Sometimes I am amazed at how naive I used to be, and still am, occasionally. Before I learned the hard way that I needed to be Kalisha's legal guardian, I allowed her to have her debit card in her billfold. Kalisha really doesn't like to shop and always asks before she actually buys something, so I thought having her card with her would give her a sense of independence. What I didn't factor into the equation was her desire to have friends and her inability to say "no" when she needed to. (Are you recalling the parable of the prodigal son yet?)
Kalisha asked if she and a friend, Mary, could go to Glenbrook Mall and spend a Saturday just looking at everything. I knew Mary, so I agreed. At the last minute, another woman and her husband wanted to go along. I didn't know them, but Mary did. The man, Rodney, was supposedly a preacher and his wife, Andrea, had all kinds of health problems, so I really didn't think they were a threat and never gave the outing much thought. None of them could drive; they went to the mall on the city bus, so I didn't think they could kidnap Kalisha or anything.
Around 6 p.m. when I was expecting them back home, Kalisha called and was a bit frantic. "Mom, the clerk said my card was declined." I knew she had a balance of over $400 when she left home, so I just about had a heart attack. "What do you mean, it was declined...what the h___ did you buy?"
"I didn't buy anything, but the last clothes that Andrea tried to buy wouldn't go through."
"The LAST clothes she tried to buy??!! How many clothes has she bought?"
"Well, she's been at lots of stores, Mom."
"Put her on the phone, Kalisha" I said through gritted teeth.
When Andrea came to the phone, I demanded that she take ALL of the clothes back that she had purchased. She whined that some of them she was already wearing and the others had the tags removed.
I said "I don't care what you have to do, you take everything back that you can or I will come there and physically remove the ones you are wearing!"
Now I have to tell you that Andrea is a very large woman, but my adrenalin was flowing pretty good, so I probably could have taken them off of her if I had been there right then.
Kalisha got back on the phone and when she was quizzed, she said that they had all gone to Bandido's for lunch, at her expense, and Andrea also had fake nails put on which cost $50. No wonder her card was declined.
I was furious, to put it mildly and told Kalisha that I was coming to get her.
Before I got dressed and in the car, Kalisha called again and said that Andrea thought she was having a heart attack and the ambulance was coming to take her to the hospital and she and Mary were going to ride along.
You are probably thinking that I was feeling guilty about yelling at Andrea.....well, I wasn't! I might have, but even though I didn't know them, I did know a little bit about them and I knew that Andrea went to the hospital quite often for nothing.
I grabbed my keys and off I went to the hospital. I don't know if you believe in angels, but I know that God placed one at the front desk of the emergency room. When I got there, I told her, "I know all about the HIPPA privacy laws, but I really need to see the __(I can't write what I said)___woman that just came in here by ambulance. Either this lady really was an angel or she was more frightened of me than of losing her job, because she said, "She's right down the hall in bed 7."
I went storming down the hall. When Rodney stuck his head out, I told him that I wanted everything Andrea had bought that day. He told me that the perfume was opened and the clothes had the tags removed etc. etc. etc. I told him that I didn't care; just give me everything and if I could rip the fake fingernails off Andrea's fingers, I would take them, too!
He handed most things over and I stormed out, with Kalisha in tow. I was so angry at them for taking advantage of her and angry at Kalisha for not saying, "NO" and angry at myself for not being more cautious about letting her go with someone I didn't know.
We returned about half of the things, so Kalisha lost over $200. Expensive lesson, for her and for me.
There are many people out there in the world who will take advantage of anyone, especially some one who may not be aware of their intentions. I try to warn Kalisha about many things, but I miss a few and sometimes she is like typical teenagers and simply doesn't believe that anything bad will happen to her. She used her card another time when she had her hair cut. When she signed the charge slip, the beautician told her to write $25 on the tip line. Pretty nice tip, huh?
She doesn't get to carry her card anymore. If she is going to buy a particular item, she knows the cost in advance and will use it for that and nothing else.
Her inability to say NO has been a serious struggle; not just with a debit card, but in many areas of her life. She has had some terrible things happen to her because she doesn't want to lose someone's perceived friendship. Her behavioral consultant has been working on that issue for a long time and is making progress. Occasionally, it is 3 steps forward and 2 steps back, but she is gaining ground.
I don't have any pictures for this post, but I am certain that if I had a picture of my face at the hospital that night, you wouldn't want to see it anyway. :)