I have always been distrustful of “big box” stores in favor of local stores. Now, I know why.

One of my favorite stores is Rankin’s Hardware in Camden. I have had a charge account there on and off for decades. I cannot imagine walking in there to buy some household contraption and hearing, “I am sorry. You have paid too much and too early. You cannot use this charge account.”

That is just what happened this weekend when I made a Portland pilgrimage to buy mass quantities of supplies. The name of the company will be withheld to protect the incompetent.

I loaded the carriage with $103.38 of food and stood in the long line. When my turn came and the cashier rang me up, she got “that look” on her face and turned on “that light” to summon a supervisor. The rest of the line stared like I do when it happens to someone else. “Can you step over to the desk please?” the supervisor said.

Even I could figure that out.

The card had been suspended because of a “late payment” she said. I said I had paid, overpaid, like I usually do. They said “sorry.” I had to pay $15 to ransom my groceries.

Well, you cannot tell an Irishman something like that. I said, “Have a nice day,” and walked out leaving the provisions behind.

When I got home and checked my records, I found that I had paid the big box not just $50 on Sept. 2, but an additional $100 on Sept. 23, all on a $15 installment.

Furious — and groceryless — I called the big box’s credit card company to loudly voice my displeasure. Not only did I demand that the “late fee” be removed, but also I demanded a credit for $103.38 for the pain and suffering I endured. Right. This unnamed clerk told me I paid the installment “too early.” An unnamed worker put me on hold to wait for an alleged “supervisor.”


I called back and talked to my new friend “Emmy.” She explained that the payments were not made at the correct time and the $100 payment was applied to the last installment, already paid, instead of the new installment. As she read a prepared statement, I demanded to talk to a supervisor.

Hold. Muzak.

I called back, gave my mother’s maiden name for the third time. This time I talked to Robert. Nothing he could do. I asked for a supervisor.

Hold. Muzak.

I called back to meet another new friend named Judy. Judy said she couldn’t do anything and I demanded to talk to a supervisor to straighten out this mess. She said the supervisor was Tanya Ford. I asked for Tanya.

Hold. Muzak.

I called back and got my new friend Ellie. She listened to my objections then said she would connect me, finally, to Tanya Ford.

Hold. Muzak.

All in all, I was put on hold by seven different big box sadists. Sadly, I never talked to the presumably mythical Tanya Ford. One of the sadists, I forget whom, agreed to waive the $15 “late fee” from a $150 payment on a $15 fee. I never received my requested credit of $103.38.

But I did get to listen to some horrible music.

I shall never visit a big box store again. I have spoken. When in doubt, shop local. And never pay too early or too much.

Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at emmetmeara@msn.com.