31 December 2014

As 31 December 2014 gives way into 1 January 2015

As 2014 slowly fades into the sunset and 2015 rises at dawn, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! In Spanish, Feliz Navidad y Feliz Año Nuevo! In Slovenian, Vesel božič i Srečno novo leto! And in German, Frohe Weihnachten und Glückliches neues Jahr!

I hope everyone had a happy and safe Christmas and New Year.  Whether you went to First Night in downtown St. Petersburg and watched the fireworks as midnight rolled around or stayed at home and watched the ball drop in Times Square in New York City at the stroke of midnight, we will say goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015.

Getting to some EdwardRingwald.com website notes, I finally got the Christmas lights page up for 2014 after all the website coding and testing prior to putting the pages and pictures live.  Now that I am using CoffeeCup HTML Editor as my web design software, it takes a lot of getting used to:  Making sure the HTML is correct to the letter and making sure all the references are in their right places.  But I think CoffeeCup HTML Editor is much more robust and it gives you more control over what you want to show out there on the web.

The good news?  I am going to leave the Christmas 2014 page up for a good part of 2015 so that everyone can come by and check it out.  In 2014 I feature not only two light displays in St. Petersburg but I also feature Christmas themed train excursions at four different railroad museums in two states!

Now on to 2015.

Today as I am writing this entry I came across an ABC Action News Taking Action For You article by Jackie Callaway which should have you concerned, especially in this day and age of data breaches involving Target and The Home Depot:  Retailers asking for and scanning your ID when you have to return an item.  That in itself is very scary and you should be concerned if you care about your privacy, especially in a retail environment.

As I wrote in a blog entry back in December 2011 here are some important pointers on what you need to do when it comes to retail returns:

1.   Save your receipts!  This will eliminate plenty of inconvenience when you go to exchange or return an item. If you do not have your original receipt with you, more than likely you will be offered store credit so that you can purchase another item.  Check your store's return policy; it can be found online on the retailer's web site or posted in store at the customer service desk.  In addition, be aware of any restocking fees that may be imposed.

2.  If a retailer demands ID and scans the ID somewhere, this is a time when red flags should go up.  More and more retailers are demanding ID as a part of the return process in order to deter fraudulent returns; if you hand the store clerk your ID you are unwittingly handing over your personal information to a third party called The Retail Equation out of Irvine, CA.  This should definitely have you concerned.

As we hear of more and more data breach incidents with retailers - despite retailer policies on protecting the privacy of its customers - any retailer requiring and capturing ID as part of the returns process amounts to nothing more than a retailer dabbling into your personal affairs as well as a recipe for identity theft.

That being said, what should you do if a retailer demands ID from you as part of the returns process and the retailer captures your ID data?

The answer is very simple:  If you have an alternate form of ID other than a driver's license, use it.  If you have an United States Passport or Passport Card, USE IT.  NEVER HAND OVER YOUR DRIVER LICENSE - ESPECIALLY A FLORIDA DRIVER LICENSE - TO A RETAILER UNLESS IT IS THE ONLY ID YOU HAVE!

For starters, a Florida Driver License is the worst identity document in the nation to have in your possession other than for operating a motor vehicle, which is the law.  Thanks to the Federal REAL ID law enacted in 2010, and the relevant Florida Statutes that were changed in order to comply with REAL ID, your Florida Driver License has on it your physical street address.  That in itself is a goldmine for stalkers and domestic violence perpetrators who somehow can get their hands on your driver license data.  In addition, a retailer has no business finding out where you live.

Before REAL ID, you could have a post office box mailing address on your driver license in order to minimize the risk of your personal information being compromised.  Today, only law enforcement officers are allowed to substitute their post office box mailing addresses in place of a physical street address on a driver license, if any.  Did Congress have any compassion for victims of stalking or domestic violence when REAL ID was passed?

Besides, despite federal laws to the contrary the State of Florida has a habit of selling your name and address information on your driver's license to third parties.  Which leads me to wonder:  If the State of Florida is selling your personal information to third parties, I imagine retailers with ID required and captured policies - such as Best Buy, for instance - are doing the same thing.

And another thing to ponder is of course the data breach incidents that have happened with Target and The Home Depot.  All it takes is a skilled hacker to harvest your personal information.  One day we will go online or turn on the TV and the news will have a breaking news alert:  Major data breach incident involving The Retail Equation.

