Thursday, December 27th, 2001

Not that I think I’m Alan Greenspan or anything, but I may have a good idea why the Japanese economy is in such piss-poor shape: They’ve got, like, no clue when it comes to using credit cards.

It began to dawn on me the first time I went looking for an ATM. I couldn’t do it to save my life. I’m pretty sure there are more ATMs on this base than there are in all of Misawa city. I think I’ve seen one outside a bank, but in all the other places I’m used to seeing them – gas stations, convenience stores, shopping centers (shopping centers!) – just forget it.

So instead I’ve tried to pay for something with plastic. No, just forget that, too. Everybody wants cash. In the few stores that take a card, I had to go to the customer service counter in a back corner of the store, where they have a single card reader and one of those clunky things with the roller that makes an impression of the card on carbon paper. Unfortunately for me, I went through all that without making sure that what I was buying with plastic was something I wanted to keep forever. That’s very important, because getting a refund credited to a card is like asking the clerk to do algebra – he may have learned how to do it many moons ago, but hasn’t solved for x in years.

The one time I’ve asked for a refund, the ordeal lasted more than a half-hour. First, the clerk had to stare at the receipt for five or ten minutes, thoughtfully scratching his head. Then he ran my card through the machine, blooped a few buttons, made what looked like an exact copy of the receipt, and stared at them both. After about five minutes of that, he made a couple phone calls. A second clerk appeared. They both stared hard at the receipts for at least five minutes, saying nothing, before they decided to run my card through the machine again. This time, they made two or three more copies, and compared them all, with much discussion. Eventually they decided one of them looked right, and they gave that one to me with lots of apologies. Barb tried to return something at another store, and had the same experience.

Whenever that happens, I go to the BX and buy a packet of chewing gum or a spiral notebook, and pay for it with my Visa. Takes thirty seconds.

they don’t take plastic | 5:42 am CDT
Category: daily drivel | Tags: ,
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