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Friday, June 10, 2011

The pump has rejected your card…

I just returned from a short vacation over to the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Carolyn and I went there to visit the Norman Rockwell museum and to take in the other local attractions, of which there are many. The area of the Berkshires that we were in – Lee and the Stockbridges (East and West) and Lennox – was in the late 19th century a favorite summer spot for the wealthy of New York. They would come in May and stay until September to enjoy the mountain vies and the cooling breezes that blow year around in the hills around the area.

We enjoyed the stay and the Rockwell museum. We also visit the home and studio of the man who created the Lincoln Memorial statue of Abe Lincoln that graces the National Mall – Daniel Chester French. It was fascinating to see the many variations that he tried before getting to the design that sits on the mall now. There were lots of other interesting historical building and homes to visit in the area, so we had a full three days of exploring and sightseeing. It’s a visit worth making, if you need a destination for a vacation.

It was in the return trip that I had the experience of being rejected by a gas pump. Perhaps I should say that my credit card was rejected by the pump, not me. What a frustrating experience that was. Now I hasten to add that I likely brought much of this on myself. We had been traveling for some time on I-90 in New York and it was time to get some gas. I pulled in to the Sunoco Station at one of the thruway service centers. It had one of the self-service pumps that we are all experienced at using. I pushed in my card and quickly took it out (as instructed) and then did the unthinkable – I took the hose off the hook before the pump had finished it’s authorization routine. Apparently that really ticked off the pump, because things went downhill from there.

After the pump cycled through a couple of more questions and indicated that it was “Authorizing” my transaction, it must have noticed that I had jumped the gun and taken the hose off the hook early. It got mad! It told me to replace the hose to the hook. Then it told me that it could not authorized my transaction. I suppose that I should have supplicated myself to the pump at that point; but, instead, I just put the hose back and tried to start the transaction over. No way, said the pump. Your transaction cannot be authorized.

Frustrated, I put the hose back on the pump again and went inside to speak to the attendant. His was response was “The pump has rejected your credit card.” Well, I asked, can’t you override it and let me charge this and get on my way? “No,” he said, “the pump has rejected your card.” Sensing that further conversation with this minion was worthless, I said fine and returned to the pump. Determined to get gas I used a different card and followed the instructions of the pump to the letter.

As a follow-up, I immediately called the card company and inquired as to why the credit transaction had been rejected. It had not. They had no record of the pump even trying to contact them. The pump made the decision on the spot and in real –time to reject me and my card because I had not followed its instructions. Of course the human on the scene had no authority or inclination to do anything to overrule the pump.

We got our gas and continued on our journey; but, it is a sad commentary on where we have arrived as a society when human-based common sense has been programmed out of the decision making process. The guy behind the counter is just there because the pump apparently can’t handle the register and the candy sales. Otherwise the pump rules.

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