“Pick up card! Pick up card!” intoned the computer.
Unlike other messages, this never means a typing mistake, but I re-entered the numbers and heard the same announcement.
Wearily, I phoned International Assistance to explain that their credit card had been rejected. The dispatcher put me on hold for several minutes before returning with another card number. In the past, I’ve gone through several before hearing the computer’s approval, but this one worked, and I left for the hotel.
International Assistance insures travelers from Latin America. It’s sent me on nearly 900 housecalls since the 1980s, but over the past decade it began requiring months of pestering before sending a check. Finally I lost patience and demanded a credit card. Credit card companies charge about six percent of my fee, but they’re a big convenience. I punch in data; two days later money appears in my bank account.
Slow payments usually means an organization is struggling. They’re maxing out their credit cards and getting them cancelled but keeping others in reserve. A few have gone out of business, owing money, but International Assistance has been irritating doctors for years; many colleagues refuse its requests. It’s the oldest of half a dozen travel insurers that call me, so this may be a tactic for minimizing cash flow.