The start of a lively family discussion.


Marshall Field’s Department Store in Chicago, Illinois.

In mid-November, while attending a convention in Chicago, Barbara and I decided to do some Christmas shopping at one of our favorite stores. Marshall Field’s was only a block from our hotel, The Palmer House, and there was nothing else planned for the afternoon. We agreed it would be a fun and efficient way to spend the time.

We started on the first floor, bypassing the jewelry department because her family was in the business. Instead, we stopped at the perfume counter, where Barbara made purchases for both her mother and her sister. The shopping continued in the toy department, where she purchased a Barbie® radio for her niece Barbie and an action figure for her nephew Thomas. Next, we went into the men’s department, where we purchased a scarf for her dad.

The only person left to shop for was her brother-in-law Tom. It was my turn to come up with an idea. “Let’s look in the gift department and see what we can find,” I suggested. Barbara agreed, so we rode the escalator up two more floors.

There was a lot to look at, and I was having fun studying what was available, i.e., what I would like. Many of the items were too expensive, but there were several interesting things that were within our budget. We settled on a moderately priced chess set that included a board. After processing our credit card, the salesclerk offered to wrap the gift for us. As I watched her wrap the box, it looked like she would almost get it wrapped only to undo her work and start again. I was getting a bit annoyed by the wait, but I was in a good mood and had no intention of showing my impatience or getting angry.

Then, it happened. Two men approached us from behind. They looked official—not shoppers. Before either of them said a word to us, I thought to myself, we are being arrested! I was right. We walked with them to the elevators and rode up to the top floor. When we arrived, the area seemed to contain only administrative offices. We were guided into a large office with an official looking fellow seated behind a desk. He was flanked by men in chairs. The man behind the desk invited us to sit. We did so, with a sinking feeling. He addressed us by saying he had been told we were shopping with a stolen Marshall Field’s credit card.

A light went off in my head—like in a cartoon when a fellow finally “gets it.” Ignoring the man behind the desk, I turned to Barbara and began a serious domestic discussion.

“You reported our card stolen, didn’t you?” I asked.

“Well, yes I did,” she said. “Because I thought …”

“Then, why didn’t you remember and not spend half a day shopping with what was reported as a stolen card?” I said.

There was more discussion—civil but edgy. Neither of us was especially angry, just embarrassed and eager to get the situation resolved as quickly as possible. (I wasn’t aware at the time, but I suspect the others in the room were experiencing a combination of humor and sympathy.)

Finally, the man behind the desk interrupted us and said he realized this could happen to anybody. He thanked us for our business and praised my wife for cancelling a credit card she thought had been lost or stolen. “But,” he suggested, “next time, apply for a new one immediately.”

He apologized for any inconvenience and encouraged us to continue our shopping, saying that our credit card would be re-activated immediately. Barbara and I thanked everyone in the room and assured them we had done all the shopping we intended to do—at least for the day.

By Savvy Senior

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