Fact IS Stranger Than Fiction as
These Stories are THE REAL DEAL!
HOW Did That Card Get in YOUR Wallet?
The Indestructible Credit Card Application ... It Just Keeps on Ticking
So, have many credit card applications have you used to line the bird cage or cut up for hampster bedding? Are you sure that
identity theft is a problem that only afflicts someone else? Are you confident that the security protocols of your bank ensure that your disposal of unwanted
credit card applications are sufficient protection from identity fraud and financial abuse? Ever wonder if a real person ever examines your credit card
application? Well, check out the following oddessey of the mutilated CHASE credit card application that defied the laws of practical destruction and
miraculously morphed into plastic money!
"The Torn Up Credit Card Application"
A REAL KIDDY CARD:
It's Never Too Early To Learn About
Responsible Credit Card Use
In Rochester New York, three-year old Alessandra Scalise listed
her occupation as 'pre-schooler" and stated that she was applying
for a credit card to buy toys. No, she is not a precious wunderkind
or driven by the acquisitive urges of the sandbox set. Rather, Alessandra's
application was simply a joke played by her parents on their local
bank. But, to the surprise of the Scalises, the joke was on them.
The "pre-approved" application from Charter One Bank--which
was sent in Alessandra's name to the family residence--was approved.
Even without a Social Security number, no listed income, and no
other relevant financial information. To add insult to injury, Ali's
credit card came with a credit limit of $5,000--more than her parents'
As reported by the Associated Press and published in The Boston
Globe, August 10, 1999. My thanks to Susan Gailey for sharing this
What if HE had Credit Cards
as a Kid!?!
Actor Gary Coleman, star of the late 1970s television sitcom "Diff'rent
Strokes," filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August 1999. The
highest-paid child actor of the 1980s, Coleman earned as much as
$64,000 per week during the show's heyday (1978-1986). As recently
as 1990, Coleman was reportedly worth at least $7 million. But since
then, he has fallen on hard times following a bitter legal dispute
with his adoptive parents (Coleman accused them of stealing up to
$1 million of his earnings), medical problems (including two failed
kidney transplants), and employment difficulties. According to the
31-year old Coleman, 'I can spread the blame all the way around,
from me to accountants to my adoptive parents, to agents to lawyers
and back to me again.'
Earlier in the year, Coleman was arrested and sentenced in the assault
of an autograph-seeking fan. Although granted probation, he was
later taken into custody for not paying the $400 fine in the case.
Maybe his credit cards were maxed-out! Anyway, his bankruptcy filing
in Los Angeles lists debts of $72,000. Too bad he didn't learn the
value of money while growing up in Hollywood.
As reported by The Washington Post, August 21, 1999.
What A Tip!
When Sally served the middle-aged gent his gin and tonic in a local
Oregon bar in the summer of 1995, little did she know that the pleasant
conversation would lead to fifteen minutes of fame. In fact, when
Sally first looked at the credit card receipt, she thought that
her eyes were playing tricks on her--a $1000 tip! Surely, it must
have been a mistake. The last two zeros must have been for cents.
After all, a $10 tip was a hefty gratuity for a $3.95 drink. But,
to Sally's surprise, the credit card receipt was no joke.
Indeed, the generous patron was intent on demonstrating
his largess and American Express honored the client's charge. Not
only was Sally and her work ethic handsomely compensated but word
of the "big tip" in the little bar spread throughout the
American media. Sally's story was reported across the country and
she was interviewed by several television stations. Although the
patron later refused to pay AMEX for his 'Thousand Dollar Cocktail,'
Sally steadfastly refused to return the gratuity. Nevertheless,
her "big tip" has become a part of American folklore,
courtesy of American Express!
Fill 'er Up on the PLASTIC
In the popular 1997 American Express advertisement series, comedian
Jerry Seinfeld survives various "crisis" situations by
using his AMEX charge card to pay for urgent items such as NBA basketball
tickets. The Knicks, of course! How the average person would pay
for these impulsive purchases is irrelevant. The point is that American
Express offers the "freedom to choose" and thereby can
satisfy your most desperate cravings. You know the mantra, "don't
worry, be happy"! Anyway, American Express emphasizes that
there are times when Visa or MasterCard can not solve your cash
problems. Of course, we believe their Madison Avenue advertising
hacks, we mean execs (after all, they cost enough!), and felt confident
that we could entertain you with numerous AMEX anecdotes. To our
shock, however, the Newtonian Finances research team nearly abandoned
hope following countless hours of fruitless searches on Lexis-Nexis.
But, tormented by our faith in "Don't Leave Home Without It,"
we finally found one at a YUPPIE cocktail party.
It came following a query about unusual credit card stories. It
seems that Tom, an airline steward, was working an international
flight that unloaded some special cargo in a Middle Eastern country.
Upon the return leg of the journey, the Captain realized that the
plane was low on fuel and landed in Bahrain for servicing. After
refueling, he offered the standard payment--a company check--and
prepared the flight crew for take-off.
To his surprise, the check was rejected by airport
authorities and the runway was blockaded by transport vehicles.
