Wednesday, July 01, 2009

As the banksters put the screws to their victims customers, a whole lot of pain is being felt


Can Dudley Do-Right rescue bank customers from
the new relationship the banksters have established?

"If you were borrowing from Tony Soprano, and he says, 'you can pay me back on Friday,' he wouldn't send guys to collect on Wednesday, which is exactly what they are doing. All I am looking for is for them to live up to their end of the bargain."
-- Chase credit-card customer Peter Meyer, commenting to a NY1 cable-news reporter about the death grip Chase has laid on him and his wife Gail (see the link to the story and clip below)

by Ken

I'm sorry there doesn't seem any way to embed the video clip of this interview by NY1 reporter Tara Lynn Wagner, but I hope you'll click the link below to see it and read the story.

Click here to read the NY1 account and view the clip.

Basically, the story is this: Peter and Gail got word from Chase, with which they've had accounts for decades, that come August the minimum payment on their three credit cards is being increased from 2 to 5 percent of the balance. As it happens, they have some $25K of debt split among the three cards, parked there at low interest rates for the duration of the loans. All told, the increase will require them to somehow find an "extra" $800 a month.

There is no "extra" $800 a month. They had already cut back all their expenses wherever they could, and, no longer relying on Peter's business, in which they both worked, they have both taken outside jobs. "It might as well be $8,000 or $8 million," Peter told reporter Tara Lynn Wagner. "I literally couldn't find $800. There's just no way. I'm literally doing it from check to check to check and juggling as best we can."

One little detail the otherwise-earnest NY1 reporter left out: They didn't get into debt living the high life. They've been putting their kid through college. Justin graduated recently, and starts medical school in the fall. This is personal for me, because I was with Peter the day Justin was born. But the issue isn't just personal. It's happening all over the country, as the banksters put the squeeze to their victims -- er, customers.

NY1 reporter Wagner also interviewed Money magazine writer Carolyn Bigda.
"You just have to Google this issue and you see tons of messages on credit card forums and blogs all about this."

Bigda says with banks experiencing a record number of defaults, lenders are trying to get back as much of their money as they can –- and quickly. The minimum payment hike means the Meyers are essentially being forced to pay off their debt in half the time.

Why are the banksters doing this? Silly question, because they think they can. They aren't afraid of getting their money back from Peter and Gail. ("We're always over the minimum," Peter says. "We haven't missed any payments.") If anything, the banks are peeved that they're locked into those low interest rates -- you know, the big promotional rates the banks were shoving down our throats. Now, apparently, it's our fault for taking them at their word. One possibility: If they force Peter and Gail into default on their cards, or offer to renegotiate the balances, they can jack the rates way up.

A couple of other local TV stations have expressed interest in Peter and Gail's plight, and that's just here in the NYC are. But clearly this isn't particularly a NYC issue, and it isn't just a Chase issue, though Chase seems to have an especially large number of unhappy customers. (Peter tells me he's found a website for discontented Chase customers and has been in contact with a lawyer already looking into the feasibility of some sort of class-action suit.) Presumably, this is far from the only bankster depradation being practiced with a view to putting the squeeze to customers.

Peter recognizes that there are scads of bank customers being hurt even worse than he is, but he is, he says, fighting for his life. He plans to post the NY1 interview on YouTube as soon as gets the DVD of it, and he's looking for all avenues to pursue.

When I spoke to him on the phone this morning, he wasn't particularly charmed by the irony of finding an article on the front page of the NYT Business Section chronicling the gazillion-dollar campaign the banks are organizing to push back against the financial consumers' protection legislation currently being crafted in Congress.

In the banksters' eyes, of course, they are the victims in all this. Do we laugh or cry?

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At 6:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently got a letter from Bank of America saying my rate was tied to prime and if prime goes up my rate will go up. My application said my rate was fixed. It said in on the front and it said it on the back. What the fuck does fixed mean. There were no asterisks or foot note numbers. Of course there was millions of pages of small print.

I am on Social Security now and can barely pay the existing payments so imagine if they start jacking them up. The first time my rate goes up I'll just cut the card up and tell them to go fuck themselves.

At 6:37 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Have you spoken to Bank of Ameica, Anon? That's the first step. Make sure they know that you expect them to live up to the agreement you had with them, and that no, they don't get to change that unilaterally.

Of course we both know that they're probably going to point to something in those "millions of pages of small print." To which the answer is just what you've said: THE APPLICATION SAID THE RATE IS FIXED, ON THE FRONT AND THE BACK.

Beyond that, if you can afford to stop doing business with them, by all means do so and make sure they know. If, as in the case of my friends Peter and Gail, you're stuck with them, then START SCREAMING, as they're doing.

Talk to your local media, the local offices of your state legislators and member of Congress and, yes, U.S. senators -- after all, your card is no doubt issued in another state (with bank-friendly laws and regulations, of course), and there is a certain amount of federal regulation and interest.

Of course, since you're already online, do some digging there. You can be sure you're not the only one fighting this fight. You may be surprised to find out how many (and how geographically diverse) allies you have.

And in my view it's important not to wait till they actually jack the rate up, because at that point you may be trapped.

It seems clear right now that the banksters are testing to see just what they can get away with. We all need to push back as hard as we can.

Thanks for commenting.


At 12:32 PM, Blogger ThatDeborahGirl said...

Great that they've been putting they're kid through school, but no matter what people spent on, if they they borrowed the money and were told they could pay it back at one rate, that's the rate they should get.

Let's not make what we spend money on in this country a moral issue. Puh-leeze.

At 6:53 AM, Anonymous glcampbell said...

New Youtube posting regarding bank fees, very funny. please share.


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