When Alexander Parkes invented plastic, I am sure he did not imagine it would be used to make money. If he knew, he would not have died a poor man (Actually I don’t know if he died a poor man, but it is not a lie to use a fact without knowing if it is true or false). While we are on plastic, if I cut up my credit cards, did I do a plastic surgery?
The advantage of a credit card is that you don’t have to carry large amount of cash in bags and sacks (the way people shop these days) while shopping and eating out. However, people are not aware that they are spending money they have not earned. Heard of debit cards, anyone?
Smart (read ‘evil’) credit card companies somehow seem to know how to tempt people to increase their credit card use. First, they came up with points for your spending. Only 1% (my own estimate using a highly scientific statistical model called ‘inky pinky ponky’) of card holders actually redeem those points. Then came pre-approved credit cards. I feel people consider being pre-approved for a credit card mean they have to apply for it! Then they came up with add-on cards. It became prestigious to give add-on cards to your spouse and children. I have even given one each to my servant and driver.
I have mastered the trick to evade sales people who jump at you while leaving big stores like Big Bazaar or Food World and are willing to give you a credit card with an ID proof and invoice as the income proof. Now you know why I would never work for a credit card company. It also amuses me that they would not give me a credit card if I came to buy only bread in the morning (because then the bill will be only for Rs 15) even though my salary is Rs 25 lakhs. (I did not want to reveal my real salary; so I have mentioned only half of it!). Please don’t assume that I went to buy bread in the morning because I fought with my wife and she refused to cook breakfast for me.
An interesting thing I noticed about credit card holders is the number of cards they carry. If it is for convenience, then you need only one credit card. If it is for acceptance at multiple outlets, then you need two or three of Visa, Master, Amex, etc. If it is for drawing as much credit as possible, then you need more than two and the willingness to relocate often. And if it is to impress women and to lure them to go on date with you, then you definitely need a dozen.
The sad part, however, is that most of us are walking around with more plastic debt than we can repay in paper. Expecting the credit card companies to be fair is like expecting the bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian. The mantra these days seems to be that the way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it!
Millions of credit cards have enabled millions of people to get mired in millions of debt and have led to millions of bankruptcies. Without credit cards, people wouldn't owe millions of dollars to millions of credit card companies, on which they're being charged millions of interest. (If you wondered why I have used so many millions, I don’t know any number larger than that).
One big problem with credit cards is the enormous possibility of misuse. The statistics on credit card frauds are that one out of every five credit card is misused. Speak to four of your friends. If they don’t seem to have a problem, then it's you who is misusing a credit card! It is interesting that credit card companies always process the payments no matter how you signed the receipts.
An anecdote I read: “I was signing the receipt for my credit card purchase when the clerk noticed I had never signed my name on the back of the credit card. She informed me that she could not complete the transaction unless the card was signed. When I asked why, she explained that it was necessary to compare the signature I had just signed on the receipt with the one on the card. So I signed the credit card in front of her. She carefully compared the signature to the one I had just signed on the receipt. As luck would have it, they matched.”
The most affected people due to the credit card usage obviously must be the street side beggars, what with people no longer going around with change. The next would be the adult and instant entertainment sites, who would be saddled with a very high rate of charge reversals from visitors who claim to their wives when the statement comes that they never signed up for the service and that it must have been some prank or mistake.
While Larry King was interviewing Satan on his TV show, King asked Satan to describe the foulest deed he had ever done. Satan refused to name one, pointing out that there had been so much destruction over the years, so many lives cut short, and so many wars and calamities that none stood out. But King kept pestering. “Surely, if you think hard enough, there must be one dastardly deed you are most proud of.” Satan thought for a moment, his eyes brightened, and he replied, “Well, yes. I guess if I have to pick just one particularly evil thing I'm proudest of, it would be this: Several years ago, I invented credit cards.”
If you aren't saddled with credit card debt, congratulations, you are only a few steps away from sainthood!
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