As happened to Susan, my American Express/Costco card went AWOL. I’ve been through this enough that I have a theory how it happens:
Unlike WalMart, the “greeter” at Costco’s entrance is primarily there to ensure I’m an actual Costco member. Sometimes they’ll hand me coupons valid for the following week. (“Six thousand tooth brushes for $0.75 each, wow!”) If it’s raining, they might use a rag to wipe down the front of my cart. Once in a while, they’ll even acknowledge my existence with eye contact. But for the most part, they’re disinterested. I don’t even bother saying hello, instead flashing the Costco-logoized portion of my card.
So already, my AmEx card is outside of its normal habitat (my wallet). If I stop to put it back, I’ll be rear-ended by the flow of shoppers behind me. Since I’ll need to whip it out later, the card ends up in my front pocket as I shop.
They request the membership card at checkout. After they scan it, they’ll place it right above their keyboard, just out of reach. When they’re done ringing me up, they’ll ask the rhetorical question, “Do you want to put it on The Card?” (Yes, it sounds like they capitalize the spoken words.) More often than not, they’ll not hand it back to me until I’ve already signed the receipt.
Now here’s where the problem comes in: I have a receipt, my Costco/AmEx card, and twelve metric tons of capitalism in my cart. Costco’s door police want to inspect my receipt and cart’s contents. Given their inconsistency, I assume it’s as a visual deterrent to someone who’d want to haul a 52″ plasma screen television out the door without paying. I stuff my card into my pocket.
Once out the door, I face the same problem as when in: I can stop, and risk back injury from the eager consumer behind me while I attempt to put my credit card back into its happy slot in my wallet. Or, I can head to my car. No contest.
The receipt’s easy to remember because it feels crinkly. However, the card’s small. If I don’t pull it out before I start the car, it will most likely end up in the laundry basket, destined for a three-cycle cruise of my washing machine… except for this morning, when I needed it for something and pawed through the laundry basket.
It’s my working theory.