I was peacefully writing away on a Tessera (small piece of a mosaic) for my novel Felix Ravenna: A Mosaic when an associate from my bank called. My payment to amazon.uk is blocked. All of the UK is blocked on my card. “You know, with all the fraud on the internet,” she said. “Certain states [sic] are blocked for transactions. This one is noted for much fraud.”
“All of England?” I asked disbelievingly.
“This is not good news,” I replied. “I buy books from England, France, Spain, Italy and sometimes Germany.” I’m quickly running through my head the usual suspects: amazon.uk, amazon.fr, bol.it, casa del libro, DEA–and, the monastery in Belgium from whom I purchase CDs. I made several music purchases in Argentina. Gosh, I even remember ordering icon materials from Bulgaria.
I’m seeing a nightmare of curtailment in my personal consumption habits trailing off into the future. I have a flash of my kitty Oscar snuggling up while I read Italian aloud to practice. He thought I was talking to him. It was one of his favorite activities.
She unblocked my card for one hour…after I begged. I resubmitted my transaction. Soon, a notice appeared on my account page stating that my card would not be charged until the item was actually shipped. OK, that is theoretically today. But…not within the hour’s time frame. It’s looking as though this is not going to happen.
Now I’m wondering if we will need go back to the old way, as in my graduate student days. Write a letter placing the order and asking for the shipping costs (this can probably still be done online…maybe). Wait for a reply. Go to the bank in person. Get a foreign currency draft. Mail the draft–several weeks time. Wait for the book to be shipped–another week to month (it used to be up to three months). Wait for the item to arrive.
She does not reassure me. She tries, “This is not permanent, it’s only temporary while there is so much fraud going on.” Does this woman live in a bubble? It’s going to stop soon? Does she know something I don’t?
She gives me some double speak about using a different card but then saying that because it is a Visa card it applies to all Visa cards. I am currently in shock. There are many people, much more sophisticated in their buying habits than I am who make international purchases. I have a vision of currency bank drafts going by mail. Or maybe courier because of those pesky grèves, scioperi, strikes and the like . Is this what the future holds?
As a book reader, I have been so spoiled the last 15 years or so by the availability of hard-to-find purchases on line. I luxuriated in being able to purchase books, anywhere and at midnight. The mailman, UPS and FEDEX guys all knock and smile when I open the door for a book delivery. They know me and my international book deliveries.