America’s Failing Economy
Sanford, NC – I pulled into my favorite local gas station. What? No High Test or Mid-grade fuel? I wasn’t concerned as I strolled into the station to pay before pumping. Half joking, I asked the cashier, “Are you out of fuel? When will you be getting some more?” My heart plummeted when I realized the answer was serious. “Just about gone. We have only regular left and don’t know when we’ll be getting anymore. Hurricane Ike has really affected us.”
I didn’t have the money to fill up at the time. I swallowed hard and pumped what I could into my suddenly oversized car. Without hesitation, I picked up my cell phone and dialed my husband who works in Raleigh, NC. “Better fill up the car. Looks like gas is getting short.” We talked awhile and decided it was time to pull out the trusty credit card.
I finished my errands and pulled into another gas station intending to use the credit card and fill up this time. With an uncertain economy, using credit is not something we like subscribing to. I pushed the credit card into the pre-pay slot. “Please see the cashier” the pump responded. I didn’t know what to make of it. Maybe they wanted an upfront signature or perhaps an ID check. I strolled inside feeling inconvenienced and in a hurry. The line at the counter was almost too long for me to stay, but I needed the gas, especially if there was a shortage.
Like many mothers, I transport my children to and from school and activities. I had several scheduled doctors appointments for the week, not to mention the need for groceries and other supplies. It was nearing the end of the week and money was getting more scarce by the day until payday could roll in. I stood in line feeling confused and wondering what the real issue was. It couldn’t be my credit card. We tried to pay them off when we could, but never carried maxed out balances. A balance wasn’t unusual, but being tapped out wasn’t something I was familiar with.
Still standing in line, my husband called me back. The process wasn’t uncommon. He is one of the millions of overworked, underpaid men of middle America. “What do you mean gas shortage?” While I’m explaining the yellow bags on most pump handles, I arrive at the cashier. My husband hears the cashier tell me that the credit card has been declined. His next question hit like an accusation. “What do you mean the credit card is declined? Didn’t you pay the bill?” Of course, I did. I just had no idea what was going on. I stammered to the cashier, feeling embarrassed and confounded.
Back at my car, I cranked back up while trying to defend myself to my concerned husband and pulled off to a parking place. “Let me call you back. I need to call the credit card company to find out what’s going on.” I didn’t get much of an answer except you don’t have any credit available. What! I’m wondering all kinds of things. Had my husband run it up, or had someone stolen our identity? Low on gas and racing back home, I’m sure some identity theft has occurred or some major mistake has been made. I was determined to call the credit card company back.
What a day! I had a child sick with an unknown rash, a daughter in early college still needing to be picked up within the hour, almost no cash and now no credit and payday was two days away. What was I going to do?
At home, I called the credit card company back. With my husbands phrase, I panicked into the phone, “What do you mean I have no credit? We pay our bills! I had “X” number of dollars available on this card!” I accused. I could tell the day had been a long one for the customer service representative. “Haven’t you been listening to the news? There are credit card issues all over America. Your credit limit has been reduced.” What! I cut the news on. I knew the housing market was in shambles, but credit card reductions? Come on now!
What can I say? Gas is short in Raleigh and Sanford, NC. Buying on credit may not be an option to many middle-income families either. Before you pull out the credit card for gas, check your credit card first!