Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Number crunch

Credit crunch has been in the news lately, which has got me thinking. And noticing just how many offers I get, all with the thrilling prospect of being able to owe banks some money.

There are many different strategies, but all are desperately urgent and equally simpering to please. Perhaps this is just what you get with being an adult and having a mortgage (and being good for a loan of some £¼ million). But this is what I've had in the last lunar cycle:
  • 1 April
    Barclaycard send two blank cheques with a maximum total value of five grand. "Streamline your finances" says the accompanying letter, by paying off "outstanding credit or store card balances to your Barclaycard."

    "It couldn't be easier," they continue, "to take advantage of this great offer", where the solution to not keeping up with your myriad debts is to, er, borrow more money. I am reminded of my post last year on business buzzwords.


    Verb. Have sex with.

  • 3 April
    Black Horse personal finance tells me I have "been specially selected by Black Horse for a limited offer Priority Loan. We've set aside an amount of £7,575 especially for you. This offer is only available for a short time - so don't miss out on this opportunity. To activate your Priority Loan call us today - it's that easy to apply."

    It says the magic number £7,575 another couple of times on the letter, and in big letters, too, for the hard of cogitating. What's more, "because our loans are available up to £15,000, you could borrow more if you need it."

    So why are they only tantalising me with about half what they could offer? I feel rather slighted.

    "Enjoy affordable repayments" it also says in bold letters. Yes, because it's such great fun, being technically able to keep off the bailiffs!
  • 9 April
    MBNA offers a credit card by which I might "spring clean" my finances. How seasonal! It's like the first chapter of Wind in the Willows! They don't do anything so unromantic as name actual cash figures, but the small print says there's a cash limit of £50,000 - though they'll dictate all the terms. In fact, there's so many conditions they have to provide a separate leaflet. Obviously no catches there!
  • 11 April
    Barclaycard again! And I could have "Cash in just 4 working days" - well, they admit that it could be in your account in that time - from £1,000 to £25,000.
  • 12 April
    British Airways have sent me a credit card. A real plastic one, stuck to a letter. Only it says in small print on the side, "This is not a Real Credit Card". But being able to see what the actual card looks like sure helps me decide whether it's a good offer.
  • 15 April
    Black Horse again, with a loan to help "Put your plans into action - now!" And they feel snubbed I've not been in touch. "We recently wrote to you with a loan offer - if that amount wasn't right for you there are different amounts available ... Only you know what you want a loan for - here are some suggestions, what did you have in mind."

    They then suggest a garden makeover (£5,050), a dream kitchen (£7,575) and - the jackpot - a chance to spring clean my finances (£10,050). They're oddly precise figures, aren't they? Especially when I don't have a garden.
  • 20 April
    Lloyds TSB this time, not Black Horse at all. And apparently "£5,000 is ready and waiting for you...". Note the suggestive glance of that slutty ellipsis. "Approval on a loan is less than 30 minutes" they explain - because of course I'm the one rushing to get this signed. In fact, I'm so in a hurry I might not notice the huge great box-out, that "Typical 17.9% APR".
  • 1 May
    Barclaycard again. Word for word the same letter as 1 April with those two sultry cheques. Just in case I've changed my mind.
So in total, in one calendar month I've been offered somewhere between £23,575 (just short of the UK's average annual wage - £23,700 according to the BBC) and £105,000 (more than four times' that).

What is the solution? Well, first there's the Mailing Preference Service. But it can take months and it doesn't always work (Black Horse uses slight variations of my address which, I think, worm round the system). And anyway, the sharks themselves have provided the means of delivery.

There are prepaid envelopes with most of these letters. Prepaid, because the bank has to pay up to the Post Office if the envelopes are used. So you tear up the terms and conditions on the offer, stick them in the envelope, and post them back to the bank.

Petty? Well, yes and no. Because if enough people do it, the cost of sending this rubbish is too much to make it worthwhile. At least that's what I tell myself as I giggle fiendishly at the post box.


Anonymous said...

How about the George Best Bank

Need to spunk your money up a wall on hookers and blow ?
Borrow 10K today at a stupidly low APR of only 23%.
Now you are not stupid are you, no, good. Then sign at the bottom like a good fellow otherwise we might have to send round big Dave for a quite word.

Your internal organs may be repossessed if you dont keep up repayments.

ps my spell check asks "spunk, do you mean UK?"

pps sorry for the filth

Pete Kempshall said...

Oh, now *that* is a good plan. I take my Internet Hat off to you.

And after this sultry ellipsis, I'm off to the post box ...

Le Mc said...

Well, that was different. But no less true.

Keith Ramsey said...

I've been sending junk mail back in the prepaid envelopes for years, but I've got a nagging sense of doubt about whether it's really a good idea, because I suspect that without the money that the Post Office makes from delivering all that rubbish the cost of sending letters would increase dramatically.

0tralala said...

Thanks for the comments. I have a post on the Post Office perculating in my brain...