There are too many cards in my purse that don’t do anything except take up space and make it harder for me to locate the really useful things in there, such as American Express.

I’m referring to “store cards,” the ones you apply for and receive immediately by simply filling out a form that includes personal information such as your phone number and e-mail address.

By flashing store cards at the checkout counter, shoppers receive discounts and other special rewards. One of the local pet stores gives me a doggie treat for Glory every time we visit.

I don’t like the other pet store. It doesn’t give out treats, and they don’t think it’s at all funny when I accidentally show them the other store’s card.

When we first moved to Springfield from Carlisle, Pa., I carried about five store cards around in my purse, but they’ve multiplied like rabbits until now, I have more than 20.

I even carry four wallets in a futile attempt to keep them sorted out. My latest effort involved putting all the “B” cards in one wallet: Blockbuster, Eddie Bauer, Borders; you get the idea.

I thought I had a vague idea of which cards were where until I went shopping for Tommy’s birthday at the Forth Belvoir PX.

Since he was turning 12, I decided he was old enough to enjoy his own box of Godiva chocolates. He’s been sharing my Valentine’s Day, birthday and anniversary confections for years.

I slipped the most important card in my possession, my military ID, into my back pocket where it would be easily accessible. Then I headed into the exchange to use an AAFES Merchandise Card given to me when I returned a bottle of stinky perfume.

Determined to use all the credit before the card was lost in the black hole of my purse, I splurged on a large box of chocolates and headed for the checkout counter.

I didn’t have the usual 15-minute wait to search for it and was shocked when there was no one waiting to check out. I even stopped before setting the candy on the counter to look behind me and make sure there weren’t angry shoppers glaring at me for cutting in line.

Then, I began sifting through the wallet where I was almost sure I had placed my AAFES card. It wasn’t there, nor was it in my main wallet, the one where I carry cash, VISA and my ATM card. The checkout clerk shifted from one foot to the other as I dumped yet another wallet on the counter.

“I carry all these wallets to hold my cards,” I said, in case she thought I was a pickpocket.

She wasn’t amused. I started getting warm and red in the face while rechecking every nook and cranny of my wallets. Eventually, I gave up and paid cash before heading home to go through the piles of plastic.

I’m happy to report that I found the AAFES card located behind Ronnie’s picture in a little pink wallet reserved for various non-military I.D. cards. I tried to rearrange everything so it would make more sense, although no one but me would ever understand it.

The purpose of all those store cards is obviously to allow retailers to reach customers with advertisements that will lure us back to buy more stuff. I have responded to enough coupons to know that this form of marketing works, but it is getting to be a real pain in the neck, especially for people like myself who spend more time shopping than organizing.

My recent experience at the PX has almost pushed me to the edge, where I would urge readers to cut up all that plastic and declare a revolution. But as the leader of such a movement, I would be expected to do the same, and I’m afraid to.

What if I missed out on a really good Bonus Buy at Giant?

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at or find the Zichs online at

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