Mastercard Chase: SDCC Security Snafu

A very long story about the adventures of a credit card at Comic-Con. May be funny someday.

Sunday at San Diego Comic-Con is an odd combination of exhilaration and weariness that results from the influx of a bunch of Kids’ Day attendees into the sleep-deprived, caffeine-fueled fourth-day-of-Con masses. It’s a short day for programming, and a lot of it is kid-oriented. Like the showing of the new Little Mermaid movie that started in a very big hall at 11:30 and was scheduled to last until 1. The panel in the room after that at 1:15, Cartoon Voices, is always packed, so I got in line around noon. It was a shorter line than I’d expected, and I got to the door between 12:30 and 12:45.

Inside the room, it was pitch dark except for the screen. Strollers were everywhere and I was deathly afraid of stepping on a kid or whacking one with either my purse, backpack or goodie bag. I managed to get to the far left side of the hall and find a seat in a mostly unoccupied row, and sat down in the fifth seat from the right-side aisle with my purse on my lap and the other bags on the floor. There were two seats between me and a couple at the end of the row, the one of whom closest to me pretty much needed half the seat next to her. A few minutes later, another couple came in and sat directly to my left side. I remembered that with packed panels, there’s usually an announcement about “no saving or skipping seats, and decided I ought to squish over to make room. So, not wanting to get too chummy with the large woman on the right, I moved over a seat, settling my belongings into a more permanent pattern with the purse under my chair and out of traffic. When the movie ended a few minutes after that, and the lights came on, the couple on my left moved over again and I thought, What the hell, and moved into the seat on the right. My former seat was taken by the people on the left not a minute later.

The exodus of strollers and small children was fascinating to watch. Nowhere have I seen less crying and tantrum-throwing per capita. The Cartoon Voices panel, where you get to hear voice actors strut their stuff and impart anecdotes, was as good as I’d hoped and as packed as I’d anticipated. There were people turned away at the doors, as usual. The panel took the entire slot of time from 1:15 to 2:30, and then everybody stood up en masse and made for the exit doors. Which, because of where I was sitting, meant everybody was heading toward me. I decided to get out of their way ASAP and got up to collect my stuff…

…and my purse wasn’t there.

I didn’t panic until I realized it wasn’t under the chair next to mine either, or any chair in the vicinity. Then I said aloud, “My purse is gone;” and several people who’d been slow to exit, including the couple on my left, hung around to help me look. I still had my phone, which had been in a holster attached to the coin pocket of my jeans (for better vibration reception); and the emergency $20 in my backpack was still there. So I counted myself lucky and decided to see what the security force could do about the incident.

Security at the con is handled by a firm called Elite. Their entry-level minions are jokingly called “redshirts” by congoers because, well, it’s accurate. Most years I’ve dismissed them as 90% incompetent lackeys, but this year they’d shown some brainpower, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Plus, they had walkie-talkies, and my brain told me that maybe that way they could tell the minions at the main doors to be on the lookout. I told the nearest redshirt what happened, and he summoned not only his supervisor but his supervisor’s supervisor, both of whom quizzed me on the details until I was second-guessing myself. In the middle of this, Kelson called, and I told him where I was and what was going on. He showed up in record time and we started second-guessing each other on how big the purse was and what kind of camera was in it. The thing that seemed to really make the Elite guys *blink*blink* was that I’d put the purse under my chair. Apparently they’ve never seen people stash bags of, oh, autographed merchandise and original art under these chairs to keep them from getting trampled. I’d been putting stuff under chairs the whole con, and throughout many cons before, and never had anything happen. Now, suddenly, I was stupid.

The Elite guys told me I didn’t want to deal with lost and found if I didn’t have to, because they were hopelessly out of touch and never actually got anything until the next day. Which, today being Sunday, wouldn’t apply unless I wanted to stay another night and take my chances; and by then L&F might have turned all their stuff over to the police or the Goodwill, the Elite guys weren’t sure. My best bet, they said, was to file a missing property report and go look for it myself. They helpfully suggested that many stolen “container” items were eventually found in trash cans near the scene of the theft, missing only the most obviously valuable contents. Also, I should cancel my credit cards and consider canceling my ATM card. I did the first from the crowded hallway, telling the representative that I’d made a manual-impression charge earlier that day and could he please note that anything fitting that description should be let through? He said he’d note it but couldn’t promise anything. At least there were no charges I didn’t recognize. I said I didn’t need a new card on a FedEx rush, and he assured me a new one would be sent out on “regular” schedule.

