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He wants credit for almost everything

By Jim Busek • Sep 16, 2019 at 10:00 AM

We walked to McDonald’s the other day with our 7-year-old grandson.

As you may know, you no longer go to the counter and place your order. Instead, they have a big touch screen that allows you to place your order yourself. Provided, of course, you can figure out the touch screen device and touch the appropriate sandwich or wrap or salad and then find the fries and then find the drinks and so on.

They have a person there looking over your shoulder — especially if your shoulder is as old as mine — to make sure you do it right. But, defiant old guy I am getting to be, I refuse the assistance and muddle through on my own. I’m not going to be humbled by any fast food technology.

On the day in question, we let our grandson do the ordering. He wasn’t intimidated by the process at all (although he did have to literally jump to touch some of the items displayed higher on the board). He liked it. That’s because he’s grown up with computers and touch screens.

But he did have to pause when it came time for payment. That’s when a credit card is required. In his seven years on earth, he had never used a credit card himself.

So I walked him through the simple steps that will help him someday go a little bit in debt each month, as the rest of us do now.

The McDonald’s we walked to is the one on Benedict Ave., just north of the old Food Town building. Food Town—which we always knew by its evocative original name, T & A—was Norwalk’s original 24-hour supermarket.

I mention this because our old T & A supermarket and credit cards are forever linked on my memory thanks to something that happened 48 years ago.

In 1971 I lived at 147 Benedict Ave. And as I was returning home at approximately 3 a.m. from this newspaper where I had been writing about Friday night football games, I remembered we needed milk for breakfast.

So I stopped at T & A, got the gallon of milk, took it to the checkout, and was mortified to discover that I had spent literally my last dollar on a pizza we had shared in the newsroom. I had no cash with me and was not about to run home to get 79 cents, the cost of a gallon of milk in 1971.

So I did something that to me was simply astounding at the time: I paid with a credit card.

Younger readers (and now my grandson) no doubt wonder how this could possibly be memorable. That is because they do not remember the days when the clerk at a grocery checkout barely knew what to do with a credit card.

The young man at the T & A checkout (I can hardly write those words with a straight face) first looked disgusted when I presented my Bank Americard.

Then he scavenged around under the conveyor to find the clunky credit card impression thingy, a multi-carboned credit card form and a pen for me to sign with — press hard!

He may have even needed a manager’s approval.

But at last my 79 cent transaction was completed.

I told that story for years. “Get this: I once made a 79 cent purchase with a credit card!” And for the first 30 years people generally laughed.

These days, I try to pay for everything with a credit card. I no longer carry any change with me. And I carry hardly any cash.

In 2011 I took an 11-day motorcycle trip. I left with approximately $120 cash in my wallet. Seventy dollars of it was still there when I got home. Everything else was done with a credit card.

I love not dealing with change. And I love having a printed record of every purchase made during the month.

I pay off the statement as soon as it arrives so I do not pay any interest or penalties.

And I believe the people receiving these credit card payments, tiny or large, like it better than dealing with cash. High speed internet connections make approval a non-issue. And with no signature required on small purchases, each transaction goes so much quicker than making change for someone.

So I am a big advocate of buying with plastic.

In fact, now that you sometimes have to place your own order on a baffling touchscreen, paying is the easy part.

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