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English Names Are Not To Blame

| Working | December 9, 2015

(I am a freelance technical writer and my clients pay me through a very popular online service. As such, I have a credit card through this service that first taps into my balance with them, and then into my bank account as back up should my balance run out. One month before I am scheduled to leave my home in the United States to visit the UK, I call the company and let them know so that they do not freeze my card. The representative tells me he has made a note on my file. I call to confirm two weeks before, and again the day before I leave, since I’ve been a victim of “foreign transaction freeze” before. I am assured that everyone is aware of the dates that I will be in London. I also take out about $300 and have it changed for GBP just in case, so that I do not get stuck without transportation, etc. The day after arriving in the UK, I visit a popular tourist attraction and, after a tour, choose some souvenirs. I’ve only brought about £40 since I don’t want to carry around a lot of cash, so I plan to use my card for this. I attempt to settle up and the following occurs.)

Employee: “Oops, it’s saying your card cannot be processed.”

Me: “Oh, no. They’ve frozen it. I called THREE times before I left the country! I can’t believe it!” *check my phone* “And now my battery is dead from taking photos, and I can’t call them! Drat!”

Employee: *very sympathetic* “As it’s a U.S. number on the card I’m afraid you can’t call the direct line. However, let me see if I can use our kiosk computer to look up their UK branch.”

(She does this, and I call the UK branch of the company that issued my card and explain the situation.)

Card Company Employee: “Of course, ma’am, I apologize. If you would just put the account holder on the phone, we can confirm his identity and get the freeze lifted.”

Me: “It’s MY account.”

Card Company Employee: “No, Madame, the name is [My very unisex first name and very British last name]. We need to speak with him.”

Me: “I assure you, that is I. I am the account holder.”

Card Company Employee: “Don’t be silly. [Name] is a man’s name!”

Me: “I assure you, it’s a unisex name.”

Card Company Employee: “We have no such thing in England! This is a man’s name. Furthermore, [Surname] clearly belongs to a British citizen! I believe you are trying to perpetrate a scam, and I will report this to [Company]! Good day!” *hangs up*

(I hang up and relay what has occurred to the helpful employee and two others who are now interested in the exchange after seeing my face.)

Helpful Employee: “Oh, no! That’s terrible! I would be glad to put your items back and hold them until close tomorrow, so that you can go back to your hotel and call the U.S. branch of the company and get things straightened out.”

(I thanked her profusely, went back to the hotel, and charged my cell phone. I called the U.S. branch and explained everything, and while they were very apologetic, it took 36 hours to get everything processed and the hold lifted. I didn’t get any souvenirs from the #1 attraction I was there to see. I now never leave a hotel room without a fully-charged backup battery.)

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