I know, I know, I said in my Pat Tillman post in September that I was going to talk about strippers in my next post, but I lied. Okay, I didn’t lie — I did intend to post about them, and I started working on it, but you know how it goes — work, life, a few other posts popped up, yadda yadda yadda, it didn’t get done. Let’s not focus on my lack of follow-through; instead, let’s celebrate that I’m putting digital words to screen — even if it’s not to finish what I said I was going to originally write about.
Where things started going off the rails
So, as my faithful few readers know (or don’t), I’m back working at the marketing agency I left in 2015. When my first payday rolled around, our business manager, Jamie, surprised me by handing me a live check. I’d signed up for direct deposit, but apparently, there had been some minor glitch, and the payroll company sent me a physical check. No biggie; once I got home, I used my trusty Chase mobile bank app to deposit it remotely. I’m a huge fan of mobile banking — it’s always so simple.
Except for this time.
Apparently, there’d been an app update and the photo feature was now on some sort of automatic setting. Every time I tried to line up the check inside the brackets onscreen to snap the pic, the damned app would inexplicably take the photo before I was ready. I was getting lots of blurry action shots. Sometimes it was the floor; sometimes it was a partial image of the check; sometimes it was my clenched, angry hand — nothing the bank would find useful.
Luckily, I succeeded in taking acceptable photos just as I was ready to hurl my phone against a wall. The app automatically added the routing and account numbers it pulled from the check image. Now, I’ve gotten rather blasé about remote deposits, which means I didn’t verify the account and routing numbers for accuracy. Instead, I hit submit and deposited my check before the damned app changed its mind. The bank acknowledged the deposit as Pending, and I went about the rest of my evening.
If you’re assuming nothing could go wrong, you’re obviously new to my site.
You had me at chorizo
Next day at work, one of our talented designers, C-Bass, asked if I’d like to walk down to Starbucks around lunchtime. Now, I had just gotten my healthy lunch out of the fridge and Starbuck’s is about a third of a mile away and it was 103°F (39°C) out, so I was prepared to say no. Plus, I still carry a slight grudge over the infamous Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Incident of 2012, so I have to really be craving something to go out of my way to go to Starbucks. But then C-Bass uttered the magic words, “They just introduced a chorizo and egg breakfast sandwich. It’s good.”
He swore up and down it was delicious. Now C-Bass is from Mexico and is a foodie, so if anyone can speak with authority on the tasteworthiness of a chorizo sandwich, it’s him. Suddenly, the healthy lunch I’d brought had lost its appeal, so I put it back in the fridge.
And off we set.
The Starbucks death march
Holy hell. With the sun beating down on us and heating up the pavement, we were second-guessing our decision to walk after one hundred yards. Or I was at any rate. I can handle the heat, but the sun on my pasty white flesh is intolerable. If some guy had been selling Urban Sombreros from a sidewalk stand, I would have bought one, quaintness be damned. C-Bass reminded me about the umbrella hat he had found in an unused desk and given me as a joke — and I was sorely tempted to return to the office for it.
Which reminds me — when we live on the surface of the sun, why is it only socially acceptable for older Asian ladies to carry parasols? In my time, I have only seen one white person in Arizona carrying an umbrella on a blistering hot day. He was a large white guy, maybe around thirty, in a black band t-shirt and black ball cap who looked like he would have stabbed you with his umbrella if you’d even raised a questioning eyebrow. Regrettably, I have neither that level of intimidation or the panache to carry off using a parasol.
The anticipation of deliciousness
Finally, we arrived at Starbucks and C-Bass ordered his drink and picked up a healthy snack pack of a boiled egg and veggies and fruit, and I ordered my Spicy Chorizo, Monterey Jack & Egg Breakfast Sandwich. The hipster barista smiled and said that he’d be back in a moment, and then he disappeared out of sight, which was odd — they’ve never had to disappear in back before.
As I stood there waiting for the guy to return with my sandwich, I wondered what the odds were there was no sandwich — or if he might try to slip me a pale substitute a la the aforementioned infamous Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Incident of 2012. (If you can’t be bothered reading it, here’s the Reader’s Digest version — Starbucks did me wrong.)
Sure enough, the barista came back and apologized that they were out of chorizo and egg sandwichs and offered to get me something else. I politely declined and I told him it was probably God’s way of keeping me honest to my commitment about eating better (okay, commitment might be a little strong. How about inclination?), but deep down inside, I knew it wasn’t God. It was Starbucks screwing with me — again. So, C-Bass and I trudged back through the sweltering heat to the office sans sandwich.
I tried to shrug it off as the manager’s failure to anticipate demand, but the seeds of doubt were planted. Who runs out of a sandwich — one you can order at any time of the day, mind you — by 11:30 a.m.? Yes, I realize chorizo and egg is technically a breakfast sandwich and we were verging on the lunch hour, but I’ve ordered their sandwichs well into in the evening before.
Then another incident sprang to mind that fed the flames of conspiracy. The other day, when returning from a workshop with Sarah, another co-worker, she’d gone through another nearby Starbuck’s drive-thru and ordered a sandwich only to be told they were out. What was going on? Was Starbucks doing the old bait and switch to get customers in the door and then pawning off a less desirable sandwich on them?
Pondering this, I sat at my desk and I ate my spinach. I ate my grape tomatoes. I ate my mini peppers. I ate my Triscuits and cheese. And I ate my goddamned carrot. And it was all very unsatisfying. Thanks a lot, Starbucks, for raising my expectations and then dashing them and making me hate my unspectacular lunch. My nemesis had earned an even darker place in my heart.
I’d have to wait till another day to taste this mythically delicious sandwich. But I would not be denied.
