Written by Skews Me

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

With Spring just around the corner, I decided the first thing I'd clean would be my wallet. Nearly two inches thick, my billfold has become just too unwieldy for my back pocket. While this isn't a problem at home, commuting can be a pain in the...you know what I mean.

The first thing to go was the month's worth of debit card receipts accumulated from the local grocery stores. It's not often I carry cash other than bus fare, and who needs to when the local grocers don't add a surcharge for the purchases one makes? Of course there may be a minimum purchase price to qualify for this "free" service, but the 50 cents stores are charged is their price to pay to keep customers happy.

Some merchants have experimented with this service: one month all charges are free, the next only purchases under a certain amount are surcharged. The quality of service also varies, with some locals displaying a sign -- typically scotch taped to the cash register -- announcing the surcharge while others automatically tack it on without so much as a mere mention of this hidden tax.

I must admit I'm not as vigilant about verifying my receipts as I should be -- cross-checking each and every one of them against my bank statements, for example -- but the primary grocer I use is a wonderful small family business that treats me extremely well, catering to my specific needs as best they can.

Credit card receipts are another matter. I file those separately in my wallet and keep them around for comparison against my monthly statements. As I rarely use them for anything other than specific recurring Internet bills (and the occasional meal or two), I was confused but relieved to discover my card frozen when just after using it for a cab fare, someone attempted to make a several hundred dollar electronics purchase on it to no avail.

I should probably check my credit score now, but since nothing I've done has really changed since receiving a nearly perfect 836 out of 900 a few years back, I'm not too concerned. Plus, I'm not too thrilled at the idea of providing the information to any of these ads that promise free credit checks. Websites report the average score is closer to 690 so I was fairly shocked by mine especially after having been forced on several occasions in the past to use one card to pay off another when I was unable to cover my bills and ended up having to forfeit all of them in the end.

As for my compromised credit card number, the lender's fraud department instructed me to destroy the card, but when I was recently asked to provide a vendor digits from that card to confirm my account information, it was simpler to dig it out of my fire box than search through the stack of old bills. Besides, I miss having been 007 according to that credit card company.

Now the funny thing about the actual receipts themselves is that the heat activated ink many machines use often renders them unreadable after an amount of time leaving one with a collection of otherwise blank strips of paper. But even in the case of these wayward scraps, I feel it still best to feed them to my shredder if not file them away in a safe place at home. I chuckle (and cringe) when I think of an IRS tax auditor demanding those receipts as proof of purchase.

The next wave of Spring Cleaning my wallet received was to weed out some of the numerous cards that have been accumulating over the years. It's amazing just how much unnecessary stuff piles up: from video rental store cards from old neighborhoods, to those from coffee and sandwich shops I'll probably never return to; even cards with a Social Security number are often unnecessary (and dangerous) to carry around at all times. Case in point: I got mugged for my wallet and keys some years back, but thank God(s) I was able to guilt trip the duo into returning them. Chalk that one up to yet another of my numerous amazing animal experiences for which a friend said I must be the reincarnation of Saint Francis of Assisi.

I even discovered some duplicate cards with differing phone numbers for an insurance company I no longer use. Another number I needed to call was for a pair of ancient free coupons to a comedy club, and after leaving a message, received a phone call back to notify me that they're still valid but more restrictive to the specific day of week they can be used. As for the stack of people's business cards I carry, do I really need them all on me when I don't own a cell phone? Some people even carry around charge cards they'd never use anywhere but at their computer or a once in a blue moon vacation.

Last but not least were all the tidbits of paper containing names and numbers of friends and appointments I've had. It's kind of unsettling to think that I still had phone numbers that have been out of service for years as well as lists of people I haven't spoken to in just as long. The worst find was an address of a long deceased relative.

At this point my wallet was bare as I don't carry around pictures of loved ones, but I found myself sitting among piles of this that and the other thing still wondering what should stay and what should go where. I had really hoped to rid myself of more, but I can't bring myself to part with some of them like my Greenpeace World Associate card. Others I fed greedily into the shredder. My billfold is still thick as a brick, but at least now I have a better idea of what it contains.

Next project: unread email.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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