Girrrrrl, I'm gonna lose this money so hard...
Next year’s yoga retreat in Costa Rica is different from my previous retreats in many ways: It’s a little longer, a little further away, and I’m partnering with a fellow instructor—my superbuddy Jena Ertel—for the first time. It’s also different because Jena and I are planning this trip all by ourselves, without the assistance of a travel agency. Despite my loyalties to the amazing travel agency that assisted me with my previous trips, I felt ready to take on more power, freedom, and control by planning this trip independently.
But you know what they say. With great power, freedom, and control comes great responsibility.
One of the challenges I knew I’d be taking on since leaving the nest was the issue of taking payments and online registration. My travel agency handled all this in the past. All I had to do was show up and teach, then come home and cash my paycheck.
After weeks of research and inquiry, Jena and I concluded that there was no way for us to take credit card payments without having to pay a significant cut in credit card processing fees. Keeping costs manageable for our guests (and ourselves) was a priority for us. We wanted to feel like the money our guests pay is going toward first-rate accommodations, great food and drink, fun yoga and fitness classes, and a life experience to remember. Who wants to feel like a big chunk of that money is going to some faceless corporate banker?? NOT ME.
We figured the best solution to this problem was to discount the package price for anyone willing to pay us directly: Cash, check, Chase Quickpay, wire transfer… You save us money, and we pass the savings on to you! Win-win, right??
Well. My dear friend, committed yogi, and pastry chef to the stars Caroline was quite tickled by our gumption in asking for cash. “Really?” she said. “Cash?”
“I mean, just not a credit card. It doesn’t have to actually be cash,” I answered.
“OH YES IT DOES,” Caroline said. (Not out loud. But I imagine she said something like this in her mind at some point.)
Fast forward a few weeks. Caroline shows up for class with the full payment—not just the deposit; the whole trip fee—IN CASH. That’s $2550 in Benjamins (plus one lone Grant.) Her cash withdrawal was so mighty that Chase actually gave her a zippered deposit pouch to carry it in, which I certainly hope she has by now repurposed into a makeup bag or a pencil case.
This was very exciting, of course. Naturally, I was thrilled to have Caroline signed up for the trip, and I can honestly say this was the first time anyone had ever made it rain on me. But it was accompanied by the terrifying prospect of riding the bus home with a veritable stack of G’s in my purse. “NOT MY PROBLEM; YOU SAID CASH,” said Caroline. (Again, not out loud.)
The bus ride, needless to say, was tense. As was the 7 block walk from the bus stop to the bank, where I went post-haste after disembarking. Once I was comfortably ensconced in the neutral-toned color scheme of my local Chase branch, I fully exhaled. I’m home-free, right??
At my particular branch, when you walk in, there used to be two live teller stations, front-and-center. At some point over the last year or two, the live tellers were replaced by E-Tellers, and the human tellers were exiled to the back of the shop. (Like, you literally can’t even readily see them when you walk in. You have to go around a corner.)
I knew, of course, that I shouldn’t risk it with the E-Teller. This is a lot of cash! You don’t entrust that to technology, right?
But then again, they are right there at the front, which means they obviously want you to use those instead of the human people. Plus, this way, I wouldn’t have to get any suspicious looks as to why I might have just wandered in here in my yoga pants with a fistful of cash. Why not!! What’s the harm!
So I put in my card, and at the prompt, deposited the cash in the drop at the top of the machine. I here it whirring, gigging, buzzing, and shuffling, as it is presumably counting the cash I dropped in it. (At no point in this transaction was I given the opportunity to manually enter my deposit amount.) After an interminable 30-60 seconds of technology in action, I am greeted with…
An error message.
“This device has experienced a technical problem. Please keep this receipt for reference.” At the bottom of the receipt that printed out the very same message was a pointed note of cheerful irony: “Banking at Chase has never been so convenient!”
Oh, and if you’re thinking the machine spat out all the money I had just dumped into it in a gesture of, “You know what? Go ahead and hang on to this while we figure our shit out,” OF COURSE IT DIDN’T. That money was GONE.
I can’t remember the last time I’d had such a feeling of the bottom dropping out from under me. “Stay calm, this isn’t really happening, everything is going to be fine,” was very quickly losing out to “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!!!!!”
Wild-eyed and feet glued to the floor, I waved over a passing personal banker. “I just put a shitload of cash in this machine, and it swallowed it up and gave me an error message!!” I wailed. He called over a teller—the human kind, who had come out of her hiding place behind the corner—who tore me away from the machine to the back to call in a claim.
Interestingly, throughout this entire process, no one at the bank displayed any signs of concern or panic whatsoever. They made various assurances and explained the process of getting my money back. Though no one actually said it, the vibe was, “It’s cool, this kind of shit happens sometimes.” I was unclear as to whether or not that provided me any degree of comfort.
Over the next 48 hours (not 1-12, as I had been promised), I played out various doomsday scenarios in my head: Would I have to hire an attorney? Would I need to get Caroline to sign an affidavit? Would her bank be willing to provide the record of her withdrawal for that very amount? (I had definitely already submitted the above photograph as evidence.)
Two sleepless nights later, the money was snugly tucked away in my account. Drama concluded. Prayers answered. Lessons learned.
For the record, yes, we are still accepting cash payments—and I promise never again to entrust them to technology. #humantellers4lyfe
A happy ending, for sure, but the ever gracious Caroline makes sure ever story ends on a sweet note. Check out her recipe for vegan, gluten-free chocolate pudding!
2 cups cocoa powder
2 1/2cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups canned coconut milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Blend all ingredients until smooth. (Add extra coconut milk for a thinner pudding. This recipe comes out pretty thick.)
I like careers that involve wearing comfy pants. If I weren't a yoga teacher, I'd try to write full time for a living. Join me here to see what's on my mind, and share your thoughts with me!