Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Credit Cards, Cheetos, and Catfish

We were just dismissed from our International Commercial Arbitration class when my mother texted me to go to SM North EDSA to meet her there. But since she will be coming from Makati, I will surely get to SM first before she does, so she just asked me to start shopping for some groceries instead of waiting for her. She will pay for them when she arrives, she said.

As expected, I got to SM Hypermart before Mama did. I proceeded on shopping for some grocery items: bread, cheese, meat, vegetables, and fish. The catfish. How could I forget the catfish. It was still moving when I paid for it. It was already chopped.

I also dumped in some Cheetos Crunchy Cheddar JalapeƱo, five packs of Yakult, five Dutch Mill Yogurt Drinks, and some more deliciously fattening foods personal to my happiness.

I went back to the aisle where the chips are to get another bag of Cheetos when Mama called up again.

“Anak, hindi na ako makakasunod. Masyadong ma-traffic.”

I immediately searched my pockets. I only had Php 45 – enough to pay for the parking fee. Paano na ang Cheetos… “Ma, paano ang groceries?”

She just told me to use the supplemental credit card she gave me.

I only use the credit card when I gas up. For everything else, I first ask her permission to use it. And it’s futile to hide credit card use from her, because the credit card company texts her the microsecond it is used.

When I reached the payment lane, the cashier asked me, “Ma’am, cash or card?”

“Card po.”

I then remembered what Mama added when she said she could not make it. “Anak, paki-divide yung total into Php 1,500’s tulad ng dati, ha? Pang Krispy Kreme din yan.

“Miss, pwede po bang every Php 1,500, babayaran ko?”

Ah, o sige po, pero hanggang dalawang beses lang po.”

Sige po.”

The cashier passed the items’ bar codes over the bar code scanner: the bread, cheese, meat, vegetables, and fish. The catfish. I bet she also wouldn’t forget the catfish. She almost dropped it when she took the catfish to scan. It was wiggling when she swiped it over the bar code scanner. It was still chopped.

I intently eyed the cash register to remind the cashier should the total price already amount to Php 1,500. Php 1,533 and I reminded the cashier, “Miss, Php 1,500 na.”

Ay, opo, Ma’am.”

I gave her my credit card and she processed the payment. May half-dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts na kami.

The cashier scanned the other items, the Cheetos being one of them. The total was around Php1,800. I again gave her the card to process the payment.

“Ma’am, ayaw po.”

Ano po?”

Ayaw na po.”

Bakit kaya? At paano na ang Cheetos… “Miss, paki-try na lang ulit.” Two men were already next in line to me scratching their heads.

Sige po.

She tried again, but was unsuccessful.

“Ayaw po talaga e.”

Paranoia set in. Was my card used by someone else? I don't remember using my card enough to exceed the credit card limit.

Ma’am, tawagan niyo na lang po sa Customer Service yung credit card company para ma-check kung magkano pa po ang balance niyo,” the cashier suggested.

Another lady fell in line and I felt blood rush to my cheeks. I was probably as red as tocino.

I dragged my feet to the Customer Service counter and called up the card’s customer service hotline. A voice prompt directed me to press the sixteen-digit card number to ask for the balance and voila, my credit card purchases and balance were revealed. It worried me how easily one can check one’s purchases and remaining balance over the phone.

I barely heard how much remaining balance the card had with all the noise in the grocery store, mainly coming from this man who stood beside me and kept blabbing in his fake English accent. I wanted to throw the phone at him.

I just went back to the cashier, and cancelled the purchases on the Cheetos, the Yakult, the Dutch Mill and the rest of the deliciously fattening foods that would have made me happy. I apologized for the time consumed by the useless transaction.[1] I received embarrassment enough for a year.

So then I went home with a sad face, Cheetos-less, and still pissed off with the fake accent guy.

I then became curious as to any specific law governing the use of credit cards. It turned out that there was Republic Act 8484 or the Access Devices Regulation Act of 1998 which regulated the issuance and use of “access devices,” one of which is the credit card. The declaration of policy stated:

The State recognizes the recent advances in technology and the widespread use of access devices in commercial transactions. Toward this end, the State shall protect the rights and define the liabilities of parties in such commercial transactions by regulating the issuance and use of access devices.

The law sets forth presumptions of unauthorized use and a fine of Php 10,000 plus imprisonment ranging from six (6) to twenty (20) years depending on the specific act prohibited by the law.

RA 8484 is a concrete example of the impact of ICT on the law. This means that credit card use is worth protecting because it stimulates economic activity. It also encourages the use of credit cards because it protects the rights of a credit card user. A person like me who only had Php 45 in one of her pockets was able to shop Php 1,533 amount of groceries.

As to its deterrent aspect, I have not read of any case where the accused is prosecuted for violation of RA 8484. The Revised Penal Code provisions on theft or estafa seem to be mainly used. Information dissemination on the existence of RA 8484 should be done for its effective implementation and utilization.

With this law, I feel a little bit safer when using my credit card, although I experienced my most embarrassing experience for the year with it and was not able to buy the things that would have made me happier as I write this blog entry. I am still Cheetos-less, but at least I took home the wiggling catfish, which was still chopped when it was put in our refrigerator freezer.

[1] Despite my belief, I learned later that I had already gone past my credit card limit. How big gas purchases can become!

No comments: