Thursday Commentary
9:40 am
Thu April 26, 2007

Currency of the Day

Nan Graham deals with the rigors of modern economics.

I am miserably uninformed about economics, but do wonder about the evolving state of the consumer these days and how we pay for things.

In a rather upscale discount store... is that an oxymoron?... I was buying a sixteen-dollar scented candle and realized I did not have cash. I loathe putting small items on plastic, so I whipped out my check book. The cashier asked for a picture ID. I gave her my driver's license. "I need a second ID," she said. I found this odd. I do not have a license from South Dakota, a place I am convinced is fictional. Everybody in town accepts a North Carolina driver's license. I am a local. My check teems with information... address, driver's license... everything short of my blood type. The check is from a big bank, not First National Under-the-Mattress.

I pulled out my military ID since it has a picture and... last I heard... the U.S. government was still a valid.

"I'm sorry. I need a credit card," she said.

"A credit card," I was in full righteous indignation mode. "This is a military ID. I am a card carrying spouse of a former Marine...in the USA," I said for clarification.

"It won't do. I need a credit card," she said.

"I won't give you my credit card. This flies in the face of all those warnings about identity theft. My credit card doesn't identify me," I said in what I thought was a reasonable voice.

She drew herself up and said in a huff... "I will have to call my supervisor."

I drew myself up into a matching huff. "You do that."

The supervisor came and explained that this was store policy. "We only want the expiration date and the kind of card it is," she said.

"But what good will that do you?"

Silence.

I gave her the expiration date on the Visa, took my candle and a silent vow that I would never enter that store again.

My next strange encounter was at a very chic boutiqe, out toward Wrightsville Beach. I bought a small birthday gift and was thankful to have cash in my purse. I was shell-shocked from my recent check fiasco.

"Here you are," I said handing over the bills.

The young woman at the cash register said, "And what is your name?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Your name, please."

"But I am paying cash. Why do you need my name?"

"Store policy. We have to have your name."

I am not very quick on my feet. I gave her my name and left the boutique with my she-she gift its she-she bag. I should have told her my name was Jane Austen or Gertrude Stein. Then again, she probably wouldn't have batted an eye.
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