Yesterday was a rough day for what should have been a really simple task. For the last 2 years I have been using a technique called “manufactured spending” to pay my rent. Since the rent is the only thing I can’t really use a credit card for (and trust me, all of my bills go to my credit card), I had to find a way to do it. Along came the American Express Bluebird. A prepaid Amex that offered the ability to write checks. Perfect! All I had to do was buy some Gift cards from a grocery store (triggering Double points on Grocery!), set up the pin on the card, go into walmart and load the bluebird from the Gift Card. Up until recently this has never been a problem (and only once did I ever have any kind of issue buying $1000 worth of gift cards).
When Heidi and I moved in together we kept it up, when we had to pay rent, she would just give me a gift card and I would load it up and pay the rent. Simple as! When I went through the job transitions earlier in the year, I moved away from it for a little while as the fees to play this game (about $5 per GC) just wasn’t justifiable. So now that things are back to normal and rent is due. Back to it right? One of my cards had a short term bonus on Grocery spend (score!) so I figured I would do some spend on that card to max out that bonus. I also have some minimum spends to do at the moment so figured a short term return to it would be good. Things were not to be!
I had my gift cards ready to go, and headed off to Walmart in Renton, pretty much the place I have used many many times. When I got there, as usual no sign of the Walmart ATM since they removed it because it was constantly broken. So I lined up at the money center (thankfully not much of a wait, I think the longest I have stood in line there is over 45 mins). When it was my turn, I asked to load my bluebird and then they told me not from Gift Cards. Asking when that changed, they said “o its always been that way” (it hasn’t). They just flat out refused, so it was off to the next Walmart. I texted a friend to see if he had heard any problems, nothing on the radar. Next Walmart they refuse to do it as well, citing stupid reasons (which was code for, I am sorry, I am to busy to load your Card that can only be loaded at Walmart). 2 Down, off to number 3. I get to the third Walmart and when I asked to load my bluebird the guy started spouting reasons to not do it. “You can’t load at the register” “Yes you can, I have done it here before” (truth) “Well, I can’t do it, this register can’t do it” “Ok, because all Walmart registers can load” (again truth) “O, well I don’t know how, go see the manager at the Money Center” “There is no one at the money center” “well I am not loading it”. 3 stores down, 2 lazy associates, 1 where they don’t know what they are talking about.
So in the end I head south to two more Walmart’s down near Heidi’s parents place (we decided to go over there for dinner and board games). I get to the first one and finally get someone who will willingly load money to my Bluebird. I get them to load just one of my cards and they start to go back and forth with a supervisor saying stuff I can’t hear. He takes my gift card and walks off where I can’t see him, comes back and says “this wont work, it doesn’t have a PIN”. I reply and tell him it does and he says “well, give it a try but it won’t work”. We process it. Successfully loading it onto my card, I walk out and thank them to have a nice day (kinda sarcastically). I now have 1 card down, 2 to go! I try the last Walmart for the day, one referred to as the “sketchy walmart”. I hit pay dirt at this place. I managed to find a new employee, a couple of weeks into the job who was friendly and actually wanted to help me. Although she did try to load the wrong amount (it caused her to lock up her register) she let me load in all the cash I needed to, was happy to do it and without any hassles at all. I was super Happy!
All of this makes me wonder if it is even worth doing this anymore? Heidi gave me an earbashing over it, and after all the frustration of so many different Walmart visits, I am wondering if it is worth it myself. I don’t know how to feel about it all to be honest. I do it to not waste points, but maybe it is time to give up on that part. Soon enough we will have a mortgage and points and travel will probably be the last of my worries. Trying to make sure we have the right credit etc is what we will need to focus on. My credit score is good, I have no problem at all. Maybe it is just this area and MS. I see reports of people having no problems in other parts of the country, but up here in the PNW they just don’t like it. Is the age of MS over? For me, it probably is.