They call the first upcoming shopping storm “Black Friday.” I’m inclined to suggest prescribing the color “blue” to the second spending spree we know as “Cyber Monday.” That way we can all turn a little “black and blue” from the potential hits we could experience.
One might describe it as the perfect storm, though I was nowhere close to any significant body of water. Converging as one, in my navigational nightmare, are the following instrumentations: a computer, laptop or otherwise, some entanglements on the world wide web, my less-than-genius smartphone and a couple “chipper” credit cards.
Squalls of potential turbulence may have been lurking on the horizon, however. Precedent setting computer-generated abnormalities in October seemed to be indicating disturbances below the surface, possibly predicting an unfavorable November uprising.
And so it happened one fall October day for my wife, while driving her sporty pre-owned vehicle down the highway, lost all power-steering capabilities. Without warning, eye-popping lights from the car’s dashboard alarmingly lit up like a Christmas tree as she attempted to pull off the roadway. A computer, of all things, was to blame having been “secretly” stowed just below the glove box and allegedly programmed to control all the car’s maneuverability. Fortunately, it was only the computer that crashed and not her.
For eight days during October, I took in the “sounds of silence” at my annual prayer retreat in “O, Canada.” At the spiritual encouragement of my traveling companion, Doug, I prayerfully pondered taking in a professional massage while on retreat. Given a most favorable exchange rate with that country up north, I paid for my 90-minute deep-tissue rub down with our family’s personal credit card.
All electronic devices were off for the week. Without my knowledge, my wife was more than anxiously awaiting my return to the states, having been alerted via text of a $150 charge to a “Heather” on our VISA card. The wheels barely touched down in the U.S., and she was on the phone wanting me to explain what the $150 expenditure was for, who was “Heather,” and whether she should cancel the card so that our savings account wouldn’t be drained. Barely on American soil, in Detroit, I, as they say, “had some explaining to do!”
Always in need of comfortable footwear, and given the rarity of securing size 17E shoes on the internet, I searched endlessly well into the night. After viewing countless websites, the miraculous discovery happened, and I placed a PayPal order with eager anticipation. Unfortunately I received nothing in the mail. I did, however, get a phone call from the company alerting me of the fact the shoes were on the website but out of stock in the warehouse.
How about I order a couple of much-needed wooden folding tables for the atrium area at the church at $110 a pop? When both arrived, one was damaged and had to be packed up and returned for a replacement. We’re almost losing track, but the next three tables also needed to be returned due to damage. Then came the pièce de résistance, an e-mail from Amazon indicating another replacement was no longer available. Apparently all the damaged tables had already been shipped out, and shipped to us!
Advent, for those liturgically inclined, is right around the corner, and I attempted to secure some resources online to enhance our celebrations. The website to which I was directed blared in red, “Website has been reported as unsafe.” Nothing an e-mail couldn’t resolve, I thought to myself? Hardly! The imbedded e-mail links I was sent led me first to useless blank web pages and finally to a website where I placed the order only to have the charge account information refused. Resigned to a last resort, I called the company on the phone and gave them the church’s VISA number. The next day, they informed me via e-mail the card was rejected but graciously agreed to send the order with an invoice anyway.
Then came the matter of the ornaments we ordered to give away at a church outreach event. Thinking we read the online form correctly, a purchase of 12 packages of twelve, or a gross, all they sent us was 12 ornaments all together. Do over!
Then the wall reached a pinnacle of destructive force. To make matters worse, the infringement upon our privacy and identity occurred at about 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, with my wife and me dutifully in worship. Using both the church credit card and our personal credit card, someone in Norfolk, Virginia, attempted to have a bit of a spending spree at Walmart.com and at our unbeknownst expense.
The culprit, who fortunately got red-flagged thanks to each card’s fraud protection department, deceptively tried to order a $152.64 “Apple Airpods and Charging Case.” Undaunted, they attempted not just once, but no less than 13 times. I guess you could say it was their “unlucky day”! We, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed lengthy phone conversations with each fraud department representative as we reviewed all legitimate purchases and were issued replacement cards. Oh, the joy!
Suffice to say, we will be securely anchored indoors come Black Friday. All systems will be down for Cyber Monday, too. Maybe this is the year that we only shop locally and only pay with cash!
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at email@example.com