The plastic that has changed our lives. It’s the most luxurious method on the market. Very simple to use, it can sometimes become a real nightmare.
Following a brief research I found out that in 1949 American Express has created the first modern plastic made bank card. Before that, some well known stores provided customers with their own cards in order to improve customers’ loyalty. Therefore, cards were not too widely known to the public. One knows that the highest use rate is in the USA, where one has issued more than 600 million such cards. Nowadays, cards divide into two categories, debit cards and credit cards. By the help of a debit card, we use our savings and by the help of a credit card, we spend the bank’s money, following that we shall reimburse such amounts of money within a fixed period of time.
The importance of one such card differs from one country to another. In Romania cash is relevant; however in England for instance you can pay by card for even a tiny piece of chewing gum. I have quite often found myself in the position of being the sole person with cash on me, for a cab, a restaurant or anything else. I found it strange when I saw my friends with only a plastic card in their pockets, and they found my idea of always having paper money in your pockets to be really absurd. Therefore, plastic or paper? I think that if I had to choose, I would go for the card, because it’s much more comfortable, but at the same time the presence of paper money helps me more, having a better control over my expenses, and most of all they provide me with the safety I need. But there have been a number of times, when this plastic card has made find myself in some very uncomfortable situations. I think I will never forget the time when I had to go out with one of my parents’ family friend for dinner. A very well – dressed, educated and well mannered lady, has come to London for a few days. I called and invited her to my favourite restaurant, Hakkasan. I took my Sunday clothes, I had my hair done, put on some make – up, everything looked perfect. I took a tiny purse, where there was room for only my telephone, my card, my lipstick and my powder. I had to reach the level of expectations, as required. Anyway I love these challenges, therefore, it has been a pleasure. Of course I got there earlier than set. Both the restaurant and the food have impressed her. It was a perfect evening, with interesting conversation, new things and most of all, the joy of being with her in such a location. All good and well. We asked for the bill. After some long debates and contradictions, she has agreed upon my paying the bill and she was to invite me some place else, so that we have another opportunity to spend some time together again. I perfectly remember how I took the card out of my bag, handed it to the waiter and went on drinking our champagne. But here comes the surprise, after two – three attempts, my card was still not working. And I just felt that the whole sky had fallen over me when I heard the words: “insufficient funds”. There was no such thing; I had checked my balance several times before I left. Seconds seemed to pass slower and slower and I just couldn’t find my strength to take my eyes from that bill. It was only then that I realized how good it was my idea to always have cash on me. I was feeling really uncomfortable, but I used the most faked smile on my face, I appologized and asked the lady to pay for the bill. It was a heavy silence, although because she was very nice, she tried to change the subject and make me feel better. All I wished for was for us to leave, go to a bank machine and reimburse her for the money. I knew she did not believe me and the waiter’s comment was pretty low, however I insisted. We stood from the table, took a cab and when I saw the first bank machine I asked the cab driver to stop. Now that I think back, I also put her in a very bad position when I got back with the money in hand and asked her to put them in her bag, but I had to make up for my mistake one way or another. Just like I cannot forget it, I’m pretty sure she can’t forget it either.
And I can tell you that this is not the only example I have. There would be much more stories to tell on this subejct. In China at least, there has been a real nightmare. Restrictions, limits and many others. From one bank machine it has been impossible for me to get more than a small amount of money, so I had to go at three different banks. In some shops they did not accept but their cards, the foreign currency exchange was closed, and I left with a big disappointment for not being able to buy what I wanted.
But of all these experiences, I have learnt not to have a withdrawal limit, to always take paper money on me, even if it seems “Romanian – like” and of course, to always have a back up card even if I go out to buy bread only.
Even if technology is the strong point today, the methods used in the past are still really valid in some cases.