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Credit Card Pranks

There are a few great stories on the web about credit card pranks. Two of my favorites are from John Hargrave and Rob Cockerham.

Well, those stories always reminded me of lessons learned long ago. I worked at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Rochester, Minnesota doing room service for the bulk of the 1990’s. I would typically finish cleaning up about 20 minutes after midnight. Afterwords, I had to turn in my bank and I'd visit with Duane the night audit guy, who manned the front desk during the graveyard shift and reconciled the prior day's business. If he wasn't there, it was straight to the bar to order three drinks for last-call to try and forget work. Duane and I could typically settle all of the world’s issues within twenty minutes and catch up on hotel gossip (that part usually took longer).

Duane, like every other hotel night auditors I’ve met was a little off. You didn't want to mess with him. He had an uncanny knack for making anybody's life miserable if they crossed him in any way.

Everything was normal until a Snarky white old man with a bimbo on his arm arrives from the elevator with a single goal in mind. To look like a big shot in front of his bimbo, by ripping Duane a new ass.

I don’t remember the specific situation Snarky brought up, but it wasn’t in Duane’s power to correct it. It was the type of situation that would have to wait until 6:00am for a manager to show up. Duane offered to have the problem taken care of in the morning, and have the manager call Snarky and let him know it was taken care of. Rather than sleep on it, and have the morning desk manager correct it, he bitched at Duane for a solid half-hour. I hid in the back like a coward (he'd do the same for me).

Duane liked his quiet evenings, he ran reports and performed reconciliations, then spent a good portion of the night studying. He was taking some college classes at the local community college. It was a great gig for a mature student that doesn’t mind the hours. Duane was te perfect guy for the graveyard shift. What Duane didn’t like, was having old Snarky tell him how he ruined his entire business trip. Duane really didn't give a rats-ass if Snarky's bussiness trip was ruined or if he was hit by a truck. He just didn't want to hear about Snarky's problems. Ripping his ass was just what was needed to push Duane over the edge, and onto the path or retribution.

Back then credit card pre-authorizations were used widely in the service industry. Restaurants would typically run your credit card for a pre-authorization - an amount greater than the bill making sure there was room for a tip. Hotels also used them for room service, phone calls, and dinning in the restaurants (so you could sign the meal to your room). It made your life easier on everybody!

Credit card companies typically held the credit card pre-authorizations for the remainder of the billing cycle, and they counted against your credit limit until the cycle was over. Armed with attitude and all of the information Duane had on Snarky he headed towards the credit card processing machine. Duane proceeded to run pre-authorizations against the credit card Snarky used to check-in with. When finished when the card wouldn’t accept another twenty bucks.

I didn't find out what transpired for a couple days, but the next morning, the front-desk day manager showed up as expected. The topic of the Snarky white old man came up. The front-desk manager quickly used her access or power of privilege, to take care of the problem that started everything in motion. Duane learned two things; he was very rude to the front-desk day manager, and used a different credit card for something else at the hotel. Once Duane saw how Snarky treated her he performed a search through a stack of receipts (today this would all be done electronically and called identity theft). After rifling through paperwork, they found the other credit card information. Back to the credit card authorization machine. Within a few minutes that card was also maxxed with pre-authorizations.

Another couple days go by and after finishing my duties, I stopped by Duane to solve the world’s problems, and catch up on gossip. Turns out the guy had a very big dinner with clients that evening at Michaels; a fancy four-star restaurant across the street.

We learned this part of the story a few weeks later while drinking with fellow food workers from the fancy restaurant. They all ate well, drank some great wine, and ran up a large dinner bill. A bill large enough to feed a small Sub-Saharan African nation for a year! When he went to pay for dinner, but his credit card was declined.

Well, Snarky complained and demanded the card be run through again. The waitress explained that it had been run through twice, per policy, and it was declined twice. Snarky snapped back te first useledd credit card and withdrew the other credit card, and offered it to the waitress. Same story as with the first card, only he complained longer and louder, until the manager showed up. The manager provided the house phone to call Visa/Mastercard or whomever. He threw a fit. Finally one of his clients, who was probably embarrassed by Snarky, offered his own credit card.
 
I wonder if he ever got that deal?
 
A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person

I was drinking with friends (see a pattern here) and started telling this story. One of the friends worked at another hotel in town - as the night auditor. I told you these people were a bit off. Upon telling the story I discovered a new fact - Duane was not the only night auditor in town getting retribution.

This friend realized he had all the credit card information, address, and phone number for the guest that had belittled and raked him over the coals for an extended period. For some crazy reason the hotel kept a copy of the Sears catalog (I’m showing my age) near the front desk. This auditor realize he had all the credit card information, address, and phone number for the jerk who just ripped him a new one - right in front of co-workers and other guests. It only took him a few pages before he realized what he needed to do.

What a pain-in-the-ass it must be to return home from a trip and have Sears delivere an 800 piece Craftsman tool set. Everybody should know how easy it is to return stuff from Sears. Will the local store accept something ordered from catalog, or do you have to ship it back? Then you need to get all the charges reversed, including any interest accrued.

Don’t mess with people who handle your food, or your credit cards.