Thursday, December 10

Welcome to Blue Gal's Bank and Trust!

If you don't think there's a blogging angel looking out for me, may I present Johnny and the Panty Raiders singing "Money". Now, let me refinance your home with no hidden fees!

Seriously, it's not just that we citizens apparently have to become a bank to get any help from this Congress...'s that big corporations actually figured this out in the '90s.

At the end of this commercial it says Ditech is a GMAC company. GM? Like the car company bailed out by us taxpayers?

GMAC (Ditech) used to be a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors (GM) . However, the carmaker sold 51% of the business to a group of investors including private-equity firm Cerberus, Citigroup Inc. (C) , Japan's Aozora Bank Ltd. (JP:8304) and a unit of PNC Financial Services (PNC) in 2006.

Soon after, GMAC was hit hard by the housing meltdown, partly because it was a leading subprime mortgage lender.

Does anyone think it's a coincidence that the deregulation of the banking industry was spearheaded by Mister "Freedom Works" himself, Dick Armey?

I know I'm way behind the times on this...everybody knows corporate America went into the financial business because there was big money to be made and no one was watching. But it got personal with me due to a bill I received and contested last month.

I have one store credit card that I got because with the credit card you can get big discounts at said store. I have had this card almost two years and I pay off the small balance, if any, every single month. (This, by the way, is known in the credit card industry as being a "deadbeat." They make no additional money off of me or my account.)

There was a problem, that I admit might have been my fault, with my online bill pay, where two bills were scheduled to be paid in November rather than October. That meant store credit card was being paid a month late. I noticed the error and changed it... but not in time.

You know where this is going....

In addition to charging me 24% interest for my outstanding balance, they slapped on a $39.00 late payment fee.

I wrote them a letter. At the time of my writing I had already corrected my error and paid off the balance on the card completely. There was ZERO due on the bill, they could see that when they investigated my account.

I explained that yes, it might have been my error, and I understand they did not receive payment on time so the interest would be due, but that as a good customer I expected them to refund me the exorbitant late fee, that fee being outrageous and completely arbitrary. If they wanted me to continue to use the card and shop in their store they could render good-will by not screwing me.

They replied:

"After reviewing your account, we are unable to comply with your request to remove the requested fee(s). ...We appreciate you as a valued cardmember and hope you will continue to enjoy shoppping in our stores, catalog, blag blah blah..."

Here's the deal: this store sends me coupons totaling the same amount as the late fee at least every two weeks. I'm sitting here with three coupons totaling $40.00 off anything in the store right now, which I have no intention of "enjoying". They can kiss my ass.

But let's face it, this store is not in the business of selling stuff. They are in the 'screwing the consumer with a credit card addiction' business. And here's the fine print punchline, printed right at the bottom of their letter to me:

Account is owned by GE MONEY BANK - Member FDIC

GE? As in, General Electric? General Electric owns the credit card accounts of JC Penney?

Yes. Yes they do.

Wanna really turn your stomach? GE also owns credit card accounts for HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS.

Dear JCPenney: You fucked with the wrong muckraker.

cc: Senators Bernie Sanders and Al Franken


  1. I'm with you, BG.

    My bank BB&T just last week filed four (count'em - 4!) bounced check charges against me for a total of $140 in overdraft fees.

    Except that I didn't bounce any checks. They (somehow) had the wrong date for a deposit I made, and when I pointed it out, told me that STILL my account had cost them money.

    Hell, I had about $6 and change in the account - and this may have been the problem.

    They are tired of us deadbeats who carefully monitor our usage (because we HAVE to) and don't pay them any fees for "free accounts."

    Our blogs should be alerting everyone 24/7 about what is really happening to the objects of our largesse. They are tightening the screws to take in every bit of moolah they can - to move it overseas - before the next crash.

    And I hate to say it, but it is coming.

    Oh, and no one was watching due to the new relaxed regs sponsored by Bob Rubin, Larry Summers and your fave, Dick Armee. All dicks. All the time.

    Thanks for the heads up.


    there was big money to be made and no one was watching

  2. I cannot believe the gall of these fuckers. They do not seem to understand how many of us are "free" in the Kristofferson/Joplin sense: nothing left to lose.

    Which means we're free to storm their corporate bastions with torches and fecal material.

  3. You've just explained why JCPenney got their card back from me cut into little tiny plastic pieces.

  4. Anonymous7:20 PM

    This isn't new, it's just become more egregious as these companies scramble to find new ways to screw consumers. No one is shopping, people are paying off their cards, so jacking up the interest rate to 29% in some cases (they called this usury in the olden days) and slapping every fee they can think of is their answer. Soon you'll get charged for not having a balance. FYI, GE was handling credit back in the 80's so they have a lot of experience in making people miserable.

  5. JUL3IE (the three is silent)7:53 PM

    Dear Blue Gal,
    If this company sends you coupons worth same amount as the fee--why not send them a coupon as payment?

  6. Such is modern life...

    Last year, BG, you might recall a blogger in San Jose who suddenly became homeless -- she had a dependent parent, too -- and you asked me to see if I could help. I tried to hook her up with the Emergency Housing Consortium, but I never heard back from her.

    Her sad story started with those automatic bill payment systems. She was living paycheck-to-paycheck, and one pay period, her employer was late depositing the check. She contested that it was the employers fault, but the contracts were with her, so it didn't matter. The ripple as all of her automatic bill payments came due was that in essence, she lost her paycheck to late fees. She had no money for rent, and that was it.

    Second word of warning about those automatic bill payment systems, those systems are one of the primary targets of identity thieves. Your bank might be ok at protecting your data (but most banks are not), but what makes you think that the department store's security is good? (Bank of America has contacted me not less than three times in 5 years because -- oops -- my accounts had been "compromised." I had to go to all the hassle of getting new credit cards, etc., each time.

    While the law is written that identity theft is a crime, there is absolutely no penalty for the banks losing your information or not keeping it secure. If we want to end identity theft, the penalty should go to the banks. Bet me we will never see that.

    Get off those automatic bill paying systems. Don't do it. They are always going to screw you no matter what.

    End of lecture.



  7. You know you're screwed when they name the capital company Cerberus, the 3 headed hellhound guarding the gates of hell to make sure nobody gets out.

  8. taylorbad10:36 AM

    To anyone frustrated with big banks, I suggest looking into joining a credit union. They offer all the financial services a consumer needs,including checking, on-line banking, home loans, commercial loans, credit cards, ATM's, etc. often at rates that are better than the banks. Credit unions are owned by the members so there are no stockholders looking for big dividends.

    Yes, they have many of the fees for overdrafts, etc. but they typically operate from the mindset of "not for profit, but for service." No one can provide financial services for free, but credit unions at least make you a member of your financial institution. Bonus: you get to vote for the Board of Directors!

    If you don't know where to start, check the Yellow Pages under "credit unions" and find one that has a federal or state charter and has what is called an "open field of membership," which means anyone can join. Often large employers or professions have credit unions, too. Check them out.


I really look forward to hearing what you have to say. I do moderate comments, but non-spam comments will take less than 24 hours to appear... Thanks!