Any retailer that requires ID when you return an item will also try to claim that it is also their policy to help deter identity theft. Any retailer claiming the purpose of requiring ID to help deter identity theft is a false statement. Besides, store clerks have been involved in identity theft cases as the perpetrators!

Again, if you got a passport or passport card, use it as ID.  I know, passport books are expensive but you can get a passport card from the United States State Department for $30.  Besides, a passport card is valid for ten years as opposed to a Florida Driver License which is only valid for eight years depending on your driving record.  Not only you will have an alternative form of ID which meets federal REAL ID requirements for boarding aircraft when flying domestically and entering federal facilities, you can use it for trips to Canada and Mexico when you cross the border by land.  The only time you would have to invest in a passport book is if you are traveling by air internationally including Canada and Mexico.

If you have a post office box as a mailing address, use it to your benefit. If in the event a retailer requires a street address, give your work street address - not the street address where you live. Again, residential street addresses are a goldmine not only for dabbling store clerks but for stalkers and domestic violence perpetrators as mentioned earlier.

Be sure to hang on to your driver's license, but put that away in a safe place in your wallet or purse. The only time you need to produce your driver's license is in these situations:

1. While you are operating a motor vehicle.
2. In the event of a traffic stop.
3. In the event of a motor vehicle accident.
Remember, you must carry your registration and proof of motor vehicle insurance as well - it's the law!
4. When you rent a car - after all, it is illegal for any rental car company such as Alamo or Dollar to rent to anyone without a valid driver's license.

Once again: If you are asked for ID by a retail store clerk, pull out your passport or passport card if you got one. This solves 99% of all ID required issues when it comes to retailers.

Now here's my take on retailers requiring ID when you return an item for exchange or refund, especially in light of the retailer data breach incidents:

1. Retailers have a right to control return fraud. Asking the customer for his name and address is the first step and using the information only for the purpose of processing the return and destroying the information collected from the customer after a period of time - such as 60 days - ensures privacy for the customer.

2. If a retailer wants to require ID for a return, that's their business. At least the information from the ID should not be captured and held in a computer database subject to unauthorized access, as is the case with The Retail Equation.

3. To law enforcement or to a rental car company, a driver's license is one thing. However, to retailers such as Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us or any other retailer known to ask for and capture IDs from customers as well as The Retail Equation, my residential street address - in other words, where I live - is none of your business

Again, as the final seconds of 2014 tick away into the first seconds of 2015, I would like to say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2015!

15 November 2014

Will Thanksgiving become an extinct American holiday? Just see what Corporate Retail America is doing!

Last year right around this time I posted an article on my blog about my view as well as my reaction to retailers that want to make a quick profit before Black Friday by opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day.  Now that Thanksgiving 2014 and the Christmas holiday season is just on the horizon the trend of retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day is reaching an alarming rate.

Sound concerned?  You should be.

I got to agree with you 100 percent:  Thanksgiving and the start of the Christmas holiday season is my favorite time of year.  Thanksgiving is a time to be with family and friends, especially when you gather around the table and enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner.  And we can't forget the rites and rituals of Thanksgiving including of course the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City that is televised live by your local NBC affiliate (which for us Tampa/St. Petersburg residents, is shown on WFLA-TV Channel 8) and the constant stream of Christmas music everywhere that kicks off the Christmas holiday season.

Back in my childhood days, I remember when practically everything retail was indeed closed on Thanksgiving Day, even fast food restaurants such as McDonald's.  In fact, I still remember the wording on the store hours posted at the door into McDonald's:  We rest on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The only places that were open on Thanksgiving included gas stations and convenience stores.

Thanksgiving is indeed a true time to be with family.  Thanksgiving is indeed a true time to be with friends too.  It certainly is, and I believe it should stay that way.

Except to Corporate Retail America.

You know all about Black Friday, the Day After Thanksgiving.  That's the day when you can shop all over for the great deals!  In the past, retailers have opened their doors early in the morning on Black Friday in order to gain a competitive edge.

Now that competitive edge has crossed into a newer kind of territory which would have been unheard of fifteen, ten or even five years ago:  Opening for business on Thanksgiving Day.

What?  Opening for business on Thanksgiving Day?  You got to be kidding me.

Before I go on further, please let me emphasize that this is about retailers deciding to be open on Thanksgiving Day.  There are services that have to be open on all holidays including Thanksgiving, and that includes public safety (fire/police/EMS) and transportation providers - after all, we depend on our courageous public safety officials to keep us safe and we depend on our transportation providers to get us where we want to go.  Ditto for mid- to upscale restaurants that provide an option for those that want to partake in the tradition of Thanksgiving but for one reason or another cannot prepare a Thanksgiving dinner.