Dude, where’s my money?
That night, I was sitting at home when I jumped onto the Chase app to pay a bill. The first thing I noticed was a big deduction from my account — like a four digit deduction in big red numbers — suspiciously the exact same amount as my paycheck. Apparently, the bank was rejecting my deposit. Naturally, this caused me quite a bit of distress.
I couldn’t recall the last time I’d had a problem with Chase. I make deposits, I make withdrawals, and as long as my balance looks reasonably correct, I have no beef with them.
Thoughts of disaster swirled through my head. Maybe I’d been fired and the agency was getting its money back? No, that was dumb. Maybe the agency had gone bankrupt? Ehhhh, that would have been surprising as we were brimming with clients. Then I remembered I hadn’t verified the routing number before making my deposit. Why hadn’t I checked it? And to add insult to injury, Chase was charging me a $12 penalty fee. Argggghhhh!!
Next morning, after a night of tossing and turning as I dreamed about being insolvent, I rang Chase’s call center and their agent told me it wasn’t the routing number that was the issue — instead, security had flagged the check as altered. What? That was surprising. It was a standard payroll check. The agent couldn’t give me any other info but advised me to go to a branch office and see if they could deposit it. She kindly reversed the $12 penalty fee.
Getting to the bottom of things
At the agency, I spoke with Jamie and showed her the check. She mentioned the bank had called the boss to alert him to a possible fraudulent check yesterday, but Jamie had told him no, it was my paycheck. She suggested I go down to the local branch and deposit it, which was right down the street. Conveniently across the road from Starbucks. Hmm, I could solve my check issue and get a chorizo and egg sandwich. Being a lazy American, normally, I would have driven to the bank, but the parking and navigation involved with going to Starbucks complicated the issue, so instead, I set off on foot. It was early, and the day was heating up, but I really wanted that sandwich.
In the bank, the teller and his boss both examined the check trying to puzzle out how it had been flagged as altered.
“Maybe the Z descends to low,” one of them said, looking at my boss’ printed signature, which did look uncharacteristically large.
In the end, they had no idea why the main branch had rejected it, apologized for the inconvenience, and deposited it for me.
I felt good. It had gone quicker than I thought it would and they hadn’t rejected the check. It was time to celebrate with a chorizo and egg sandwich, so I crossed Scottsdale, walked into the Starbucks and ordered one. The smiling young woman said sure, then hesitated and said she’d be right back and disappeared in back.
My eyes narrowed. Okay, what was going on? It was 9:45 a.m. For God’s sake, they couldn’t be out of chorizo sandwichs already.
I was wrong. They could be and they were. She offered me something else, but I wasn’t going to be a willing victim in their bait and switch ploy. So I trudged back to the office, grumbling to myself like an unbalanced homeless guy.
Something was obviously going on. And I was going to get to the bottom of it.
Is the banking system collapsing?
That night, I was sitting at my desk Googling to see if there was some sort of national outcry about the lack of Starbucks’ chorizo sandwiches to corroborated my suspicions when I got a notification on my phone from Chase.
After I read the message, my stomach dropped and my anger blazed. The bastards were rejecting my paycheck — again! And I’d just paid out a substantial amount on various bills not two hours earlier. That’s the problem — I always treat the ‘pending’ status as a done deal and now it was biting me in the ass. I still had money in my account, but anytime funds are yoyoing in and out of it, it’s a matter of concern. And to rub salt in the wound, Chase hit me with another $12 penalty fee.
Luckily, the Houseguest was still out of town on vacation. I was effing and blinding at the top of my voice as my dear old mother would have said. I hadn’t had a check inconvenience me that much since the late 90s when I was in a hurry and the guy in front of me had tried to cash a two-party, out-of-state check with questionable ID.
In the morning, I called Chase and tried to keep my calm. The call-center agent was zero help. She couldn’t tell me why they’d rejected the check and told me to talk with the issuer. Jamie had no idea why the bank had rejected it, but she put in a request for a new check, and it arrived the next day. This time, there was no way I was using my mobile app to deposit it. Check in hand, I set off on foot again for the bank. It went smoothly and I deposited my check, had them reverse the penalty fee.
Then I walked over to Starbucks and ordered my sandwich.
Again, no sandwich and no explanation as to why they were out other than they were out. Out or just not available I thought to myself, but I didn’t say anything. It took every fiber of self-control not to start bitterly grilling the poor barista. She was just a smiling cog in the Starbucks’ corporate machine.
The hunt comes to its conclusion
All afternoon, I tried to work as I fixated on the chorizo sandwich. I was going to try to order at another location and prove once and for all that something was going on.
On the way home, I fought my way through rush hour traffic with a single-minded goal. Finally, I pulled into the packed parking lot of a Starbuck’s near my house. Inside, I ordered my sandwich from the smiling barista. I smiled back — little did she know I was onto them. She rang me up. That was unexpected — it was further than I’d gotten before. Then her brow furrowed —
“You know, let me double check we’ve got some left.”
Ah ha! I knew it! I had the bastards! The only question I had was — What was Starbuck’s end game? What were they trying to accomplish by offering a sandwich but not actually making it available? Was this some grand bait and switch? But why? I was definitely on to something, I just had to figure out what it was, but I was going to…
“Here you go, enjoy.”
The barista handed me a sandwich in a paper slip. Surprised, at the interruption, my conspiratorial monologue ground to a halt. I looked inside the paper holder. Huh, there was a chorizo and egg sandwich inside.
And just like that, the Great Conspiracy was over. I felt a little disappointed. And a little silly.
So I sat down, and I ate my sandwich.
It was okay.
Actually, I kind of wish I’d gotten a scone.