I filed the report (which the officer at the booth said was unusual, as most of their reports had to do with theft from booths) and followed the guys to L&F, who came across as dippy as they’d warned me. I then spent the next hour or so wandering the halls around the room where it all started, looking in trash cans and planters and all around the outside patios. I went down and told the short version of the story to the guy I’d made the manual charge with, and let him know I’d told them to let his charge through but I didn’t know whether they’d do it. I was on another circuit of the crime scene, getting all maudlin to the supervisor dude about how I thought this should be the one place we’d all respect each other when, in a remarkable display of deja vu, Kelson called again.

“I found the purse!”

He’d gotten into the room again as the panel after Cartoon Voices was letting out, and spotted the purse on the tech table at the back of the room. They wouldn’t turn it over to him, so I had to go get it. As I was 20 feet from the still-open exit doors, this was easy. The door monitors tried to block me, but by then I was inside and people by the table were waving me over. Nothing was missing or even moved.

What had happened was this: room security/staff, which patrols the large event halls and isn’t associated with Elite, had picked it up during the Little Mermaid exodus. Apparently they do this routinely to keep actual theft from occurring, and turn the items over to L&F at the end of the day (which is why L&F never has anything to be F until the day after it’s L). In the 60 seconds that there was no one in the chair the purse was under, and without asking the people to either side of the empty chair if it was theirs, one of their personnel, who gladly told me the story, had picked it up. I gave her my best wounded-puppy look (which was hard when I was so relieved) and said, “Why didn’t you ask us? There were people nearby the whole time. You could have asked.” I mean, she would have had in her possession all the ID info she could want for owner verification purposes. It seemed like a no-brainer to me, but from what I gathered, it wasn’t “policy.” After this crap, I hope it is now.

We made it to the Buffy musical showing with minutes to spare, went to cancel the report afterward, and finished the con with a sense of having been screwed but somehow finagled a happy ending. Even when I had to write the guy a check for the purchase that didn’t go through, it wasn’t bad. Just stupid. I didn’t feel “lucky” as my mom later said I should. There’s no evidence favoring a scenario in which someone else took the purse because security didn’t. Ergo, no luck involved…not of the good variety anyway.

Then…the promised new card didn’t come. Not within 6 to 10 business days, not within 4 to 6 weeks, not within 6 to 8 weeks. My online bill pay service still worked, with a new account number, but I had no card. What with bank failures abounding, and my ATM card being connected to money residing at WaMu, it got worrying enough that I called the company last week to ask WTF. I was informed that because it was a “security closure,” no new card would be issued. It seems that, even though the rep on the phone in July told me I’d be getting a new card, it’s actually at the issuer’s discretion whether to replace the card or completely close the account. And when they’d reviewed the issue the next day, they’d closed the account. No note as to why. The new number was just for security reasons, and so that I wasn’t paying off my balance on a cancelled number. The lady on the phone apologized for the first guy having given me misinformation and told me I could open another account. Knowing that I was newly (again) unemployed, and not having much hope, I said, “Well, what do I have to do to reapply for another account?” She put me on hold for what felt like ten minutes, then came back and said, “I was able to reopen your account. You should be getting another card in 6 to 10 business days. And we apologize for the inconvenience.”

On Friday, the day after the WaMu fire sale, my new card arrived. It had the number they’d assigned for my online account, which was something of a surprise. More surprising was the expiration date: “Good from 09/08 – Expires 09/08.” I immediately called customer service, and the rep actually started laughing when she realized what had happened. The old card had been set to expire this month, so when the account was reactivated, the auto-generated specs for the new card kept the date. She assured me there would be a new card issued ASAP, which meant Monday since I’d called after hours on Friday.

So I have a credit card again, finally. For…*checks calendar*…three days. And I’m not sure that places are even going to take it with crazy-ass dates like that. *sigh* Ah well, it’s not like I’m used to having one anymore…

Originally posted on LiveJournal.

See Also: Convention Photos & Write-Ups

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