This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Friday, December 09, 2005

"Here, have some credit...first one's free."

A couple of weeks ago I got a long and brutal look at the credit industry, thanks to my job at a retail consumer electronics store. It was the day after Thanksgiving, which is the biggest day of the USA shopping year and the day each year when employees most want to kill the customers, their bosses, and finally, in one last tearful moment of desperation, themselves. It's the service industry worker's version of D-Day -- it begins way too early with way too much intensity, there's nowhere to run or hide from it, and the customers (enemies) just never stop coming. When it's all over, you know you've been through a war, and that means you'll never look at life or other people the same way. With that in mind, let me tell you what I did in the war zone that day.

My job* was to:

1) Notice customers who were either filling out credit card apps or holding finished ones in their impatient hands. This part begged for coordination because people were standing in the customer service line to turn the things in -- creating needless delays in an already time-consuming process. There were a buttload of people filling the things out because of the deal they had -- you would basically get a $100 rebate for buying $399 worth of stuff that day with that card you just applied for. It's one of those deals that's obviously difficult to pass up, especially if you were planning on spending more than $399 anyway. Hey, get $100 back and not have to spend any real money now? This credit sells itself!

2) Take the apps from the customers, who were very thankful that someone at the store knew what was going on. An informal poll I took found that exactly 0% of USA customers can fill out a credit application correctly on the first try. Seriously, I had to give back every single one at least once. Yes, these people were rushing, but did they think that filling in all the spaces on the form was optional? MBNA isn't going to lend you money if they don't have your social security number or current income. No way, jose.**

3) Re-take the apps from the customers, making sure I verified they were who they said they were by writing down their driver's license number. Of course, they all could have been fake I.D.'s...

4) Turn the apps over to the data entry people (who were also displaced associates, since the store doesn't employ data entry people), and in some cases type them in myself.

5) Check the outstanding apps occasionally to see if they "went through." We had up to 20 outstanding apps at a time, so you can see why it was such a time-consuming process.

6) Verbally massage the waiting customers, explaining to them that these things just take a while and please be patient because nobody likes you. Ok, not exactly that. But some of these apps were taking 45 minutes to go through, which caused some customers to try to explain to us (who had nothing whatsoever to do with the approval process) that they had billions of other credit cards and had never had trouble getting one before. The length of time it was taking the apps to go through seemed to be completely at random, I told them, even though it probably wasn't.

7) Match the Verdicts to their corresponding customers by loudly calling out their names in front of everyone. Not the best system, but we were kinda pressed for time.

8) Discreetly inform the customer of their acceptance or non-acceptance (at about a 80% acceptance rate), and hand them the paper that tells the accepted how much of MBNA's money they are allowed to spend. The non-acceptance ones were very sad, but I comforted myself with the knowledge that they'd probably be better off in the long run. And it didn't technically say they weren't accepted, it just said they weren't accepted "today," and that the decision would arrive in the mail in 7-10 days. That effectively shut the customer out of the $100 rebate (since one had to buy merchandise the day they applied in order to get it), but nobody got mad or anything. They all had that look of sighing resignation to them. I remember those days, when I kept applying for credit and was being rejected for "insufficient credit," and I thought the whole system was just a circular-reasoning scheme by The Man to keep me, Michael Pape, down. I since have learned that everything in the world works like this, and the key to everything is either to Get Lucky or Know Somebody. These rejects were unlucky and knew nobody and George Bush doesn't care about them.

9) Repeat process at least 100 times over the course of the day.

As I said, 4 out of 5 people were getting credit from MBNA. That struck me as amazing. What also strikes me as amazing is the credit card companies and their lobbyists who are just owning the Federal Government right now. They hand out credit like candy and then press congress to make laws that prevent certain people from declaring bankruptcy. I know that bankruptcy should be discouraged, but gues what? So should usury. These christmas shoppers were becoming beholden to MBNA for tons of future money just to "save" $100 today. And they don't even get the hundred today -- it comes in the mail in 6-8 weeks. Those poor shoppers. Like I said, the rejects were the lucky ones. Isn't that always how it works?

Mike's 1-point plan to fix credit in the USA (not endorsed by anyone but me).

Highest possible legal APR: 10%. That'll do it.

Now, this means that most people will not be able to get credit, at least not right away. Credit card companies will fail, but better ones will rise up in their place. There will still be money to be made in credit, if one is smart. Consumer debt will fall drastically, the economy will improve, and people will be happy with that, right? Right?

Wrong. People want easy credit and the right to get deeper in debt so they can make their lives a little better now at the expense of later. And MBNA doesn't care about anyone's future, as long as they can get more people into debt slavery. That's the evil thing about all of this. We are signing over our lives to people who don't care about us. MBNA doesn't care that I have to work 2 jobs to cover the cost of all our credit cards bills and loan payments. MBNA doesn't care that I'm writing this at work right now because I have no time to do it at home. MBNA doesn't care that their "customers" can't see their wives, their children, or even the things they bought with their MBNA credit. MBNA is our indifferent, monstrous, ready-to-please, all-purpose lord. Merry MBNAmas to all. I hope your mammon keeps you warm and toasty during this cold cold season.

* This is going to be a long footnote. The job I did the day after Thanksgiving is not my regular job there at the store -- normally, I'm the shipping/receiving/logistics guy for the service department. The Powers That Be made me go out and support the people at the service counter, and I took it upon myself to coordinate the credit card app receiving process (since customers were extremely unclear on what to do, where to turn in the apps, etc.). Note to prospectve employers: I am able to discern what to do in a given situation and take charge of it with no formal training. I learned on the fly to receive credit card apps properly, type them into the computer, and discreetly inform customers of The Verdict. I got skillz, as T. Hardaway would say.

** Actually, there weren't any "Jose'" applications. There was a We, a Shu, and a bunch of other Asian-sounding names, but no Jose'.


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