weirdly, this is one of them "proper" posts i do from time to time. sorry about this for those that prefer the larger levels of nonsense i produce; proper service will no doubt resume soon.
there are many, many things i have noted since my return home, but two are of particular reference here. one is the large amount of junk mail ("printed spam", for the younger readers) i seem to receive, the other would be the approach, or if you like terms and conditions, attached to that wonderful concept that is a credit card here.
in the realm of junk mail, well, it's splendid to see, really. you don't get all that much of it in South Africa. one requires, look you see, a proper, working postal system in order to have such a thing. it is unsolicited mail, of course, and as such a bit of a nuisance. it is, however, only a nuisance to the extent of how long it takes one to tear it up and put it in the bin.
one of the more frequent items i get in the post is the happy news that i have been "pre-selected" for a credit card. on grounds of grammar, of course, i reject these, for to use the phrase "pre-selected" is to display abject, depressing understanding of just what "selected" means.
rather than binning it straight away, i thought i would have a closer gander, putting forward my thoughts here. and why not, indeed.
the first point of alarm, and the reason why i shall not have a credit card here, is right there for you. that whole "39.9%" for the APR (basically the interest rate at which they charge you) is scary enough, but that "variable" qualification is a statement to absolutely anyone not to touch this. just what variable is does not get made all that clear, but in the small print (more of which later) it can seemingly be doubled for many reasons.
i don't quite get this, something does not add up. on the one side the UK is seen as a "nanny state", with all sorts of rules and regulations in place, health & safety and what have you, in just about every possible area except credit cards and, of course, these "payday loan" people. i am not qualified enough to say it, but everyone from conspiracy theorists through to informed observers suggest that there is a strong link between "lack of regulation" and "political party donor". hey ho.
anyway, here is the shiny, glossy small print that they want you, if you must, to read should you happily sign up for all of this. in the legendary small print here, there is a quick mention of just how "variable" your interest rate can be.
yeah, don't know if you can make it out, but it suggests that a rate of nearly 80% is "possible". which is, strangely, lower than some of the ones we have seen advertised in magazines and on TV.
America, bless her, is the land that you associate with the idea of being the home of "anything goes" capitalism, a place where financial institutions can operate as they see fit. and yet they have regulations in place which caps the maximum an APR can be on a credit card - i think 40%, but it might be as low as 30%. which is high, but controlled. this does not seem to be a thing that exists here.
what does all this APR, variable and high number stuff all mean? well, i would suggest you have a gander at sites like What's The Cost, which i did to get some of the screens below.
if you can make all that out, yeah, that's quite a high payment level on their suggested or average offering. and trust me, that is but a fraction of less than half, as you shall see.
am i anti-credit card? no, not especially. they can be a most excellent thing. it can be a convenient thing, offering short-term credit financing for mid to large size purchases. it of course, alas, does not always work like that, with many people living off of them, effectively living in debt. a dangerous form of debt too, considering just how much of it piles up with the rates on offer.
i mentioned the "small print" earlier. here is the less shiny, less glossy small print they include. or at the least most of one side of it, i assure you that there is more on the reverse of the papers you see here.
this is, by any standard, an insane amount of terms, conditions and "small print". to do it this way is to simply load something up with terms and conditions the supplier will assume the consumer will never read in full, and thus it is loaded with elements slanted to significantly benefit the supplier. all sorts of things in this text basically give grounds for the supplier to change the terms and conditions you sign for on little more than a whim. not good.
the legal jargon used is the kind of stuff one normally associates with how a lawyer, for example, explains how shooting someone four times through a bathroom door is not either an intention to kill, or anything other than a perfectly normal, harmless and innocent thing to do. there is being thorough and then there is throwing up a smokescreen behind which you can swap and change things later on. guess which this is.
that repayment thing? it seems that if you sign up for a card and it stays at that 39.9% APR, and then you pay the minimum fee, you will be paying for quite some time. a century, no less.
in those terms and conditions presented in a less shiny way there is, no doubt, a comment about if for some reason you do not stay alive for 100 years and pay it all, they own your estate or something. don't know, didn't read it all, and i suspect few anywhere have.
it is not so much an "unsaid thing" that these cards are aimed at those unlikely to get credit facilities at other establishments as it is a very direct and overt strategy. you are very welcome to draw your own conclusions in regards of the merits of an approach that sees one target those that can ill afford to pay for something.
i recall, fondly, a company contacting me about a personalised credit card in South Africa. they assured me that i could have "absolutely any" picture i wanted on the card. i made them confirm this no less than three times, and then said fine, i want a picture of my arse on it. the idea, to me, of having my arse on a credit card is exciting. the chap on the phone, however, said he was not "sure" if they could do that. i pointed out to him that he said that i could have "absolutely any" picture on the credit card at least three times, and that he also advised the conversation was recorded.
he said that he was going to have to speak to his boss about that one, which i said was fine. i also mentioned how i would be happy to sign up for his credit card, just as soon as he had confirmed that i could indeed have one with a picture of my arse on it. thus far, alas, i have not had the return call i am looking for, saying that yes, they will do that for me. actually, i think they stopped advertising them not long after the call they made to me. go figure.
speaking of my arse, as i think you may have concluded already, it is the case that so long as it is facing south i shall not be signing up for a credit card here. whatever practical benefits and advantages there are to having one are negated and thrown out by the somewhat farcical, "make it up as we go along" approach the companies providing them are apparently afforded.
should i perhaps, instead of doing a blog post, go right ahead on some sort of campaign or crusade to find out why exactly credit cards are given the freedom to operate in such a way? perhaps, but i suspect i do not have the time to do so. also, the "support" which exists on a mutual basis between banks and politicians all scream that they really rather like it the way it is.
just before i take my leave of this post to go and tear all these forms up and put them in the bin, let me invite you to share my humour with the reply envelope provided.
yes, that's right. an address that says it is "priority", but only a priority as far as second class mail goes. perhaps i should draw a picture of a spider or something, put it in there and send it to them. although there's every chance there is some sort of code on the envelope which traces it back to me, right, and in the terms and conditions there is buried a clause that says "sending us a picture of a spider means you agree to all of our terms and conditions". i may look, or i may bin it.
hope this has all been of passing interest, back to usual nonsense soon.
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!