Please, God, could it be true? The NYT, today:
After years of flooding Americans with credit card offers and sky-high credit lines, lenders are sharply curtailing both, just as an eroding economy squeezes consumers.
I realize there’s a hardship factor to this, that many Americans rely on plastic to pull them through dark times, but I’ve never been one of them, for which I’m thankful. I carry a balance from time to time, but never for longer than a few months. So when you tell me I may soon see fewer credit-card offers in the mail, this is good news to me. Although I suspect I won’t. Whenever I pay off a balance in full, I can usually look forward to another sheaf of offers arriving in the mail within a few weeks. You’d think paying off a card would send the message, “Done with credit, thanks,” but the industry hears, “Send me some more cards; I just don’t have enough.” Funny how that works.
Some months back, I did a story on credit cards for a business magazine, and had the refreshing experience of talking to an honest spokesman for the plastic industry, the sort of woman you might call “flinty.” As I trotted the array of complaints consumer advocates have against credit-card companies, she batted them away like big fat pitches over the middle, but one phrase stood out: “It’s an unsecured loan, what do you expect?” Meaning, if you’re willing to take out a loan to eat a nice dinner, you should expect to be nickel-and-dimed over it.
(As for me, I find it helps to think of what and where that restaurant meal will be in 24 hours. It almost always settles the credit-or-debit-card debate for me.)
I usually stay away from topics like this, because the comments swiftly devolve into self-administered back-patting and accusatory finger-pointing, perhaps at some neighbor or friend who abuses plastic. My sister said she knew mortgages were a scam when a friend was able to get a 100 percent mortgage, plus a five-figure sum in cash to pay off her Visa and MasterCard balances. That suggests a truly insane societal attitude toward debt. So in the comments, refrain from self-praise and tell us a time when you used plastic creatively, when it saved your life, or when you scammed the creditor, instead of vice versa. (Another story from my sister was about another friend who took out a zero-interest card for a full year, immediately got a four-figure cash advance, bought a one-year certificate of deposit, let it simmer for its term, cashed it in, paid off the card and pocketed the interest. She did this every year and used the profits for Christmas shopping. Yeah, too crazy for me, but if you have the fortitude…
Because it’s Halloween week, some scary bloggage today:
Hey, gents! Go to your happy place before you read this. Ah, medical-news research turns up some gems sometimes.
I don’t watch those “Real Housewives” shows. Maybe I should:
In the first episode, a shopgirl convinced Sheree to buy a purse by alleging that the cowhide—or snakeskin, or raptor pelt, whatever it was—had been treated with Botox. I dare you to imagine what the aesthetic qualities of a product boasting such a selling point might be. And I am secure in the knowledge that Sheree, owning one, knows that she’s better than me. “I was upper-middle-class growing up,” she says, “but I left that behind.”
One week from today, we’ll be post-election. Hold that thought.