Monday, August 30, 2010

It Doesn’t Work That Way

I just banished three of the most loathsome words in our language from my life, Chase Card Services. I actually paid them off last month, but I didn’t specifically request that they close the account. They didn’t, and two weeks ago I received a statement saying I owed them a $1.50. A $1.50! I guess I neglected to read the fine, arcane print at the bottom of the page that told me about an obscure, arcane fee I had to pay for some mysterious, arcane reason that even the Gods themselves can’t comprehend.

I’m an easy going guy. Rather than call them up and complain I just decided to buckle under and pay them their damn $1.50 — in pennies! I was going to include a note requesting that they close the account and attach a picture of Alfred E. Neuman sticking his tongue out. Not a heroic gesture, perhaps, but this is not a heroic age and I’m a creature of my time. Spiteful pleasure is better than no pleasure at all. Then somebody told me you can’t send actual currency through the mail. I don’t know if this is consequence of our war against drugs or our war against terror or our war against some other evil that’s gunning for the American Way Of Life. Fill in the god damned blank. I’m a bit slow and I get all our wars confused. Law or not, I knew those bloodsuckers would use my little act of juvenile revenge to slap me with some kind of penalty or late fee, so I just wrote them a check and finished it. Pride only causes pain. It was worth it just to get them out of my life.

One down, two to go.

Ah, credit cards. They giveth and they taketh away. I used to have an account with the now defunct Washington Mutual. Remember them? They billed themselves as the “friendly bank,” which means, of course, that they were the most rapacious sons of bitches in the entire racket. I transferred my balance from them to a different group of sharks but still sent one last minimum payment to cover my ass. You can never be be too cautious with those eels. The result was that they wound up owing me some paltry amount. I think it was something like $5.75. Being a normal human being and not a banker, I forgot all about it, but every month they sent me a statement showing a negative balance of $5.75.

Then one day, while staring idly at the clouds, I got to wondering about that $5.75 …

They had been charging me 14.99% interest. Now they owed me. Where was my interest? I decided to call them up and see.

Some Indian guy answered, of course. Before I could say a word he went rambling on about all the wonderful things they could offer me because I managed my account so well, and blah blah blah. I kept saying no, but he kept offering and offering and offering, a molten lava flow of oily mendacity in a Hindi accent (pre-written, I know, by his masters back in New York). Tick tock, tick tock. Halfway through it, I thought about making myself a chicken salad sandwich or having a cigarette, anything to help the time pass. Jesus, I thought, you have to walk the serpent’s path just to get a word in with these fuckers.

When we finally got down to business, I asked him about my $5.75. I wanted to know if I could charge them 14.99% interest on the amount they owed me, plus late fees for the missed payments.

He was a little flummoxed at first. Then he said, “Oh no, we can’t do that.”

“Why not?” I asked. “If I owe you money, you charge me. I want you to keep the $5.75 and pay me interest.” I even offered him credit protection at two extra bucks a month, which I was willing to apply retroactively to the payments they missed. No dice. “We can’t do that,” he said.

“Why not?”

“Because we can’t do that.”

“Why not?” I persisted, just like they do.

“We can’t do that, sir. It doesn’t work that way,” was the only answer.

But why doesn’t it work that way? Where is it written that only banks can charge interest? Did the freakin’ burning bush dicate that to Moses? Is there an eleventh commandment somewhere I don’t know about? What’s the deal?

The conversation went in circles, as I knew it would. But I had had my fun. I didn’t want to harass the guy too much because I knew he was being just as ruthlessly exploited as the rest of us. I try never to take my anger out on the workers. So just I told them to send me a check and close the bastard down. Then the guy went on for another minute asking me why I wanted to leave Washington Mutual! Lordy be.

Not long after, I had the pleasure of watching Washington Mutual go tits up into oblivion. Now they’re ancient history, dead and forgotten, like the South Sea Bubble.

At this moment, I have about ten different offers from Citi piled on my coffee table. I never respond to them, but they just keep coming. I have excellent credit, you see, which means I’m in debt. Some poor tree had to die for this, I think, and weep for the forest.

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