Monday, August 11, 2008

Sharper Image Dullards

I have a confession to make, and will follow it with a rant, and finally a moral to the story. I bought an item on retail credit last year.

Actually opened an account with a retail chain store for the explicit purpose of buying something I did not need, which goes against ever fiber of my being.
But there was a motive...and I paid the balance in full immediately.

And because of the charge account, I received a handsome discount (15%) on the purchase.
Also, because of the account, I am still receiving e-mails from these honyaks, which continue to be a source of mirth and/or disgust.

Sharper Image was one of those places I could get lost in. I liked to buy gifts for people there, because it fit in with my gift-giving philosophy of bestowing upon others that which I would really like to receive.

Alas, Sharper Image fell on hard times, and in February went bankrupt, closing 90 of its 184 stores. I'm wondering if lending money at 0% and chopping 15% off the price of goods sold had anything to do with that.
My conscience is clear; I sleep well at night.

Last month, SI determined it could not affort to restock the remaining stores, and decided to completely liquidate everything.
Talk about a sale!

Anyway, Sharper Image is but a soft blur now.
Funny thing is, I am still getting e-mail notifications from outfits like the World Financial Network National Bank, which today issued "an important change in your online payment service."

I issued an important change on my account months ago with a sharper pair of scissors, the cutting edge of which was applied to the middle of the plastic card they sent me.
Like a knife through hot butter.
There's a sharper image for you...snip-snip.

So the WFNNB is now increasing my "payment choices," (presuming I have a balance. MMWAHAHAHAHAAA!):
For the poor saps still paying principal and interest on their SI purchases, starting next month, they may make a next day payment...or...for a $10 fee, make a payment TODAY!

You know the world is really screwed up when people are charging you to take your money today, instead of tomorrow. I mean, that's how far gone we have gotten in American society--a system of see it, want it, get it now, and pay for it later, maybe.

It's that kind of mentality--the 5th Avenue Brainwash of instant gratification--that didn't just bite consumers on the bottom, but it also has eaten away at some of the most eggregious retail purveyors of revolving credit lines.

In that unhappy fraternity also reside Wickes Furniture, Whitehall Jewelers, Bombay Co., and Levitz.
Buy it today, pay for it in three years, with no interest.
How long do you think that will last?

Here's what's happening.
The new bankruptcy laws, which were crammed down our throat by Congress, thanks to the Bank Lobby, were intended to keep bankrupt companies from remaining under court supervision for very long, and thereby stringing along their creditors.
The idea was to get the creditors paid more quickly.

But in the case of Sharper Image, the new laws left the company with very little time to reorganize, and actually forced their hand to liquidate.

These are the same cats that were charging customers usurious interest rates on revolving credit accounts. When the consumer was finally wrung dry, the parasitic retailers and their lending partners began to wither on the vine...or in the mall.
Pick your metaphor.

So we now have credit banks offering "choices" of payment plans--soon, or sooner--and they're charging customers for the priviledge of posting a payment today.

And the moral of the story is this--if you don't want to get stuck with stupid payment plans, or surprised by goofy charges, then don't open the stinking account in the first place.

What, you may be wondering, became of that impulse purchase I made from the late Sharper Image on-line shopping service? Watch for my e-Bay listing for a Pleo Robot Dinosaur---still in the crate, never opened--sometime around Christmas...when we'll test another theory about scarcity of supply and shrinking windows of opportunity as they affect prices!

No comments: