by Pat Nelson
Reprinted with permission, The Daily News, Longview, WA August 29, 2008
When my husband, Bob , and I recently spent four days exhibiting wholesale sleds at the Seattle Gift Show, I strapped my fanny pack around my waist to avoid losing it.
For four days, that fanny pack bounced up and down on my hip as a reminder of how smart I was not to be carrying a purse. Then, as we packed up and moved out, I removed the fanny pack to get my cell phone. We were in a hurry. After all, hundreds of vendors were all trying to move out at the same time, and there would be a long line at the freight elevator.
As my husband pulled a flatbed cart stacked 5 feet high with merchandise and a handcart stacked to the top with plastic totes, I followed with my own tower on wheels: first, a rolling tote filled with flyers and orders, topped by a printer in a carry-on bag. Next was my laptop, followed by a plastic grocery bag full of snacks, and finally, my fanny pack, with the strap securely (I thought) over the strap of the rolling tote.
Three-quarters of the way through the exhibit hall, I checked. My load was secure and my fanny pack was still there; I held both the tote handle and the strap of the fanny pack in my hand. When we reached our truck a few minutes later, the fanny pack was missing. We re-traced our steps, but couldn’t locate it, setting in motion the steps of damage control.
As we drove home, I made a mental list of what I’d lost and what I would have to do to prevent identity theft. That evening, I called credit card companies and cancelled cards. That meant that any charges I had made that had not yet processed would be rejected.
The next morning, I took my passport for ID and got a replacement driver’s license. I went to the bank and cancelled my ATM/debit/Visa card and asked what I should do about the checkbooks that were in my fanny pack— checkbooks for three different accounts. I knew that if I had to close the accounts, I would have to re-order checks, and I had a large supply of business checks that I didn’t want to waste. I would have to list all of the outstanding checks for the bank so that they would be honored when presented to the bank. All of the places where I make automatic monthly payments would have to be notified. I would have to get by with temporary checks for about 10 days.
I hoped the bank would allow me to keep the accounts open, but they did not. As I signed forms, I realized I would also have to notify the merchant services company that processes charge cards for my business. And what about the automatic payroll for my employees? Or monthly and quarterly tax payments that I make online? I realized I had caused myself a lot of work by carrying checks I did not need: I needed only one of those three checkbooks. I should have left the others home. For the one I did need, I should have carried only the number of checks I anticipated needing, and I should have noted those check numbers at home so that I could stop payment on them.
Luckily, I had removed my cell phone before I lost my purse, so I didn’t have to cancel that to avoid fraudulent charges; my house and car keys were not in my fanny pack, so I didn’t have to change my locks; and I wasn’t carrying any rental cards, such as for movies, that someone else might use. My Social Security card was in a safe place, not in my fanny pack.
Years ago, when I worked for a credit union, my boss told me that one day we would live in a cashless society. I didn’t believe her. When I lost my fanny pack, I realized how close we have come to that society. I felt paralyzed without the credit cards that I use to pay for groceries, gas, and other purchases. I couldn’t go to the ATM or write a check for cash. I had to remember to get cash during banking hours. I could no longer place orders online.
Three days after the loss, I received a call from a vendor who had found my fanny pack when leaving the show and who was sending it to me. The bank had not yet closed one of the accounts, saving me some problems. I’m happy the fanny pack didn’t fall into the wrong hands, causing me even more grief.
From now on, I plan to carry in my purse or fanny pack only what I need. I’ll make copies of the cards I carry in my purse, and I’ll list the numbers of the checks that I carry in my purse so that if they are lost, I can stop payment. I’ll also list all of my automatic payments and contact numbers.
And next time, I’ll take the time to strap on that fanny pack.