Of Credit Cards and Big Bad Wolves

Act One: Enter the Wolf

Once upon a time, a dizzy blonde forgot her payment to the big bad wolf known as Bank of America (BOA). In her defense, it was the silly season between Thanksgiving and Christmas and she simply forgot to make the payment. On December 7th, 2007 a day that will certainly live in infamy, she realized she’d forgotten the payment, which was now 7 days late. So, being an individual more than willing to take responsibility for her mistake, she paid over double the minimum payment plus the late fees, and since she’d never been late on a payment before, thought that was the end of it.

But the big bad BOA wolf was having its own problems at the time with losses in the sub-prime mortgage market, like other wolves such as Washington Mutual (WAMU), and since our blonde had made this “error,” the BOA wolf decided that she, and thousands of others, should help the big bad wolf cover its losses. The blonde received notice with her next statement that the interest on her balance was being raised-to 31.74 percent-but if she paid on time like a good little blonde for six months, the big bad BOA wolf would “review” her account.

When she called the BOA wolf’s customer service line, the blonde discovered that “review” didn’t mean the interest rate was going down after six months. Oh, no. It just meant “review” as in “we’ll continue to shaft you as long as we want and you can’t do a damn thing about it.” Well, the blonde decided to fight back in a totally remarkable way. She refused to pay. She called customer service a second time to let them know that she wasn’t going to pay what amounted to usurous rates and that she didn’t care about her so-called credit rating, a cattle prod if ever there was one, created by lenders to herd frightened sheep into the slaughter pens of big bad wolves all over the country and the world.

The blonde did her research and spoke to a friend who’s worked in the banking industry for over twenty years to find out what, if anything, the big bad BOA wolf could do to her for refusing to pay. The BOA wolf could garnish the blonde’s wages, but the banking industry expert had never heard of any wolf doing that because it’s just too darn expensive for the wolves, having to get a lawyer in the blonde’s home state, etc. The big bad wolf also could, in theory, serve a writ on the blonde’s bank and clean out her bank account, but the banking industry expert hadn’t ever heard of that being done either, again, because it’s too cost prohibitive for the wolves. Outside of ruining the blonde’s credit rating, there was little else, if anything, the big bad BOA wolf could do.

So, our courageous blonde did not pay. And the sky did not fall. But, this isn’t the end of the story by any means.

Act Two: A Classic Bait and Switch.

After ignoring repeated calls from the BOA wolf’s collectors, and thanking God for caller ID every time, our blonde had a fit of conscience. Never one to stiff anyone she owes, even a big bad wolf–unlike all the big bad wolves who had no qualms about gorging themselves on fresh cash at the taxpayers’ bailout trough–the blonde decided to work out a deal with the BOA wolf. The BOA wolf agreed to settle for half of what was owed, to be paid off in thirty dollar installments over the course of 60 months. Fine and dandy. The BOA wolf cashes the first payment. Two weeks later, a representative for the BOA wolf calls and says thirty isn’t enough.

“Federal law won’t let us accept less than eighty dollars a month,” Eric, the BOA rep, said.

“Cite me the statute,” the disbelieving blonde replied.

Eric didn’t know what the specific statute was, so the blonde asked to be transferred to someone who does. He refused to transfer the blonde, even to his supervisor, for at least five minutes of bickering and gnashing of teeth, until finally he relented. Eric’s supervisor offered to take fifty a month instead of the eighty (and whatever happened to the “federal statute” requiring eighty? Eric’s supervisor dodged that question.) The blonde refused to pay more than thirty because, to her way of thinking, she and the BOA wolf had made a deal and the wolf should honor his end. The BOA supervisor refused to take thirty. The blonde now keeps that money in her pocket. And still the sky did not fall.

The blonde had a similar run-in last year with HSBC, where they were going raise her interest rate to the high 20s, which she also refused to pay and let them know it on at least three different phone calls. HSBC then perpetrated their version of the bait and switch, promising the blonde 9% interest on her remaining debt, if only she would pay X amount by a certain date, and then make timely payments until the debt was satisfied. She met this wolf’s requirement, but then the HSBC rep said they couldn’t honor that deal either. And so the blonde kept her money in her pocket while HSBC, BOA, WAMU, CITI Bank, and other wolves lined up at the taxpayers’ trough to feed on the fresh meat supplied by our own Congress and President.

New credit card regulations are due to take effect in February 2010. However, these “new” regulations are to be interpreted and put into practice by the leader of the wolf pack, the Federal Reserve. There is nothing to prevent the wolf pack leader from interpreting the provisions this “new” law to the wolves’ own advantage, or “re-interpreting” the provisions at any time in the future, perhaps when the economic mess these greedy wolves got us all into has abated some, or maybe when the fresh meat in the bailout trough is thoroughly exhausted.

Distrustful of all banks now, with good reason as illustrated above, the blonde feels at this point in time that she’d rather owe the wolves than beat them out of it. And since the economy has taken a nosedive and the blonde has her own little cub to raise and a mortgage on their small den to satisfy, those wolves will just have to wait their turn, if it ever comes.

To the blonde’s way of thinking, the wolves, with the not-so-hidden support of our Congress and President, will continue to feed as long as consumers everywhere fear to fight back in the only language these wolves understand–money.

M.L. Bushman

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One Response to “Of Credit Cards and Big Bad Wolves”

  1. Marilu Cyrnek Says:

    credit cards are great but it could become a burden in someones finances specially if you are a shopalic.:

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