(a short story based on some true events)
The driver and his travel companion had spent the previous day exploring the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in their Icelandic rental car - a shoebox sized white compact with 5 doors and manual transmission, which was now below half a tank of remaining fuel. So they agreed that this morning was a good time to gas up- before they left Reykjavik to drive several hundred kilometers along the southern coast.
He pulled the car alongside one of the pumps at the first fueling station they saw on their way out of the city. Squinting at the screen by the pump, he found the button that translated the instructions into English and swiped his credit card.
He did a quick calculation in his head- because the exchange from Króna to USD was roughly 100 to 1, he had been approximating 1000 kr as about the same as $10. The posted price of an unleaded liter at this station was 227 kr, meaning a liter here cost near the same as a gallon back home. So it would probably be around $50 to top their tank off from half full.
"Enter PIN" the screen instructed. "Ummmm. Ok I don't have one," he muttered at the machine and pressed the Cancel key. The screen responded with text in Icelandic that he surmised to say something like "Transaction Cancelled." He glanced around for an attendant, and there didn't appear to be one here- just a few fully automated pumps. He tried his card again, this time entering "1234" as the PIN, this time getting a message that looked like it maybe said "PIN Declined". He tried again with "0000" only to get the same response.
He figured at this point his travel companion would be wondering about the hold up, so he opened the driver's side door and leaned in and said "It won't let me get gas. It wants a PIN for my credit card."
"Try putting in 'zero zero zero zero'," she said.
"Yeah I just tried that."
"Do you want to try my card?" she offered.
"Sure, it's worth a shot. Thanks," he said as he took it from her, even though he didn't think it would work either. And it didn't, so he got back into the driver's seat annoyed at the thought of having to continue to search for gas.
But the next station they found wasn't far, and as they pulled up he noted that this one had a convenience store with an attendant. Trying his card at this pump he found a PIN was required here too, but he saw a sticker on the pump said (in English) "Prepaid cards available." He told the passenger he'd be right back. Inside behind the counter the clerk was busily tapping on a computer touch screen with her back turned. He stood there for a moment, not wanting to interrupt her mid-task, so she was visibly startled when she turned around to see him there.
"Hi," he said. "I'm trying to get gas, but it says I need a PIN for my credit card, and I don't have one."
"Yes, the pumps won't accept North American credit cards," the attendant said in near perfect English, "but they accept prepaid cards, which you can buy here."
"Ok I'll do that."
"How much would you like it for?" she asked.
He did another quick calculation- with this and then one more fill up before returning the rental car, it would probably need to be about $100 total. Having to purchase the prepaid card just meant they would have to use the same station again later, or find another one of the same brand.
"One hundred thousand, please," he said while pulling out his credit card to hand to her. She rolled her eyes a bit, which he thought was strange. It was uncharacteristic of the extremely friendly and helpful service he'd experienced in Iceland so far on the trip.
What really mattered was that the prepaid card worked at the pump, and that soon they would be on their way. But then as gas was dispensed and numbers racked up on the screen, he noticed something that gave him a sinking feeling in his stomach. The displayed total just passed five thousand krona, which was what- about $50 right? How much did he just buy this gas card for?
"One hundred thousand, please."
When the pump stopped the total read 5325kr, and he replaced the nozzle and sat in the driver's seat, redoing the math in his head.
"Ready to go?" the passenger smiled at him.
He took a breath and turned to her. "Yeah. So I think I just accidentally bought about a thousand dollars of Icelandic gas."
"I meant to get ten thousand Króna on the prepaid card, which is about a hundred bucks. But I'm pretty sure I asked for a hundred thousand instead."
He leaned his head back, thinking about how expensive of a road trip this just became. "I wasn't thinking right and I messed up the decimal place. So fucking stupid."
"Maybe you can go back in there and ask for a refund," she offered, trying to be helpful. He appreciated that.
"Maybe," he sighed. "But I'd be really surprised if they did that."
"Our AirB&B host might buy it from us."
"That's a good idea, she might. We could give her a bargain on it." He wondered to himself if it was too soon to try to check his credit card statement online to see what the damage actually was. Either way he didn't see much sense in worrying about it more now, and they had a lot of kilometers to drive. He started the car and tried to push it out of his mind.
"It will be OK," he smiled at her, still feeling like a total fucking dumbass. Did the clerk hand him a receipt when he bought the card? He honestly couldn't remember. He fished around in his jacket pocket, and his hand found a slip of paper.
Price. Total. Card Payment. It still looked odd with the European convention of using a comma for a decimal place, and vice versa. But there it was. Ten thousand Króna.
"Oh my God," he said staring at the receipt. "She knew I was screwing it up, and she totally saved me from my mistake. I only paid a hundred bucks after all!"
The driver showed it to the passenger, a sense of relief rushed over him, realizing he was not the proud owner of 94.675kr (about $885 USD) of surplus Icelandic 95 octane unleaded fuel.
"That's great," she smiled as he put the car into gear and they pulled away onto the highway. "That means you're buying lunch."
/end <3 -cg
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