On my way to work a while back, I stopped at the grocery store across the street from the campus to pick up a sandwich, a bag of chips, and a soda for lunch. Naturally, I was running late, so I rushed through the self-checkout machine and absentmindedly left my credit card behind. I didn’t even realize my mistake until a few hours later when I was actually eating that sandwich, and my phone rang.
Eric, our credit-card company representative identified himself and asked if I had just charged $5,000 on the card at our local, big-box, hardware store.
“No, I did not,” I said nervously, wondering how that could have happened and worrying that I would be responsible.
“Okay, I’ll cancel the card immediately,” Eric said with authority, “so it doesn’t happen again.” Then, he asked, “Do you think the card was stolen?”
By then, of course, I had checked my wallet for the card and realized what had happened. “No,” I sadly admitted. “I think I left it in the machine at the grocery store.”
Long pause. Eric, who sounded like he was fresh out of college, was obviously trying to figure out the best way to gently chastise this sad senior citizen without totally demoralizing him.
“Okay, Mr. LaBate, we’ll get you a new card as soon as possible, and you will not be charged for that amount, but you’ll have to be really careful with your card in the future.”
“Yes, I understand,” I replied. Then, like a disobedient puppy wanting to get back in his owner’s good graces, I thanked Eric profusely and told him how much I appreciated his hard work. “Call me any time,” I added as a joke, not realizing Eric might take me seriously.
And sure enough, Eric called me again two weeks later, after I had received my new credit card.
“Mr. LaBate, this is Eric again from your credit-card company. Did you happen to purchase a new dishwasher yesterday?”
“Yes, actually. We did,” I answered immediately, but I worried again that something might be wrong. “In fact,” I added, “the machine should be delivered and installed this Friday. Is there a problem?”
“No, I guess not. It was just another big purchase at that same hardware store, so I wanted to make sure you weren’t being ripped off again.”
“Wow, Eric. That’s amazing. You guys really are thorough.”
“Well, we try to take good care of our loyal customers. Is everything else okay?”
“Yes, I believe so. Thank you again for your interest and concern.” When I hung up, I told my wife about the call, and she was so amazed by Eric’s concern that she began to think of a few young ladies at our church who might want to meet Eric.
Within a week, though, Eric called a third time. When I saw his name and number pop up on my phone, I was tempted to ignore his call, but I was curious, too, and still a bit nervous about my credit card, so I picked up.
“Eric, what’s going on?”
“Mr. LaBate, I’m a bit concerned.”
“What is it?”
“Did you pay approximately $150 for a new pair of boots?”
“Yes, I did. Is that a problem?”
“No, not really, but . . . .”
“It’s just that you don’t normally spend that much money on your shoes.”
“I checked through your previous shoe purchases, and you’ve never spent over $100 before.”
“Are you serious?”
“Absolutely. We take your financial health seriously, and we track spending patterns regularly.”
“Eric, I really appreciate that you saved me from having to pay for that $5,000 charge after I lost my credit card, but you may be getting carried away now.”
“Alright, Mr. LaBate. I’m sorry. I’m just trying to do my job.”
“Okay. I understand. Thank you again for all your help.”
Fortunately, Eric didn’t call for a month or so, and I pretty much forgot all about this quirky individual. My life proceeded smoothly, and all of my credit-card purchases were uneventful. Unfortunately, Eric hadn’t forgotten about me, and he was still keeping an eye on me.
He called again last week, on Friday afternoon as I was sitting in my car, eating the lunch I had purchased at a nearby pizzeria.
“Mr. LaBate, it’s Eric again.”
“What’s up?” I asked immediately. “Is everything okay?”
“It might be. Did you just order two slices or pepperoni pizza and a Mountain Dew?”
“Actually I did. I’m eating the pizza right now. It’s delicious. Can you smell it over the phone?”
“Mr. LaBate. This is serious.”
“Eric, did my wife put you up to this?”
“No, she did not, but this is four Fridays in a row you are eating pepperoni pizza, and a man your age shouldn’t be eating junk food so often.”
“Eric, I’m 69 years old and still working; two slices of pizza at the end of the week are a real highlight.”
“I understand, Mr. LaBate,” he replied, though I’m not sure any young whippersnapper could truly understand the whole aging process. Then, he added, “You know, your physical health is just as important to us as your financial health.”
“Eric, I normally think well of most people, and you sound like a nice young man. However, I’m starting to wonder if maybe the only reason you’re concerned for my physical health is because you want me to live as long as possible, so I can keep spending money on my credit card.”
“Mr. LaBate, believe me when I tell you that is not the case. As I said in one of our previous conversations, I am just trying to do my job.”
“But you must have thousands of customers you are responsible for. Why are you focusing so much attention on me?”
“Mr. LaBate, as I also said before, we try to take good care of our loyal customers.”
“Alright. Thank you. I appreciate your help, but please don’t call me again unless you really sense it’s a case of fraud.”
“Okay, I will do that.”
As soon as he hung up, though, I realized I had an important question of my own, so I called him right back.
“Eric,” I said when he picked up. “I actually have an important question for you.”
“What is it, Mr. LaBate?”
“I’m thinking about purchasing a dark chocolate Milky Way for dessert. Would that be okay?”
Eric hung up on me immediately and hasn’t called back since.