Unfortunately, Corporate Retail America made a decision on how to make a quick profit now that the Christmas holiday season is just on the horizon.  Let's be a lot more competitive as it can by throwing Thanksgiving Day in the shredder and open for business on the last Thursday in November just like any other regular day.

Yeah, be competitive all right.  But think of what Corporate Retail America is doing here:  Requiring employees that work for a retailer that has decided to open on Thanksgiving Day to work on Thanksgiving Day, away from family and friends that could otherwise enjoy the Thanksgiving Day holiday at home enjoying the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  All in the name of greed and profit.

By so doing, Corporate Retail America has decided to do away with Thanksgiving as we know it even though Thanksgiving is a major American national holiday.  If you want to get rid of Thanksgiving altogether you might as well consider adding a week to the school calendar and have school on the week that used to be Thanksgiving.

In fact, Corporate Retail America can lobby Congress all it wants to in order to remove Thanksgiving as a legal American holiday.  if Corporate Retail America succeeds, then Thanksgiving as we know it in America will be in all likelihood extinct.

If you think Corporate Retail America is doing anything to erase Thanksgiving as an American national holiday, it can by opening for business on Thanksgiving Day.  Believe me, repealing Thanksgiving as an American national holiday will not happen.

After all, Thanksgiving is deeply rooted in American tradition beginning from the days when the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts in 1620 and earlier when Juan Ponce de Leon landed on Florida's east coast near St. Augustine in 1513.  After all, Florida at the time was still a part of Spain until 1819 when the Adams-Onis treaty was signed that gave Florida to the United States.

Thanksgiving became a national holiday in 1863 when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November.  Thanksgiving as we know it today on the fourth Thursday of November was fixed into law by Congress beginning in 1942, according to Wikipedia.

Believe me, any attempt at a repeal of Thanksgiving as an American national holiday, especially at the hands of Corporate Retail America, will not happen.   It won't.

Here is my view of Thanksgiving as an American national holiday, and Corporate Retail America's attempt to make Thanksgiving extinct:

1.  Being a native born American citizen and a native born Floridian, I firmly and strongly believe in all the holidays that America celebrates, including Thanksgiving as well as Christmas.

2.  Thanksgiving is a holiday to be with family and friends.  That being said, I do not conduct any business whatsoever on Thanksgiving Day.  Besides, I was born and raised in an era where practically everything was closed on Thanksgiving Day and we knew better to stock up on what we need before Thanksgiving.  It is very unfortunate that we now live in an era of instant gratification, also known as the I gotta have this right now era.

3.  My message to Corporate Retail America is this as far as opening on Thanksgiving Day is concerned and ruining the livelihood of your employees and associates who would rather be home with family and friends:  If the spirit of the American holidays such as Thanksgiving offends you in any way, shape or form, please consider leaving the United States of America and find another country where our American holidays are not celebrated, preferably a country where human rights and civil liberties are grossly violated.

What can you do to send a loud and clear message to tell Corporate Retail America to keep their profit greedy hands off of our American national holidays?  After all, one person can't move a locomotive (or even a mound of Interstate 275 overpass dirt) by hand but there is strength in numbers!

1.  First and foremost, don't spend your hard earned money on Thanksgiving Day at retailers that decide to violate the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday by being open.

2.  If you live in Maine, Massachusetts or Rhode Island consider yourself lucky:  Your state laws forbid most retailers from opening for business on Thanksgiving Day among the major holidays.  Unfortunately, no law forbidding retailers from opening for business in Florida exists:  Call, email or write your legislators in Tallahassee and tell them that Thanksgiving is a holiday and retailers need to show respect for the Thanksgiving holiday by not being open for business.

3.  Patronize retailers that show respect for their employees and their families by being closed on Thanksgiving Day.  Don't give retailers that disrespect family values your business.

That being said, we need to take back Thanksgiving as it should be - a holiday with friends and family.  And we do need to take back Thanksgiving as we know it now before it's too late.

With Thanksgiving upon us, onward with the Christmas holiday season!

02 November 2014

Election Day 2014 - Be Ready at the Polls!

On Tuesday, 4 November 2014 we Floridians go to the polls to elect a Governor of the State of Florida among other things.  Ever since Rick Scott got elected governor four years ago in 2010 the State of Florida as we see it is not the same.

