I remember how excited I was when you arrived in the mail, all shiny and new and full of promise. A way to pay for that new sofa, or buy that first computer. To be able to fly to exotic places without the need to take a wad of cash that would wind up stolen anyway.
You were my ticket to material wealth, if not financial freedom. All I had to worry about was making my monthly payments, and you said everything would be fine.
That was a long time ago. Back when it was fun.
But it's not fun anymore. It's no longer exciting, or liberating. Instead, I feel like I'm being held hostage. I'm not supposed to be able to live without you, and that's darn near true; putting gas on the credit card now, and groceries. Hell, even a candy bar. But you made it look so easy.
It's anything but. You're a lot higher maintenance than you were in the beginning, with more terms and conditions. You cost a lot more too. I'm sorry to have to say that, and I wish my own interest was as high as yours' but such is not the case. Your own interest is off-scale (some might call you self-centered) and knows no limits. And I never know when it will change. It only goes one way -- up. Your people never call ahead to say when it's going to happen, or why. It just happens.
I used to be able to count on you. Your payday was always on the 19th (and please, don't think of yourself as my employee because -- really now -- I'm working for YOU). For years I could count on paying my bill on the 19th. Always did, and always paid in full. I never wanted to be accused of adding to your girth, causing you to tip the scales higher. You recall that I never talked about your weight -- only the weight as it pertained to my own sagging shoulders, attempting to bear it all.
And then, one day, I arrive home to find that you changed it. Without telling me. The 16th now. Did you really need three more days from me? Or were you hoping that you would catch me as a creature of habit, picking up the statement to pay on the 19th, only to find that I'm three days late. That'll cost me.
Really, if your people were ticked off at me, they could have called. "We're not making any money off of you, and that's not right," they could have said. I might have given them a couple of bucks. They didn't have to stoop to trickery.
After all the years we've been together.
Mind you, there have been others. There are others now. Hard not to be tempted, with so many mailings, and so many offers of new cards, platinum cards, low-interest cards and lower-interest cards. And even though you and I have been together for years, where commitment and responsibility goes without saying, you still have the audacity to inundate me -- ME -- with special offers. Why? Aren't you good enough already? Or is it that you just want, and keep wanting a bigger piece of me?
And I'm sorry to say, I hate your family. I've heard some awful things about your tribe. How your people, and the people connected to other cards at other banks raise the rates, and add on fees, and tack on penalties. All so people will never, ever be able to pay off their bill. They always are shackled to you, always at your beck and call like a dog on a leash.
But I hear that you're finally acquiring some headaches to rival my own. People, they say are fighting back. They're not taking this crap from you anymore, and they're hiring lawyers. The lawyers, I hear, are really interested in things like unannounced rate increases, or unannounced credit reductions, or over limit fees triggered solely by annual fees, and pre-approved and other special offers that are not honoured. What's more, actions can be brought for incidents that occurred several years ago, particularly when the abuses are ongoing.
Does that make you squirm, my magnetic-striped beauty?
And through no fault of my own, your days of capitalizing on universal default are numbered. Just before both houses recessed for the summer, legislators agreed on a New York State Bill that would end the practice of a credit card company raising the rates, after hearing through the grapevine or some other way that the poor sap just happened to make a late payment on a different card. Talk about having your cake and eating it too. Half the banks in the United States use, or have used universal default, which has seen some of them raising the interest rate to as high as 40 per cent.
That's highway robbery. It's immoral and dishonest, don't you think? Is it any wonder I've been spending more time with an old friend lately?
Yes, it's time that you knew. An old flame, from when I was very young. When the likes of you wouldn't give the likes of me the time of day. When I didn't have a house, or investments, or a nest egg, or anything that could be interpreted as collateral, at least I knew that there was one friend that would never let me down, no matter what.
Good old George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson were always with me. Often, I would also be in the company of Abraham Lincoln and Alexander Hamilton. And if I had a really good day, maybe even an Andrew Jackson would slide into my back pocket, just as you and your cronies at the bank -- your 'people' -- are in my back pocket now, fighting over my pennies, knocking themselves out for the very last one.
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Let me just say that the free ride is over. We have wised up over here on this side of the tracks, and we're not going to take it anymore. No more being taken advantage of, and we have a bunch of really smart lawyers who agree with us.
I may be stuck with you, but I don't have to be happy about it. And I've hid the wool, so you can't slip it over my eyes any longer.
Oh, you say you want me to take you out tonight?
Sorry. I have a prior engagement. With bill...