In order to allow the plane to leave, the fuel would have to be
paid in cash. Although the flight crew passed around the hat, not
even high salary jet pilots could pony up that kind of cash. Fearful
that they would be held hostage in a Muslim country where they could
not drink alcohol or entertain the local women (if you know some
airline pilot then you know what we mean!), the crew deliberated
over their options. Finally, Captain Bob whipped out his American
Express card and offered to charge the entire amount. To his and
the rest of the crew's relief, the AMEX Gold card was up to the
task--a $50,000 fill-up! So, if your 747 is ever low on gas, "don't
worry, be happy" as long as you "don't leave home without
VISA: "It's Everywhere..." And
A Foreign Policy Tool
In the fall of 1993, several Clinton Administration officials met
to discuss the Haitian "problem." During the Presidential
campaign, Clinton had openly criticized the discriminatory immigration
policy of his predecessor and declared that the U.S. should discontinue
its practice of accepting "political" refugees from economically
depressed Cuba while summarily deporting Haitian refugees fleeing
from the indiscriminate violence of the army and the notorious Ton
Ton Macoutes. Haitians hailed the Clinton election as a victory
for social justice and thousands began preparing for the maritime
journey to Miami. Concerned with the political consequences of another
wave of Haitian boat people, however, President Clinton hastily
explored his diplomatic options. At the meeting, a consensus was
quickly reached--the dictatorial military junta had to be ousted.
Reluctant to intervene militarily at the time, the Clinton Administration
imposed economic and political sanctions. Deny the country petroleum
it was thought and popular opposition would quickly topple the regime.
Wrong! A booming enterprise of gasoline "running" emerged
across the border in the Dominican Republic. Discontinue all military
shipments and the army eventually would be unable to quell mass
uprisings. Wrong! The end of the civil war in Nicaragua left a glut
of Contra supplies that had quickly filtered into the black market
at discount prices.
With indirect political pressure proving ineffective, the Clinton
Administration altered its strategy by increasing direct pressure
on the ruling elite. The decision was made to suspend the visas
of the junta's friends and families so that they could not enjoy
their lavish lifestyle in Miami. A simple call to the undersecretary
of Latin American Affairs should take care of the matter, right?
Wrong! In this case, the issuer was more likely Citibank than the
State Department and the objective was to curtail the junta's luxurious
standard of living rather than simply restrict their freedom to
enter the United States. Although these actions failed to weaken
the resolve of the Haitian junta, they illustrate the increasing
significance of consumer credit in contemporary American life. Clearly,
credit card "membership" had come of age as a national
and even international "privilege" in the 1980s. Imagine,
taking away the Visa and American Express cards (maybe Discover,
too!) from a dictator-for-life as an instrument of U.S. foreign
policy. My how quickly times have changed!
Graveyard Solicitations: They Never Give
Graveyard voting is a notorious practice of past urban political
machines. Electoral shenanigans that effectively "mobilized"
deceased constituents are part of American political folklore. Today,
the aggressive marketing efforts of the credit card industry also
are not hindered by such worldly inconveniences as death. Although
elderly widows may find it nearly impossible to obtain a credit
card after the death of their husbands, due to the lack of an independent
credit history, the recently departed continue to be hounded with
offers for new credit cards. A recent letter to Ann Landers highlights
the persistence of credit card marketers and the aggravation created
by this practice for the living.
I live in the San Diego area. Several months ago,
I was appointed executrix of my late brother's estate. It has
not required much extra work, except for one thing. My brother's
credit rating was excellent. For several weeks, I have been receiving
mail in HIS name at MY address, mostly from solicitors of credit
card companies. I used to write on the [solicitation] envelope,
'Deceased-Return to Sender,' but no one paid any attention to
it. Now, I cut up the plastic cards and return the original correspondence.
Under the space for 'New Address," I put the address of the
cemetery. In the upper left corner of my envelop, I also put the
address of the cemetery.
Am I violating any laws? when I tried to do it
honestly by writing 'Deceased-Return to Sender,' it did no good,
and my requests were ignored. I don't know what else I can do.
Fay in La Mesa
Ann's reply is instructive. Hit 'em where it hurts--their
"According to the U.S. Post Office, you
are not violating any laws, but neither are you doing the cemetery
any favors by transferring your headache to them. On top of that,
it does not solve the problem.
If you want the credit card applications to stop,
return the envelopes marketed 'Deceased-Return to Sender.' This
forces the organization to pay return postage costs. It takes time,
however, for your brother's name to work its way out of their computer
systems, and you will have to do this repeatedly before it is effective,
so be patient. It might be worthwhile to invest in a rubber stamp.
Of course, an easier alternative is simply to toss the unwanted
mail in the wastebasket" (September 8, 1999 at www.creators.com).
Tragic but TRUE
On September 7, 1999, Keith Gardner pleaded guilty to stabbing to
death his 64 year-old parents and 90 year-old grandfather inside
their Lorton, Virginia home. The bodies were dragged into the family's
underground fallout shelter and later covered in limestone powder.
Gardner then caulked the doors of the shelter and sealed off the
entrance. Before leaving his parents' home, he collected $1,350
in rent from two nearby tenants and told his sister that their parents
had gone on a trip to Arkansas. The bodies were finally found by
a neighbor on May 11, nearly two weeks after their death.
The mystery surrounding this triple murder in rural,
northern Virginia was widely publicized and led to a national manhunt
for the killer. Autopsies revealed that the three victims had been
stabbed repeatedly and that their throats had been slashed. There
was no evidence that an argument or conflict had contributed to
the killings. After his apprehension, Gardner reputedly explained
that he 'was a heavy drug user, and drugs made him do things that
humans just don't do.'
So, how did the FBI find him in the Florida panhandle?
Well, running low on cash, he used his parents' credit cards. A
quick look at the charges provided a virtual roadmap of Gardner's
activities which led them to an inexpensive motel in Pensacola.
Local sheriff's deputies and FBI agents swiftly descended upon his
motel room and captured the fugitive without a struggle. Although
plastic is as good as cash, computerized accounts can give police
more information than a starving 'stool pigeon.'
Indeed, if "money talks" then plastic
can tell the entire story. And, it often does!
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