After all, Rick Scott did nothing more than turn against the people of the great State of Florida.  Ditto with Pam Bondi, Florida's Attorney General.  You'll be surprised:

Unauthorized turning of public meetings into private meetings and using law enforcement as a tool of intimidation such as using trespass warnings.

The refusal of federal healthcare money.

Throwing 25,000 potential jobs into the trash by refusing money for high speed rail between Tampa and Orlando on the Interstate 4 corridor.

The constant lying and deceit to the people of the State of Florida.

Telling people that were unemployed and are still looking for work that you are on your own.

People who are discriminated against in looking for work, including the use of credit reports as public record.

Your child treated by your school district as its property.  Try to even speak with your child's teachers regarding your child's progress and you will be trespassed from school property.

The warehousing of disabled and elderly persons into nursing homes and Assisted Living Facilities (ALF), thanks to Florida's guardianship laws.

Making it very easy for a law abiding Floridian to acquire an arrest record, thanks to Pam Bondi's goals.

The constant use of Section 810.09 - Florida's trespassing law - as a tool of intimidation, especially against the homeless.

Making sure that Floridians that are legally registered to vote are purged from the voter rolls.

Now that Election Day 2014 is just around the corner, ask yourself:  Do you want four more years of the constant lying, deceit and threats that is now in Tallahassee?  Or do you want change in Tallahassee starting from the Governor downward?

We do not have to put up with another four years of Rick Scott as well as Pam Bondi.  We Floridians can make a change come on Tuesday, 4 November 2014 at our assigned polling place.

If you have already participated in early voting or you have voted by mail, that's great!  For those of you that want to go to the polls it's best to be prepared before you make the trek to your assigned polling place.

Remember, the polls are open from 7 AM to 7 PM on Election Day.  What if you are in line at your assigned polling place at 7 PM when the polls close?  As long as you are in line by 7 PM, you will be able to vote!

You can go over to the website of your county's Supervisor of Elections and even generate a sample ballot based on where you live.  Print it out and take it with you so that you can use it as a reference when you actually vote.

For reference, here are links to the Supervisors of Elections in the Tampa Bay region (a selected list of Supervisors of Elections links):

Links to above Supervisors of Elections offices in the immediate Tampa Bay region are provided to you as a public service.

When you arrive at your assigned polling place, be sure to have a picture and signature ID with you when you go to check in with the poll worker.  A Florida Driver License or a Florida ID Card is best but Florida's voter ID law allows you to use the following as ID when you go to vote:

Florida Driver License
Florida Identification Card
United States Passport (either the book or card is OK)
Debit or credit card
Student or Military ID
Retirement Center ID
Neighborhood Association ID
Public Assistance ID

When you registered to vote or updated your voting information, your Supervisor of Elections will more than likely sent you a Voter Information Card, which used to be a Voter Identification Card many years ago.  A Voter Information Card is NOT valid voter ID.

If in the event you do not have valid voter ID with you when you go to vote, you can still vote.  However, you will only be able to vote a provisional ballot and you will be given instructions on proving your identity at the polling place.

If you have previously requested a mail ballot and you decide to vote at your assigned polling place on Election Day, you can still vote!  Having your mail ballot with you is the best, as your mail ballot will be cancelled and you will be given a regular ballot.  However, if you do not have the mail ballot with you don't fret - the poll worker will check to be sure that the mail ballot was not received.

So, what can we Floridians do to see change in Tallahassee?

That, my friend, is very simple.  Get on over to your assigned polling place on 4 November 2014 and VOTE!  I don't care how you get to your assigned polling place, whether it may be by your own vehicle, on foot, by bicycle, by public transit or whatever, but get out there on Tuesday, 4 November 2014 and VOTE!!!

11 October 2014

A New Look for EdwardRingwald.com is here!

It's been almost ten years ago since EdwardRingwald.com got a new look!  The last time I gave EdwardRingwald.com a good new look was almost ten years ago when I recoded the site from the simplicity of Netscape Composer (which, sadly, went along the wayside when Netscape disbanded) to the complexity of Microsoft's FrontPage 2003.  Back then, FrontPage 2003 was what you used if you wanted more robust web design beyond a basic text site.

Fast forward almost ten years.

A lot of things changed over the span of ten years.  Topics get added, roadtrips get added and deleted (deleted in order to save disk space among other things), and a host of other items have to be changed if you want to keep a web site current.  After all, if you maintain a web site you have to keep it updated with the latest content as you can.

