Thursday, April 30, 2009
Converstations with a Predator
She sounded so cute and perky, so innocent and friendly.
She actually believes she is helping people.
I'm talking about the manager of The Cash Box, the 'lending store' which I wrote about just the other day.
It seems that our campaign to help 'John' from the Heartland was more successful than we imagined. There is actually a small money left over. Approximately $92, in fact. Which is not something that happens very often if at all at places like The Cash Store.
So, the poor young thing was confused and befuddled. If she said, "I don't understand," and "I'm confused," once she must have said it at least a dozen times.
Silly me. I thought she would understand, "Just give the balance to the family. God knows, they need it." I thought that was pretty straight up.
It seems that it's important to keep yourself confused so that you don't do the unthinkable in the loan-sharking business: Give people more money than the original loan when someone else paid the bill.
Silly me. I thought she was calling to clear up the confusion - or at least get some direction, poor little confused thing - about what to do with the extra money.
Turns out, the 'I'm so confused' thing was just a little trap she was setting before she moved in for what she thought would be 'the kill'. Just circling in, shark-like, because she thought she smelled blood on the water.
She began by peppering me with questions about who I called and to whom I had spoken, each round of questions sounding more and more like I was being interrogated in a court of law.
I was multi-tasking AND running late, so I was mildly confused by our conversation. I mean, I thought she had gotten the crucial information for which she had called: what to do with the extra money.
Curiously, she wanted to know how many times I had called the Cash Store. 'Once,' I answered, thinking that she was referring to the time I had called to say what I had just told her: "Keep the change."
Of course, I had called twice - the first time was during my research phase, making certain that the story 'John' gave me was correct. I didn't think she was talking about that phone call.
Turns out, only she was allowed to be confused. Not me. She moved in for the kill: I was 'lying' and 'making things up'.
"I read your blog," she said, indignantly, "and you made that all up."
I was stunned, and she knew it, so she moved in for the final blow: "You are disgusting," she proclaimed, so full of righteous indignation that the phone receiver began to steam. Actually, she said, "Dis - GUS - ting."
"You read my blog?" I asked. "How did you find my blog?"
She explained that, when she was trying to get hold of me, she noticed the church's web site on our stationary and then just followed the trail.
When she said it again, I finally got it: "You are dis - GUS -ting."
RIGHT! She had, indeed, read my blog. 'People like me' are not supposed to be capable of trying to help others. We are supposed to be hedonistic and narcissistic, incapable of having any shred of altruism or nobility, and singularly lacking the capacity to be a Christian, much less ordained in the church.
SHE, on the other hand, said, "I am a Christian. I've even been a Missionary."
"Really?" I asked, "Then maybe you can answer my question: How to you sleep at night knowing that you are part of a predatory lending scheme that knowingly and bold-faced charges 403% interest on a loan? I mean, you are a Christian. Have you not read your bible? Have you not heard of usury?"
Now she was really hot. You have to pay close attention to the logic here - because, outrageous as it is, it does have its very own logic.
"Well," she said, almost breathless, "you have to understand the system. (Ah, yes, 'the system'.). We HELP people here," she said, in genuine sincerity. "People who have run short on cash and they have no 'people' they can turn to, so they come in one week, then get paid the following week and pay off their loan."
"At 403% interest?" I asked.
"Well, of course," she said, "but it's calculated to a daily rate. We are HELPING those people," she said adamantly.
"At 403% interest?" I asked again.
"Well," she said, exasperated that I didn't get what a wonderful company she worked for, and what a fine Christian woman she obviously was. "We specialize (ah, yes, the old 'special and different' line of reasoning) in 'high risk lending'."
GET READY, HERE IT COMES:
"We HAVE to charge the 403% because so many of these 'high risk people' end up defaulting on their loans and if we didn't have a way to cover our loses and court costs, we'd be out of business and not able to help others."
I swear to God - hand on the bible - those were her exact words.
I sat back in my chair, completely speechless, but I was thinking, "Right, you prey on the poorest to 'help' the poor so that the rich money lenders can line their pockets at a profit rate of 403%."
That's some little 'reverse Robin Hood' gig they got going for them, huh?
Real Christian, that. The Jesus of her understanding must be so proud.
I was thinking all these things but all I could say was, "At 403% interest? How do you sleep at night?"
Ah, that got her back to her original point, "I sleep very well, but YOU, you are a liar! That second conversation with my employee could never have happened. There is no penalty for paying off a loan early."
"Oh, but yes there is," I interjected. She may have read my Blog, but I read a copy of her contract. I didn't have it with me, but when I came home to my files, I looked it up. There it was, "We will not accept pre-payment on the principal without calculating the daily finance charge."
I guess she has read the 'fine print' the way her employee had. You never do when you know you are 'right'. She did allow as how she hadn't read the contract in detail in some time. Well, all that legal mumbo-jumbo gets confusing for a good, clean, honest, decent Christian girl from the Heartland.
I apologize for my sarcasm and I certainly don't mean any offense to any Christian girls from the Heartland (smiles and waves at Kirke), but this child was pulling my last, poor, tired nerve.
"Well," she said, "none of that changes the fact that you LIED. You are dis-GUS-ting."
Clearly, this conversation wasn't going anywhere except downhill - fast. Poor baby. She really needed to think I was lying because she couldn't deal with her own immorality and involvement in the biblical warrants against usury.
I'm sure she believes that she is a 'good Christian'. I have no doubt that she tithes to her church, and that her parents are proud of her.
And, of course, independent loan places can get away with charging 403% interest because they are not regulated by the FDIC. So, what they do is perfectly legal. That doesn't mean that it isn't immoral. I mean, that's the exact argument she'd give me about Reproductive Rights.
All of which, to her mind anyway, supports the ideas that the world is a dark and sinful place, and didn't Jesus himself say that 'the poor will always be with you'? I mean, she's just doing what a girl has to do, given the circumstances.
She probably eats bacon and shellfish and wears two different kinds of material.
No doubt, she has skipped over those Levitical Purity codes. That can happen when you focus on the 'real' abominations - like 'disgusting' moi.
I have no doubt about any of that.
What I don't understand is how she sleeps at night.