Sunday, June 19, 2011

Oslo to the rescue - June 19 2011

In Vigeland's park in Oslo

We've had a terribly difficult time paying for purchases on this trip. In Denmark, it was almost impossible to pay using a credit card because I don't know nor have I ever used a PIN number. Why would I even have a PIN on a non-debit credit card?

The very few places that would take our cards would grumble and take it to the back office and work some magic before coming back and grumbling some more and giving me a few pages of documents to sign, and then kindly letting us know there will be a 1.25% - 3.75% surcharge. The Denmark's DSB rail took AMEX, thank goodness, which we used to travel around the country. The ATMs weren't much better: every time we faced a new ATM (which was often as our credit cards weren't seeing much action) we had to try every card we had before finding one that worked.

    Vigeland's Daleks exterminate -
    with monolith in the background
  • Sunday, our first night in Copenhagen, I spent an hour on the phone with the bank. I kept escalating up higher and higher through senior call center personnel. I'd be speaking with a new rep, they seemed to understand, they'd give a crazy theory or workaround idea, then they would demonstrate they were completely confused. "You're trying to make a cash advance?" "NO I'm just trying to make any purchase at any store!" They promised to send me a PIN number in the mail - and at the same time sent me off with this advice from his manager: I can go into any bank that takes Visa and change the PIN number there.
  • Monday all banks in Denmark were closed for the Pentecost holiday.
  • Tuesday all banks we went to were closed for no obvious reason.
  • Wednesday I went into a bank and was told I can't change my PIN there unless I already know my PIN. That makes sense.
    Adorable tiny car behind
    normal really small car
  • Thursday we left for Sweden and had no further issues with the PIN number. When making a purchase, just tell them you don't have PIN and they hit the 'no PIN' button. We still had to shuffle through various ATM cards before we could get cash, but it was much less urgent.
  • Friday we rode the rails to Norway. It's a very 'no PIN, no problem' country. I noticed when I was paying for my two beers at the brewpub that the bartender instinctively reached for the credit card machine. No more talk of credit card processing fees and international transaction surcharges.
  • Saturday my shiny new PIN number arrived in the US. As an experiment, I bought ice cream at the opera house using my credit card, and when prompted for the PIN number, I purposely entered the wrong number. It went through!!! In the afternoon, I paid for a cup of coffee with cash and received a smile and thoughtful 'thank you' in return - the barista was pleasantly surprised. At dinner with our friends, I reached into my pocket for cash to cover our portion - and my friend laughed at me and acted as though he had never seen Norwegian currency before!
    Is this normal? Does Oslo run
    soap through the fountain pipes?
  • Sunday we were in the mood for a beer as we wrapped on the Oslo portion of our trip. In Norway, alcohol sales in stores are forbidden by the church/state on Sundays, so we popped into a friendly neighborhood bar complete with porch swings and a creative energetic DJ. I tried any wrong PIN (there are 9999 of them) and it didn't go through. Then I tried my new PIN and it worked!
Norway is all about the plastic - there's such a strong credit card culture here. Now we're trying to figure out what to do with all of these Norwegian Kroners ;)


mizzkg said...

So what were you 2 looking at in Vigeland's park? That was so funny that time when they accepted a bad pin after all that.

Dave said...

Vigeland's park has a nice collection of statues he made for the city of Oslo. According to Wikipedia:

Most of the statues depict people engaging in various typically human pursuits, such as running, wrestling, dancing, hugging, holding hands and so on. However, Vigeland occasionally included some statues that are more abstract, including one statue, which shows an adult male, fighting off a horde of babies.

The centerpiece is a monolith statue that took 25 years to design and build :)

mizzkg said...

When I said "you 2" I meant you and the statue since you were looking in the same direction. I'm not sure I made that clear.

Dave said...

oh hahaha