Thursday, January 11, 2007

Shell Games

I hate this. Really, I do. Everytime I run across it or pass one of those places that will "advance" money on your held check, it makes me sick.

Early evening, my house. The phone rings. It's perky credit company lady calling to confirm my loan amount and go over the terms with me. Again.

She very very perkily gushes about the twelve month interest free aspect of the loan, reminding me that I only have to make the minimum monthly payment for the loan to continue to be interest free.

What's that minimum, I ask.

"Sixty dollars," she replied.

Pause. "Hmmm," I say, "that won't get it paid off in a year."

(Note to readers: I already KNOW this, I know how much I borrowed, I know how much the monthly payment will be in order to pay it off in a year and I fully intend to do so.)

Perky credit card lady, now faltering a wee bit, agrees.

I was tempted to ask what the interest rate will sky rocket to after the year is up and the balance is not paid off, but I really didn't have the heart for it.

Because it makes me sad and angry. This is a scam that is used on really poor people every day. Poor person has ten dollars left in the bank and baby gets sick, if poor person has insurance, there is still the co-pay for the visit and then the medicine. So they go to a check advance place, get some money, which they then can't pay back because all their ordinary bills are due, so the nice check advance people offer to lend them some more, and some more and some more until they are in over their heads.

Same with this, lure them in with no interest, give them a minimum payment that won't pay it off and maybe they fully intend to pay it off in a year, like myself, but then, there is a flat tire or a trip to the doctor and well, just this once, we'll make the minimum and catch up next month. But then next month, the radiater hose on the car bursts.

And companies like these prey on the marginally poor, inticing them, playing on their needs, offering them one thing when in reality, it is quite another that they are buying. And the working poor have no choice. They do not have the back up funds to contend with any one of a hundred things that come up that for you and I are minor inconveniences but for them are financial emergencies.

And I'm not talking about buying a room full of furniture with limited funds. I'm talking about simply trying to get the necessities of life: shelter, food, medical care, clothes. I'm talking about trying to keep an old hunk of junk car running on spit and prayers because without it, you can't get to your job. I'm talking about buying medicine and then figuring out how to pay the entire electric bill.

It's disgusting to take advantage of people's hardship and make a profit off it. But I suppose that is the American Way these days, get what you can for yourself and to hell with anyone else.

Thor sez: That's mean!

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