The short version is: I saw; I saved; I survived. The longer version is…
Normally, I avoid going out the day after Christmas even when I have it off. I don’t care for close encounters with the craziness often associated with that day. But this year, I defied normality. Maybe it’s my advancing age; I read somewhere that as we age our inhibitions are relaxed due to decline in the part of the brain associated with restraint.
Since we weren’t looking for anything other than a desk calendar, we didn’t get out until after nine. Even then, it was a chilly 40. When we arrived at the mall on our side of town to get a calendar at Barnes and Noble, I was surprised to find that the mall was not opening until its normal 10 AM. Huh? What happened to the 8 AM (or earlier) after Christmas madness?
To pass the time, we checked out the Walgreens across the street. Nothing. Then, the Staples a block away for some Christmas labels. They weren’t even half-price and I didn’t like the designs. Not a good beginning…
The Barnes and Noble was not much better. Susie found an “Italy” calendar for her but there were no Audubon ones for me and I didn’t care for the Sierra Club one. For over 15 years, I’ve always used one of those two and I only have three years left to need a calendar.
Rather than try to hunt all over town for Audubon, I settled for a “Tuscany and Provence” which I’m already regretting. I’ve still got a week, so maybe I can find Audubon at Borders or a “calendar” place at the larger mall on the other side of town. We did find some World Wildlife Fund Christmas cards for next year. One box has two polar bear photo designs and the other has two penguin photo designs.
The “real” reason for getting out was to stop by the credit union to make my mortgage payment since it will be closed on New Year’s. My credit union is right around the corner from Beall’s, so we decided to check them out. We don’t shop much locally, but I do like Beall’s. They’re heir to the “Florida lifestyle” department store title which was once held by Burdine’s before it was swallowed by Macy’s. (The Florida Beall’s, whose “A” looks like a bell, is unrelated to another Beall’s operating outside Florida.)
The Beall’s discount gods smiled upon me! I found some Wrangler gray cargo pants on sale for $21. Also, an all-cotton (which is all I wear) Boca Classics “surf” design polo shirt (splashed with the names of Florida beach cities and “oldie” cars and surfboards) marked down 50% to $18.
Although I thought the checkout total would be about $55 based on those two “big ticket” items, seems there were quite a few more “little ticket” items than I thought. (Including three boxes of coconut patties in dark chocolate at 50% off the normal $7.00. And it’d be criminal to pass up a nice big “sandstone” color bath towel marked down to $3.99 from $9.99)
When the register total came up to just under $80, I expressed a little incredulity even though I had “saved“ $71. The clerk came to my rescue with an offer of an additional 15% off if I applied for their charge card. Normally, I refuse such offers, but normally I’m not facing an $80 ticket either.
I already have two VISAs, a Master Card and a Discover but use only a Southwest VISA unless the Discover gives me 5% cash back that quarter (as it will next month when I’ll have about $400 in hotel charges). I charge everything I can to the Southwest card, including cell phone, Internet, Direct TV, for that free ticket, which I earn every year. (And I pay it off every month too.) I don’t want more credit cards.
After verifying that the Beall’s card has no annual fee, I accepted the offer. I entered a bit of information right at the register and was amazed to be approved for $1,500 in less than two minutes. (That’s wishful thinking on their part.) And about $12 came off the register total, a bit more palatable. That Beall’s card will be consigned to a dark drawer somewhere in the bedroom. Unless, of course, there’s some sort of “deal” in the fine print if I use their card instead of the Southwest. 😉
(Thank goodness I showed willpower by refusing to pick up a beautiful “hand painted” 20-piece dinnerware service for four that was marked down from $60 to $20. We already have five sets of dinner plates, of which we rarely use more than two or three and then only when we have guests. My New Year’s resolution is: no more dinner / kitchen stuff!)
By then, it was a bit past noon, so we went to Steak and Shake for lunch. When it comes to burgers, we prefer the Hardee Thickburger or a Whopper. But Steak and Shake does have those nice shakes and I had coupon for a meal including two sides and shake for $6 and another coupon for their new Chipolte burger, which I wanted to try. Plus, the Steak and Shake was around the corner from Beall’s.
When we walked in, it was maybe a third full but by the time we left 45 minutes later, there were just a few tables left. That Chipolte burger, which included bacon and jalepenos, had a good bite to it and the “dark chocolate” shake was delicious, even if it had only reached 50 outside. But even that Chipolte burger will not do much to bring us back. Their fries are weak and $13 is too much for burgers when I can get Ted’s Montana Grill bison burgers, and much better fries, for about the same price by using a restaurant.com certificate. (And Ted‘s is around the corner from Beall’s too.)
Final stop was the grocery store, which is normally a Friday evening affair. I never thought I’d recover from Albertson’s departure from Tallahicky but I’m grudgingly accepting Publix, another “Florida” store. They regularly feature a parade of BOGO’s each week and this week included something I’d never seen on BOGO before: Nonni’s biscotti. I was about to order a case from Amazon but at $1.50 a box, the BOGO was a much better deal. I scooped up 6 boxes for my weekend espressos.
When we arrived home about 2, I was surprised to find that the mail had been delivered. In the mail was my replacement Southwest VISA. Friday before Christmas, the fraud section called to ask if I had attempted a $1,000 purchase at a Hites department store, which had been denied. I advised them I was at work the whole day. And just where is this Hites, I asked? Colombia. Uh oh…
So, for the second time in about two years, my card was replaced with a new number. In 2007, about $1,000 was fraudulently charged to the card. I discovered the fraud while reviewing my bill and noticing a $400 charge I had not made to a store I’d never heard of. Closer review revealed other charges in Florida cities I’d not visited. The charges began in Orlando, moved to Miami and then jumped across the state to Panama City, close to where we live.
That first fraud was easily traced to my card number being stolen from a Bahama Breeze restaurant in Orlando while I was there on business. I did not use the card anywhere else while in Orlando and the fraudulent charges began in Orlando a few days later. And guess where I was about two weeks before this latest fraud attempt? Orlando… where I used the card at some restaurants and stores after we returned from Puerto Rico.
Time to start using one of those little-used cards whenever I’m in Orlando, which won’t be too many times. Two credit card number thefts the two times I’m in Orlando is telling me a whole lot about Orlando. But with all the tourists, it’s a perfect place for credit card number theft rings.
So that was my day after Christmas. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be out there. Maybe I’ll do it again next year.