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"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

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.

Oooooohhhhh nooooooo!

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'."


"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.


motheramelia said...

I hope she decides to read your blog again. Maybe she will see herself more clearly.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Soooo glad you posted this one after our "prequel."

Well, I recall in our conversation my reaction to her pointing out her mission trips: "Yeah, well, I've been in a barn, but that doesn't make me a cow."

And I also seem to remember that this dickering around about a "penalty" vs. a "service charge" was kind of like arguing whether someone was a hooker or an escort!

Speck. Eye. Mote. You make the call.

Mary Sue said...

We ran a bunch of those payday loan people out of our state a few years ago by passing laws limiting the amount of interest they could charge.

The payday loan people? Ran ads claming people would DIE if they weren't allowed to charge 500% interest.

The churches had a large hand in passing the legislation.

KJ said...

Elizabeth, everybody knows that as long as one's beliefs are proper, God is good with our preying upon those in need.

I'm sure I've read that somewhere. Let me check the contract.

Bill said...

So let me see if I understand this. In this economy with people losing jobs and homes there are those who seem to make a profit. I already knew that it was a booming economy for psychologists and therapists but those are professionals who are actually trying to help people. You know, help in the “please don’t commit suicide”, kind of way. But these others are, as the cartoon so aptly depicts, “load sharks”. They even smile as they try to take your home away. They are after all only destroying you so that they can help others in need. The logic in their argument is flawless. How else could they sleep at night or look at themselves in the mirror.

Loan sharking is against the law.
“A person who lends money in exchange for its repayment at an interest rate that exceeds the percentage approved by law and who uses intimidating methods or threats of force in order to obtain repayment.”
But, and there is always a but, if you know how to get around the law you are on your way to being wealthy at the expense of others. They charge you interest on a day by day basis. That way, it’s only a few percentage points if you repay the loan in a few days or even in a couple of weeks. Here’s the rub; if you’re caught up in this economic downtrend and have lost your job, and have no hope of getting another job in the near future, then how are you going to return the money in a few days. The loan sharks know this. They know there is no way you will be able to repay them and they don’t really care. They’ll just take your home.

They are, and let me use their own word, disgusting.

suzanne said...

This "concerned, helpful, Christian woman should leave the confines of her comfortable heated/AC'd office, hop in her car and go check out to see for herself just how these folks are barely getting by as a family unit. Then and only then maybe she might realize that she is only one or two paychecks away from becoming a loan shark client herself.
I agree with Bill, these people are disgusting, and not only that they are immoral.

Kay & Sarah said...

Has she called back after this post? I cannot imagine how she sleeps at night!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I don't expect her to call back. In fact, I'm wondering if it all wasn't a ruse to make sure I didn't track the last $92. She knows 'John' won't fight for it - and I would. I just might call her, however, and ask for an accounting of the final amount. I might just mention my blog entry . . .then again, I don't want to make it any more difficult for this family.

Bill said...

The really sad thing, is that if you google "loan sharks" it will list a lot of these predator loan companies. They seem to be proud of the label. Is this sick or what?


1. Loan - 90 Day Loan No credit check loan to $1,000 cash today. 90 days to pay.
2. Loan Shark $100-$1,500 Bad credit ok use cash for anything 30 sec. pre-approval, cash same day
3. Loan Sharks - Debt Relief Have $10,000+ in Credit Card Debt? Find immediate debt relief.

IT said...

Is it any different, except in scale, than people who can rationalize torture?

See The Milgram experiment. As a species, we want to please the authority figure. Often at great cost.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

WOW, Mary Sue. I'm learning more and more about this every day. Good on yer, as the Aussie's say.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, IT. I didn't know about that study.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, the good news is that there have been several 'visits' from 'the Heartland' which, according to my visit thingy, always include a visit to the Wiki site on the Milgram experiment.

We may be getting to her.