Thursday, April 16, 2009

Credit Card Ads Are Making Me Furious

There is an ad running now about a woman who has to leave her home and her job to take care of her mother who has Alzheimer's. She gets behind in her credit card payments and starts getting notices from her card holders. And all she has to do to straighten this problem out is pick up the phone and talk to her credit card company. Have you ever tried to call your credit card company? It is an endless loop of voice mail hell. You will never get to talk to an actual person, unless they are calling you to tell you you need to sell you first born into slavery to make your damn payment.

I know because I had to fly to Santa Barbara (ticket on a credit card) rent a car (rental on a credit card) kidnap my crazy mother and drive her back to Salt Lake so I could take care of her since she had vascular dementia and was being evicted from her apartment. Then I had to get someone to watch her while I flew back to Santa Barbara (ticket on a credit card) rent a car (rental on a credit card) empty and clean her house and her storage unit and drive back to Salt Lake with her few salvageable possessions (her incontinence had left her clothing unsalvageable).

My mother required constant watching since every time I closed my eyes she ran away. She would go to the grocery store, gather up the crap she wanted and stand in line at the checkout counter. Then if someone behind her didn't offer to pay for her crap, the store would pay for her crap rather than have her pitch a fit in from of other people. I would then have to pay for her crap with a credit card. My mother started hitchhiking to another store, and got picked up by the cops. This resulted in my getting turned in for not keeping her safe. A charge just short of elder abuse. Then I had to get all the locks on the house changed so my mother couldn't run away, turning my house into a locked fortress to protect her from herself and me from the Ombudsman. And that was my last credit card charge.

Taking care of her full time meant I was unable to work. As I started missing payments (time gets away from you when you can't ever sleep or work or take a bath because something might happen to your mother) the credit card company started an aggressive debt collection campaign. I kept trying to explain my situation, but I guess everyone's got a sob story when they are unable to pay their credit cards. It was only when they called me to dun me, to call me an irresponsible idiot, that I was able to talk to a "real" person. They were in no way helpful. They suggested I sell my ten year old Jetta to pay my credit card bill. Eventually I was forced into bankruptcy.

One of my best friends has had the same credit card for thirty years and has never missed a payment. She was one day late with a payment a couple of years ago and they hiked her interest rate from 7% to 40% without notification to her. It was not until her next bill that she noticed the enormous change in interest charges. She spent a month trying to talk to a real person about her situation. The person she finally got to talk to said, "It's right there in the small print. If you read your statement you would know that we have the legal right to do whatever we deem necessary to protect ourselves from the irresponsibility of card holders like you who think it's fine to pay late or skip payments without consequences." This practice amounts to loan sharking. Now neither of us has a card we ever use to make purchases. We each have a debit card from our credit unions. I never use mine, but if I had to fly or rent a car, I'd need a card.

Fuck you Citibank. Take this card and shove it.