Sometimes catch phrases float through the air, wafting like an airless balloon, yet we don’t stop to pull them down and find out what they actually mean. I began to find out some of that a few days ago when I used my ever convenient bank debit card at a service station in one of the more ‘prominent’ areas of Oklahoma City – 14101 North Pennsylvania, to be exact!
It was a Sunday afternoon and I had the pleasure of taking my granddaughter, a senior in high school, on a shopping trip to find the perfect white dress and white shoes to wear under her white gown for the event. In my haste, I didn’t put gasoline in my car in my neighborhood where all things are familiar! Mistake number one. Noticing the tank was much lower than I normally allow it, I pulled into a Shell station on North Pennsylvania because I’m pretty particular about the type of gas I put into my car. I did not notice the station was an EZMart! Another mistake.
My granddaughter went inside to get us something to drink while I pumped the gas, using my bank debit card. The bill came to $36.46. I obtained my receipt and we drove off happily with both the car and us refueled.
The next day I went online to check my bank account and was shocked to see that the EZMart had not only run through the $36.46 charge, but an additional $75. I called my bank to register my dismay and protest the $75. They told me, “Oh, the merchant did that. We didn’t do it.” I called EZMart and talked to the District Supervisor over Oklahoma City and Shawnee, Jennifer. She informed me it wasn’t EZMart that did it – it was the bank. I called the bank back and spoke to the same person again, only to learn – one more time – that it was the merchant that did it.
Now we have a shoot out at the OK Corral – The bank didn’t do it. The merchant didn’t do it. Maybe I am crazy! Maybe I did it myself. At this point, I am furious. I don’t know which is making me the maddest – the theft of my $75 or the refusal to admit that one of them actually did do it. I am so mad that I decide I’ll get to the bottom of this.
I called Senator Lankford’s office to ask what the law was that allowed either the bank or the merchant to just charge my account without my authorization. The lovely young lady asked questions and said, “As far as I know there isn’t such a law.” She further stated they would post this on their website to alert the public that EZMart was doing such a thing.
In the meantime, life went on but I was determined I would get on top of this. I watched my bank account online to see what would happen. On Tuesday, the “pending” signal came off of the $36.46 charge meaning it had cleared the bank and EZMart had gotten their money. However, the $75 charge was still “pending”. Now I’m really mad. I’m feeling I’ve been robbed and was more than willing to tell that to anyone that was willing to listen.
On Wednesday morning, I checked my account again. The charge was still there. I put on my armor and started making more phone calls. First, I called EZMart and got the most ridiculous, rudest employee you could ever ask for that refused to put me through to Jennifer until she knew all of my business. I finally said, “I’m calling about the $75 you have stolen from me.” That wasn’t enough to get her to put me through to Jennifer! Finally, through my anger and loss of temper I managed to get Jennifer on the phone who politely informed me, once again, that “the bank did it and they could hold my money for up to two weeks.” Now I’m certifiable!
I got the name of the owner of EZMart from Jennifer. By the way, it is EZMart, 602 West Falvey Avenue, Texarkana, TX 75504. I called their headquarters (1-800-234-6502) and left a rather terse message for Sonja Hubbard. Somehow these people are never at their desk – I’m not sure if they even exist. However, once again, the sweet little operator wouldn’t put me through until she knew ‘what the call was about’. I told her it was theft of my money at an EZMart store. She, of course, wanted to know all the details and if I had told the police. I said, “Not yet!” I told Sonja – well, Sonja’s answering machine – my tale of woe and left my phone number. Of course, I didn’t get a call back.
Once again, I called my bank and talked to the same guy. I asked him what the law was that allowed a ‘merchant’ to steal my money and the bank to allow them to get buy with it when I’m protesting and saying that’s not my charge. He didn’t know the law but he would ask his legal department to call me. They still haven’t. It’s been several weeks now. Oddly enough, that same day the $75 was cleared back into my account. Hmmmm. Not sure how that happened. I guess if you appear crazy enough things can – or might – happen. I promised him, and myself, that I would not drop this. I wanted to know what the law was that allowed the bank/merchant to do this. Of course, he continues to tell me it is the merchant.
I had to leave town on business for a week but I remained determined. On Monday of this week I received a call from Senator Lankford’s office telling me she had checked on it and suggested that I call the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office. I did that. They didn’t know anything about such a law but routed me to the Oklahoma Banking Commission. I talked to a nice man, Dudley Gilbert, who probably thought I was a wacko over reacting to an incident that ‘happens constantly’. Maybe so. But I wanted to know by what authority the banking industry or merchant could steal my money.
I found out from Dudley Gilbert, who had to look things up, that there is not a law that allows the bank/merchant to do this. It is an agreement with Visa/Mastercard. He said, “When you swipe that debit card you are agreeing to let them put a ‘hold’ on your account for whatever amount of money they deem necessary.” Well, who knew that. Small print. Guess I’ll buy a magnifying glass. He went on to tell me that it is the merchant who determines the amount and the bank determines how long it sits on hold, but it can not exceed three days! Well heck. I should have known that. Who wouldn’t know such a silly thing.
From there, the excuses only got worse. He said the ‘service station doesn’t know how much gas I’m going to put in my vehicle, and had it been a pickup or truck, it could have been at least $75 so that’s why they put such a high hold on it. I’m hearing him but angry at the ridiculousness of it. And, I didn’t and still don’t understand how they can justify holding my money after they’ve gotten their payment.
It boils down to what I don’t understand doesn’t matter. They who have the money machines are the ones in control. Perhaps we all need to think about that. Our government is pushing us toward a cashless society. That means every time we swipe one of the magic pieces of plastic someone can meddle with out bank accounts, holding our money. What if it were for a higher amount and what it if was for a longer time. Personally, I’m done with using a bank card at a service station. From now on I’ll trot in and pay cash. That’s how we used to do it and we didn’t think anything about it. I’ve loved the convenience of using the debit card but I’m rethinking that convenience now.
As to EZMart , I pulled into a service station on my recent business trip, looked up and saw it was a Shell EZMart and I pulled right back out. I’m not doing this dance again.
I feel better now that I’ve gotten this off of my chest and I hope it is a warning to you – my friends – not to shop at EZMart !
Don’t forget my book, Who Will Kill the Spiders?, is available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.