I will never forget the first time I went into the First Agricultural Bank to request a credit card.
I was around 23 years old and it was the early 1980’s.
At that time, credit cards were nowhere near as easy to use and acquire as they are now.
The daily mailings that most of us receive trying to entice us to transfer our credit card balances just did not exist.
I do not recall the name of the personal banker that I met with, but she was fairly young, probably in her early thirties.
I will never forget what she said to me when I sat down at her desk and told her that I would like to apply for a credit card with a $300 limit.
This mild-mannered looking banker seemed to change form:
Why do you need a credit card?
What makes you think you are credit worthy?
Frankly I had no good answer.
I was a bit stunned that she became so aggressive about the subject.
I think I just mumbled something about needing to have it in case of emergencies.
I felt weird and embarrassed about the whole encounter and worst of all, I did not feel very “cool” sitting across from this woman in my blue on “blue-collar” White Star uniform.
The uniforms we wore at the time, provided by Aladco from Adams, made us all look like auto mechanics.
The fact was, we were less skilled than that and could just barely drive Econoline Vans around Berkshire County without dumping loads of White Rock Soda onto the streets and messing up refilling cigarette machines.
There was one time when I filled the vending machine at Danny’s on Fourth St.
This was one of the darkest bars in the city, in more ways than one.
When I returned to the warehouse my bag of quarters from Danny’s was missing.
There was well over $100 in that bag.
I back tracked over to the Bar and there it was still sitting on top of the machine.
It was so poorly lit in there that no one ever saw the dark blue sack of coins that sat for several hours before I returned.
I never even told them why I came back.
I just grabbed it and walked out.
It turns out that Americans now, for the first time in many years, are starting to cut down on credit card use.
The woman at the bank was not wrong at all to try and frighten me.
Like most Americans, I later went on to allow myself to use credit and charge cards when I knew that it would be difficult to pay them back.
Unlike a vending machine, or at least the ones I used to work on, there was no way one could charge on them.
Cash was the only way to play.
Common sense says we should try to go without things before we charge for them.
Yet the “consumer-first” mentality has pushed personal finances to the brink in the U.S.
I wish that stern lady from First Agricultural Bank had her speech recorded so that whenever any American opened an envelope with a credit card offer, they would have to listen to her lecture about the dangers of revolving credit, like they listen to tunes on a birthday card.
It is a good sign that Americans are finally trending away from credit.
My advise to young people is, use a debit card, that is real and you will not have an interest accruing noose around your neck when you use them.
My advise to old people is, cut them up, they are a lie. You really have not bought anything until the debt is paid in full.
Lord thank you for the smart people you have put in our lives that do not roll over when we seek the lower roads.
They, like You, believe we can do better if we simply try a bit harder to restrain ourselves.