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Santa Maria Sun / Humor

The following article was posted on February 17th, 2009, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 9, Issue 49 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 9, Issue 49

The color of debt

Krider in the red means credit card blues

By ROB KRIDER

I love getting mail. I guess I’m sort of old-fashioned about the United States Post Office, but every time I open the mailbox I still believe anything could be inside. I realize that when I open my mailbox I won’t find a check for a million dollars or a portal to a beer garden, but I enjoy finding things as simple as the newest issue of my favorite car magazine, a paycheck, or maybe just a letter from an old friend.

Unfortunately, now that I’m a grown man, I don’t receive the birthday card with a $5 bill and a sucker from Grandma anymore. And with the advent of the Internet, well-thought-out letters with funny stick figure drawings from my friends have given way to quick snippets and bad joke attachments through e-mails.

However, I still get that small giddy feeling each time I open my mailbox. What’s inside today? Well, lately it has been nothing but bad news—ugly, disgusting news—that is tainting my mailbox dreams. Who is crushing my love for the mailbox? The banks and credit card companies, that’s who. They want to change the conditions of my credit agreement. Apparently, my agreement to pay them the absolute minimum payment at the absolute last second possible is no longer agreeable to them.

Here is an example. I got a credit card five years ago at a six percent interest rate—I know, nice rate, huh? For five years I was a good little American, and I went out and bought stuff I don’t really need (yet another ear-splitting guitar), went on vacations I couldn’t afford (Vegas two times last year—Vegas, baby!), and sometimes used the credit card to fill up the gas tank and buy groceries at the end of the month (yup, it’s peanut butter and jelly for dinner). I kept my credit card balance near its limit (sometimes to the penny), but I always paid my bill. I paid the amount they listed on the bill—admittedly the minimum payment of around $200—and I always paid it on time—admittedly barely on time, but on time. That was the agreement, the contract, the setup. I stuck to it. I was loyal. The credit card company, the same bank that just got a government bailout, was not so loyal to me.

The other day I got a letter from the credit card company disguised to look like junk mail, which stated, “Your new interest rate will be 29.999999999 percent.” The letter, which was almost unread and thrown away due to its unimportant appearance, also said my new minimum payment would be $800 a month. There was no mention of me paying anything late or having bad credit. There was no mention of me being a bastard or some other type of offense punishable by a $600-a-month increase in payments. There was just one simple fact: The bank was changing the contract, whether I liked it or not. For the record, I didn’t like it.

I don’t know where you live or what your personal financial situation is, but a $600-a-month increase in expenses, with no increase in pay and nothing at all to show for the $600, is less than optimal at my house. It’s just not doable—well, not unless money starts magically flying out of my ass. To fix this situation, I called the credit card company to try to figure this all out. There had to be a mistake. I’ve always paid my bill. I know people who have foreclosures, car repossessions, and bankruptcies, and they can get a better interest rate than 29.99 percent.

I waited on hold for a very long time, and finally talked to my brand new acquaintance, Veronica. She is the person the bank/credit card company hired to talk to me about my credit card payments. Veronica, apparently, is sitting on a chair made of stacks of $100 bills. It seems, after talking with Veronica, that she’s never had to pay a bill, manage money, or even deal with a single financial problem in her entire life. I’m guessing she comes from a very rich family and just answers the phone at the credit card company to kill time until her parents die and leave her the yacht. She has no concept of math whatsoever. I kept asking her: If I had done nothing to harm the bank, then why was the bank trying to harm me? The interest rate they were forcing on me was totally ridiculous and unwarranted. I never broke the original contract.

Veronica’s answer: “If you would like to pay off the entire $8,000 balance immediately and close your account, then you won’t have to deal with the new interest rate.”

“I don’t have the $800 you want for the monthly payment, Veronica. I surely don’t have $8,000. If I had 8,000 large lying around, you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

I’d be in Vegas.

Then Veronica asked me this: “Do you have anything you could sell?”

“What am I going to sell for eight grand, one of my wife’s (whom I love) eggs on the black market? Get real. I pay you $200 a month, every month, on time. You can continue to get that from me, or burn me with this new interest rate and get nothing. I dare you to come and try to repossess something I bought with my credit card. Come repossess my last trip to Vegas. The only thing I have to show for it is a 4-foot-tall souvenir glass I drank a margarita out of.”

“There is no reason to get upset.”

“What do you mean there is no reason? It’s almost as if the credit card company wants me to default on this thing. You are basically forcing me to default. Do you get more bailout money from the federal government if I don’t pay my bill? This is preposterous. Not only am I frustrated, but now you got me sounding like a conspiracy theorist, and I hate those guys.”

Eventually I asked to talk with Veronica’s supervisor’s supervisor’s supervisor and got the whole mess cleared up. I could keep my low interest rate and pay off my remaining balance at my favorite minimum payment as long as I never used the card again.

For the moment, all is good. Now I just gotta make phone calls on four more credit cards.

Rob hates to keep score, because his IQ score and his credit score just depress him.




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