being rather bossy and pedantic – beeps at any given provocation and continues to nag the driver until whatever little issue has been resolved. It warns me via a high pitched beep whether the weather is too cold, that it needs a service, that its parking light is left on or whether the petrol is running low. Sometimes, when the engine has been low on water, a red flashing STOP NOW! has appeared on the dashboard accompanied by another high frequency beep. I know that it is only trying to be helpful but honestly when one is travelling down a motorway at 70 mph, blissfully ignorant to the fact that the car is dying of thirst until it goes into hysterical mode, believe me it takes all one’s concentration not to die of fright by the whistles, lights and bells and crash the infernal thing.
So, not long after I ventured into town the orange light indicating a critical shortage of petrol appeared. I pulled into the nearest service station and filled the car up with £25 worth of unleaded. Then I waited in a queue and when requested, put my card into the machine. I followed the instructions, entered my pin number and then waited for the machine to spring into life and spew out a receipt.
Unfortunately, no receipt was forthcoming and a rather terse young man informed me, without even looking in my direction and with no intonation whatsoever that my card had,
“Been declined”. Now Hubby and I are no strangers to the somewhat hushed and apologetic tones of various shop assistants informing us that our card has been declined. In our defence though, in the past it has been at the end of the month after particularly heinous and unanticipated bills, so I was more than a little surprised to be without sufficient funds mid-month.
“Oh”, I said and fumbled in my purse for another card, which I knew had even less money in its account. Customers tutted behind me. The transaction went through and I slunk back to my car where I thought no more about it. Not until I reached Marks and Spencer.
With an armful of festive nightwear and tights for various children I queued up to pay, proffered my card only to be told, once again that it had been declined. Embarrassed I quickly handed over the other, more beleaguered one before hiding among Leisure Wear and calling Hubby.
“I can’t understand it”, I said, “I checked our account only a couple of days ago. It didn’t seem any worse than usual”.
“Leave it with me darling”, he said, rather heroically I felt, “I’ll call the bank”. Within five mintues my bank manager, who is more than accustomed to our financial habits called me on my mobile.
“Hi Alice. Just checked your account. It looks ok. There has probably been a spot check on the card. I’ve rung the fraud team. All should be well now”. Reassured, I went and bought a bowl of soup. The transaction went through without incident. Not so in Waterstones bookshop.
Yet again I queued to pay, then I handed the book over to a very handsome young man. I put my card in the machine, punched in the pin number and waited and waited. The young man was evidently new as the message on his screen was one he had not seen before. He called his supervisor over.
She took one look at the screen and then explained that he had to ring the bank to make a security check. This was quite a long and laborious procedure which, involved not only being able to successfully answer my mother’s maiden name, but also my place of birth as well as my date of birth. I felt aggrieved that this handsome creature had to know that I was 44 but worse was to come.
“What book are you buying?” asked the man at the end of the line. Now what the hell did that have to do with anything? That was just nosy.
“Imagine if I’d been buying the Karma Sutra?”, I’d said to Mags over a coffee later, “I’d have been mortified.
“To be honest I’d have been more embarrassed to admit to buying Jordan’s”.
“It wasn’t for me”, I answered hurriedly.
The following afternoon my bank manager called me again, “Could you pop down?”, she asked.
I walked down to the bank and waited shamefaced to be called inside, thinking I was to have my knuckles rapped for spending too much.
“Yesterday’s transactions threw up some anomalies”, she said, before turning her computer screen around and showing me details of my account.
Several withdrawals for 70p had been made and then wallop, a withdrawal for £180 and one for £1,300. To a catalogue company.
“One I know you wouldn’t be seen dead shopping from” added my bank manager kindly, “I’m sorry Alice. You’ve been cloned”. I sat there stupefied. My lip trembled.
“You’ll get the money back”, the manager said, trying to comfort me, “The fraud squad will be in touch.
Hubby was more upbeat, “Don’t worry Alice love, no one could clone you. You’re one in a million”.
“Spare a thought for Dolly the Sheep* though”, quipped the Egg-Head, “She could never apply for a mortgage”.

* Was a cloned sheep.


DL said...

What festive season?

Bad luck, re the scumbags masquerading as your good self. Although the money comes back, sooner or later, the hassle you can do without.

Best wishes,

Jane said...

What I want to know is, which bank! You get friendly calls on your mobile from your bank manager? I just get a call centre in India.

Alice Band said...

That's what you get when you live in small town and are always overdrawn. The manager gets to know you!

Anonymous said...

We had the same thing a couple of years ago - a couple of small transactions then several eywateringly large ones - in Australia - my card was in my favourite place spending money without me!! - we got all the money back and have no idea when or how it happened it's a bit scary though when the mortgage is due out and there's no money in the account, we had to get an overdraft (free thank goodness) until we got the money back.

Anonymous said...

that is scary, Alice - glad it will be sorted out OK