Unfortunately, Microsoft no longer supports FrontPage 2003, its existence being replaced by another web design product of Microsoft called Expression Web.  I checked out Expression Web and, unfortunately, the features of Expression Web did not fit my website model.  With the demise of FrontPage more and more web hosting providers have been discontinuing support for the FrontPage server extensions, which are the code that enables enhanced functionality for websites created in FrontPage.

With more and more web hosting providers discontinuing support for FrontPage 2003, I decided to think outside the box and take web design to a new level.  In fact, put my knowledge of HTML to the true test.  That being said, I decided to migrate to a more robust web design product that would give me better control of what I put out there on the web that you read daily.

And that web design product is CoffeeCup HTML Editor.  I extensively evaluated CoffeeCup HTML Editor and recoded my home page to see how it would look.  After some HTML code tweaking I was very impressed!

In fact, one of my websites, DrawbridgeAhead.com, was written entirely in CoffeeCup!  I was considering using FrontPage 2003 when I spun off my drawbridges of the Pinellas Beaches pages from a feature on EdwardRingwald.com to a website of its very own, just like when I spun off my Interstate 275 St. Petersburg pictures into a website of its own back in 2003, Interstate275Florida.com, and expanded its content to cover all 59.5 miles of Interstate 275 in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.

Right after I wrote and published DrawbridgeAhead.com using CoffeeCup HTML Editor I decided to start working on recoding my other websites using CoffeeCup.  After all, I was very impressed with how DrawbridgeAhead.com came out.

First I started recoding my website portal, EdwardRingwaldWebsites.com, to make it more of a central starting point for you to explore my websites.  Think of it as Tampa's Union Station as a central starting point for all trains going out of Tampa as an example.  After all, a union station consisted of several railroad companies providing passenger rail service under one roof, especially back in the days before Amtrak.

By the way, with the recoding and relaunch of my website portal, my websites form a part of the Edward Ringwald Websites Network.  You'll see it on all of my websites!

Right as I was recoding my website portal, I begun work for a little over a year on recoding EdwardRingwald.com.  A lot of work went into the recoding, especially taking out the Microsoft-specific HTML code that went with FrontPage.  Next, I have reorganized the pictures that you see on the roadtrip pages so that they would load as a lightbox window like you see on a lot of websites out there, not to mention cutting down on the time it takes to load a picture when you click on the link to see the full version.

Now the product is done, the new version of EdwardRingwald.com became reality Sunday evening, 12 October 2014!  I am sure you will like the new design and format of EdwardRingwald.com.  I have already gone through and corrected any errors I have found, which leads me to ask you, the World Wide Web surfer:  If you come across any links on the EdwardRingwald.com site that leads into a 404 error page, please contact me by way of the Contact Us page and select the Report a Broken Link in the subject drop-down box.  Include the URL of the link in question in the comments area as well.

And as for Microsoft FrontPage, now that there is no support for FrontPage 2003 and no support for the FrontPage server extensions from a lot of web hosting providers, it will be time to put FrontPage on the shelf.  Time to move forward and onward.

But don't worry, EdwardRingwald.com is here to stay!  Stay tuned!

22 July 2014

The Edward Ringwald Blog: I'm still here!

The Edward Ringwald Blog.  It's still here!

I know, it's been a long while since I posted something new here.  Unfortunately, my schedule has been so hectic, especially when it comes to being a volunteer at the Florida Railroad Museum among other things.  Add to that the regular day job I have during the week - well, you get the picture.

But there is one thing I have never forgotten, and that is the blog you are reading right now on your computer.  Or on your tablet.  Or on your smartphone.  Or whatever.  And I can't forget my website, EdwardRingwald.com!

So, let's get right down to business here.

First, I had a third blog I added just several months ago, the In The Shadow of the Railroad Museum Blog which is life being a volunteer at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish.  I have decided to discontinue this blog for the time being; who knows it may be back.

Second, I had a page on the Florida Railroad Museum in the features area of EdwardRingwald.com.  I have taken that page down for the moment so that I can give that page an overhaul; like the Shadow of the Railroad blog it may be back too.

Now that we got the nitty gritty of some changes here, let's get right down to some topics that I have meant to discuss for some time.  What's on my mind the most is about those gas station credit card pump readers, and I have discussed this in an earlier blog entry about the dangers of using your credit or debit card at the pump.  Just recently here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area there have been incidents of credit card skimmers placed in the gas pump credit card readers which lead you to believe if it is even safe to use your credit or debit card at the pump.

