Thursday, August 09, 2012


This is by way of a public service.  It’s about banks and their bilking predatory practices.

I ordered some books from Abebooks (used book dealer co-op).  The debit card from my local bank was declined (though I didn’t think it should be) so I went to my credit union card from Portland.  That was declined.  So I went to Amazon and ordered the same books.  That was declined except that it recorded one order THREE times.  I tried to delete the duplicates but then the book seller (who only uses Amazon as a go-between) refused.  And then they said the books were out-of-stock.  Then they said there were three copies left because they put them back on the shelf.  Metaphorically.

Every inquiry bounced.  Every examination of my “order record” showed something different.  This morning it shows that all the books were shipped -- through Amazon.  Abebooks has nothing to say.

So I called my local bank to see whether this debit card is worth anything at all.  She explained about “presentments.”  As soon as one looks to the seller as though there might be a sale, a “presentment” is sent to the bank for maybe fifty or a hundred dollars to see whether you have the money.  It is meant for motels and gas stations where you are away from home, unknown, and at the mercy of the merchants.  Of course, they see it as THEM being at the mercy of YOU.  So she said that Amazon had been sending “presentments” about these books, even before I finalized the purchase.  The bank recorded it as a debit with the intention of making a “hard post” later on when the sale is confirmed.  So every sale has steps in it.

I can see my credit union account online and kept checking to see whether my credit card with them was showing the debits, but it wasn’t.  

This system, of course, is meant to suit people who keep big balances so that they hardly notice when the money goes in and out -- it’s all theoretical anyway.  But for me, who spends down to the very last dollar, if I slip the tiniest bit over the line, it’s a $30 charge for being overdrawn.  If I’ve carefully gone no closer to zero than $29.95, it will throw me over into that fee.  (On Friday the local bank said my balance was $.81,  On Monday I had magically gained $5 so my balance was $5.81.)

The bank KNOWS they are pushing me, taking advantage.  They would like me to go away.  Then they can be a rich people’s bank.  They don’t believe in all this stuff about uplifting the masses with micro-banking.  They are interested in manipulating the numbers, including the interest rates on their total deposits which are, of course, loaned out to other banks and connected institutions too big to fail.  And important enough to jigger the interest rates, unlike me.  (I asked about credit from Sears for a $200 TV set.  The interest was 25%.  I lost interest in the TV set.  Sears responded that I didn’t have enough assets to interest them.)

I keep up with my credit union through electronic banking -- not that I EVER pay bills by automatic deduction -- I learned the hard way that the practice is capricious and full of little traps that will invoke some $30 penalty.  Again, it’s a practice that is workable if you have a big balance and the time to invest in watching to make sure little things aren’t overlooked or mis-entered.  I know women whose days are packed with phoning in corrections to banks, mail order houses and service providers. 

My local bank has an electronic banking function but a few years ago I could not make the darn thing work.  It wouldn’t accept my passwords, it used terminology I couldn’t understand and nothing was up-to-date.  The customer service lady, who genuinely felt badly about all this, sent me the stuff to try again.  More papers, more passwords, more rigamarole.  So many ads and complexifications that it’s hard to find one’s actual account balance down amongst the frou-frou.  

There is a bank in Valier -- it’s a Wells Fargo.  I dealt with them as cashier for the City of Portland a decade ago and consider them highly toxic.  I would NEVER deal with them and evidently they don’t want to deal with me either, since they refuse to cash any checks, even with a fee; refuse to exchange Canadain money; and impose even more fees than my local bank, for more mysterious reasons and more inaccurately.

When I went to re-order my prescriptions the other day, the pharmacist’s computer was down -- it was down for two days.  She couldn’t tell whether my drugs were available, how much the cost would be, how close to the end of my prescription I was, or what my debit card number was.  She’s a very conscientious woman who takes care of her customers.  “We really need a back-up on-paper system,” she said.  No kidding.

What good is the exciting fiber-optic cable that will eventually get to Valier (so 3 Rivers says) if the electricity isn’t on.  The commentator on the radio said that in Manhattan when the total blackout hit, it was darker than the bottom of a coal mine.  The only backup was candles.  When half the population of India was blacked out, he said you could hear a thousand generators start up.  And smell the fumes.


Sounds like you have a Visa branded debit card. I've always heard about issues with those things. They'll put a "hold" on a lot more credit than they are looking for, so in a sense it would make your account look like it was overdrawn or short of funds. Don't seem to have to deal with that with a true credit card. I've never owned a debit card. The bank always wants to issue one, but I firmly decline because of issues I've heard of. I like the CC's because I essentially get 28 or so days of free credit. They only charge interest if you don't pay it off every month. Most important to me is that I'm only liable for up to $50 bucks in fraud, while with a debit card, they can apparently clean you out and the bank isn't responsible necessarily.

It's entirely possible that Obama's banking overhaul has changed things regarding debit cards. My education came from a place called "Credit Boards" a forum dedicated to all things banking and credit. Occasionally I help people with credit repair and that place is a hell of a resource for information on how to go about such things. If a person actually sits down and reads all those declarations they give you, they do confusingly outline everyone's responsibilities, but they freely change them up and send out new declarations about every six months it seems. All in their favor of course.

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