A new Goldman State Podcast drops every Friday!

Jan 2, 2023

Modern Life’s Major Humiliations: A 2023 Pick-Me-Up

Having your credit card declined is right up there

By Ed Goldman
Welcome to 2023! —Okay, back to serious business.

Having your credit card declined when you’ve advanced to the end of a grocery checkout line or sumptuous meal may be right up there with Modern Life’s Major Humiliations.

Edgy Cartoon

How to Fake Friends and Infuriate People

I speak from experience, having had one or more of my cards declined because of a computer mix-up or, more frequently, human error. In all cases of the latter, I was that human.

What made things worse when that happened was the friendly cashier or waiter asking me to simply use another card—and having that one, too, get nixed.

The only two or three times I was in the right, the store or restaurant had me call the credit card company (in front of the other customers, natch) to straighten out the mess. 

This was a tricky assignment: Should I have bellowed indignantly at the hapless clerk on the phone, presuming this would restore my cred with the impromptu assemblage of judges in line or at nearby tables, or should I have acted man-of-the-worldly about it, uttering insincerities like, “No need to be sorry, young gender-neutral person, it’s reassuring to know you’re monitoring my card usage.” Then, to make my phony equanimity even hollower, to have added (with a corporate-creepy chuckle), “In fact, your company should give you a raise for customer service! No, I mean that! Tell me your name and how to reach your supervisor.” 

Are you managing to hang onto your lunch?

Then there are the times (many) when I was, am or will soon once again be in the wrong.

Like when I forget that my recent week’s stay in the presidential suite at one of the United Arab Emirates’ luxury hotels—and having all my meals delivered by room service—just might have put me over my $3500 credit limit. I imagine, too, that my having flown there by private jet probably exacerbated the overage.

What about the times I capriciously decide that the spending limit listed on my monthly bill as well as the line item about how much credit I have left are simply there as a helpful guide, not a mandate.

Anyway, these aren’t the only embarrassments that contemporary living can visit upon sensitive souls like yours and mine. Here are some others—all, unfortunately, true stories:

– Showing up at a New Year’s Eve Party with a magnum of champagne as a hostess gift only to find that the other attendees, all seen playing quiet board games and sipping coffee, met at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I have actually done this.

– Yelling at a driver who cuts me off in traffic that he’s an anatomical orifice, then arriving at the meeting I was headed to and finding that my new client, whom I’d met only by phone, was, in fact, that orifice.

– Getting “bcc’ed” on a memo in which I was discussed and rather thoroughly dissed. You’d think that the sender and even the intended recipient should have felt shamed, and perhaps they did. Instead, I was embarrassed because I (a) felt it incumbent upon me to let them know of the gaffe and (b) was the subject of their ridicule.

– Mishearing someone’s name at the beginning of a social event, then being seated next to that person and, in true Norman Vincent Peale style (he advocated repeating a new acquaintance’s name a few times to make you both feel comfortable about it), using and reusing the wrong name throughout the evening. It only became humiliating when the person bid me a goodnight and said, “By the way, for future reference, my name isn’t [wrong name], it’s [correct name].”

One time I even responded to that by saying, “Are you sure?” Had I been a credit card, I’d have most certainly been declined.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).