The best way to ensure that your credit or debit card does not fall into the hands of criminals who are out there to get your money is to not even use these pay at the pump readers in the first place.  As most gas stations require prepayment before purchase, you can go inside and tell the clerk how much you need; you pay for your gas like you pay anything else inside the store and then you pump your gas.  It might sound inconvenient by having to go inside, but believe me it will give you plenty of peace of mind.

If you have to use a pay at the pump reader, at least use your credit card.  Keep in mind that a credit purchase can incur a significant authorization hold (usually around $75) which can put a crimp on your available credit, especially if your credit card has a very small credit limit.  Never use a debit card at a pay at pump reader; the authorization hold - especially if a debit card is run through as a credit purchase - can put a crimp on your available bank account balance which can throw you into overdrawn status if you are not careful!

How you can tell if there is a skimmer on a pay at the pump credit card reader?  According to this news release from the St. Petersburg Police Department, be on the lookout for the following:

1.  Wires sticking out from the reader.
2.  The reader appears loose or damaged.
3.  Tape or residue on the card reader slot.
4.  The reader looks different than the rest of the gas pump.

Keep in mind, too, that the more reputable gas station brands, such as Shell, employ a security tape seal placed onto several locations on the pump itself.  If the seal is broken, do not use the pump reader - instead, pay inside and alert the cashier or store manager on duty.

When it comes to getting gas for your car, keep this in mind:  If the credit card pump reader doesn't look right, go inside and pay.  Your credit card or bank account will say thank you.

And one more thing while we're on the subject of pay at the pump:  Store associates and their customer service skills.  I am not saying that all convenience store associates are bad; the majority of store associates I have had to deal with are courteous and polite but there are an unfortunate few that I have encountered that are downright discourteous or rude.  This can happen especially if you go inside to prepay for fuel with your credit or debit card.

Another trick a convenience store associate can play on you when you prepay for fuel inside the store, especially with a debit card, is that the store associate runs your prepaid fuel amount as a credit purchase.  Why should you be concerned?

Remember, if you use a debit card at the pump reader and it is set to run it through as a credit purchase, your checking account is frozen for a high amount for a given length of time until the store uploads its daily credit card sales data.  You can tell if your debit is being run as a credit at the pump:  No option to enter your PIN.  Debit PIN-based transactions happen immediately while credit transactions happen in one to two days from the day you actually make the purchase.

Now let's say you estimate you need $30 worth of gas.  You go inside and tell the sales associate you need $30 on the pump where you are parked.  You tell the associate you are paying with a debit card.  Before you know it, the associate tells you that it will be run through as a credit.

After the transaction inside is approved, you return to your vehicle and pump your gas.  Let's say you pumped $15 and that's all you can get in the car.  You go back in the store and the associate tells you that the difference will be refunded to your card.

You have paid $15 for gas.  But where's the other $15?  Since the associate ran your debit card through as a credit purchase, the authorized but not used $15 is frozen for a given length of time until the store uploads its daily credit card sales data as I mentioned earlier.  Translation:  The unspent $15 is not available to you, which can mean overdraft fees from your bank or credit union if you are not careful!  The store is holding on to your money (that you did not spend) without your permission!

After all, PIN-based debit card transactions involving fuel purchases, especially at the pump, involve a small hold of usually $1 just to make sure the card is good.  It is the credit card transaction you have to worry about.

Unfortunately, this practice is completely legal.  However, you have every right as a customer to determine where you spend your money, including for fuel purchases.  If you feel uncomfortable using the pay at the pump reader, you can always go inside and pay.  If the sales associate on duty treats you in a rude or otherwise discourteous manner, especially when it comes to prepaying for fuel, you have the right to take your business elsewhere - don't give that convenience store that mistreats you your business.

You might want to keep this pointer in mind, especially in Florida as far as its turn-ordinary-law-abiding-people-into-a-potential-criminal trespassing laws are concerned:   An honest dispute over services received - especially mistreatment by a convenience store sales associate - can easily escalate into criminal trespass when the associate or store manager calls law enforcement and either has a trespass warning issued or criminal charges for trespassing filed.

Once again, it's been a while since I posted here at the Edward Ringwald Blog but I will try to keep you updated on the latest and greatest of topics I think you will enjoy.  And be sure to check back frequently and often - you'll never know what I will have for your reading pleasure!