Date:         Tue, 16 Aug 1994 11:47:12 EST5EDT
From: Gilbert Smith <>
Subject:      WHTMOMTTTCU 1
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <>

    So the problem began yesterday when I got a letter from the State
Employees Credit Union informing me that the credit card that they
issued to me 20 years ago was to expire on Aug 31 and would not be
renewed "at that time", due to either the account's having been
closed or the card's having been declared lost or stolen, or, because
of the credit union's current lending policies.
    This is the credit card that we (I and the tc\sw) use only for an
automatic overdraft protection.  So, I am very nervous about having a
joint account with the tc\sw, who writes the checks and balances
(yeah, right!) the checkbook, without some overdraft protection,
since current charges for bouncing a check are something like $15.00
at the bank plus $25-30 at the store where you do the bouncing.
    So, I think:  *why* would they refuse to renew my credit card?
    Lost, stolen, closed:  none applies.
    Current lending policies:  Ah Hah!  That is jargonese for:
Unacceptable credit history.  Now we are beginning to see things
    So, I check the statements for the past two years (all neatly
arranged by me this summer in a file while the tc\sw was away) and
find *six*--count 'em--*six* late charges of $5.00 each.  So, she was
late sending the check six times.  Big Deal.
    I also check how much we paid each month that we remembered to
pay.  Payment requested was almost always $25, the minimum.  Payments
were always between $150 and $400, to take care of all those
overdrafts, due to poor arithmetic skills or a lousy calculator,
don't know which.  In all, over the past 12 months, they requested
$481.  We paid $1595.  Not bad.  So I thought.
    So, armed with this information about how responsible we have
been, I go to the credit union, already really <pissed> about this.
I mean, HELL, I am a member of this credit union and have been for 22
years, this credit union of which incidentally, coincidentally,
ironically, HOLLER (the New Kid On The Block) is a *member* *of*
*the* *board*!  My buddy HOLLER.
    The scene at the credit union was, to put it bluntly, a Words-L
Moment par excellence.  As you will see if you read the next

Date:         Wed, 17 Aug 1994 12:48:35 EST5EDT
From: Gilbert Smith <>
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <>


    So, I go to my favorite branch of the Credit Union to talk to the
woman I know, the one with whom I have an Appalachian <connection>:
her nephew and my son were in school there together (at ASU).  I take
care of bank business, moving money from savings to checking and
cashing traveler's checks to get more money in checking, then ask my
friend for help on the credit card question.  She directs me to the
*other* branch, the one where I got the card in the first place.
    So, now I'm in the university branch, sitting in the lobby,
waiting for someone to call my name.  Thinking about what I'm going
to say to excuse the erratic, irresponsible payment practices of the
tc\sw, who has never quite understood the way the world really works.
    Nice looking, well groomed, 35-ish man comes in and calls my name
and introduces himself.  I shake his hand, forget his name, and
follow him into his luxurious office, handing him the letter from his
credit union and inquiring with something like: "Perhaps you can tell
me about this?"  Trying to be pleasant, but with that little edge in
my voice that a more-or-less perceptive interlocutor would identify
as <evidence of huffiness>.
    So Rupert (or whatever his name is... Rupert fits...) says:
    "The problem, Mr. Smith, is that in the last year there have been
four late payments on this account, two in the first cycle, which do
not concern us particularly, one in the second cycle, which concerns
us more, and one that went into the third cycle, which concerns us
very much.  This is the reason that we have decided that we will not
renew your credit card."
    ME:  "I'm assuming that this is something that the computer has
identified as a problem.  Most likely, the computer does not also see
that in every case in which we made a payment, whether on time or
late, we paid considerably more than was necessary:  In fact [pulling
out the list I've made], over the past year you requested $450 in
payment and we paid $1600 [exaggerating a bit for maximum <effect>].
    R:  "Yes, I see that here, *but* you agreed in writing to make a
payment each month, on time, and you have consistently not done that."
    ME:  "Are you saying that the fact that we paid much more than
required, that you have had no trouble getting the money from us,
that these facts do not figure in your decision?"
    R:  "Of course we take that into consideration, but you have not
met the terms of this contract.  That is the most important thing."
    ME:  "I think this is absurd.  I have overpaid this account
almost every month, and because I haven't given you the $25 on
time four of these months, you are taking away my overdraft
protection on my checking account.  You are doing this to *me*, a
person who, through no fault of his own, has a wife who can't
balance a checkbook."
    R:  "That, Mr. Smith, is what I am saying.  I am taking away your
credit card because you have not met the terms of this contract.
The question of your wife and her ability to balance a checkbook is
beside the point, because it is *your* name that is on this credit
    I feel my face getting hot, my voice seems to be out of control,
and I begin to formulate a rational response to this person who, I
suspect, has just come from having his hair blow-dried at Mr. Vince's
down the street.  So I lean over a little to the left to look very
deliberately at his name plate on the desk, take out my pen and open
my little notebook, then, pen poised over the paper, I peer over my
reading glasses and inquire of Rupert:
    "Do you understand that I have been a member of this Credit Union
for 22 years?  This is *my* credit union.  Could you perhaps give me
the name of the person to whom I should direct a complaint about this
procedure?  And, perhaps you could tell me the most efficient way of
transferring my checking account, my savings account, my wife's three
trust accounts for her children, and our joint savings account to
Wachovia Bank and Trust, where they dont *do* this kind of thing?"
    Rupert, for the first time, begins to look a bit unnerved,
quickly brushes the palm of his hand across his neatly-coiffed left
temple and hunches his shoulders in an almost imperceptible
corporeal expression of uneasiness with the person he is dealing with,


Date:         Wed, 17 Aug 1994 14:12:32 EST5EDT
From: Gilbert Smith <>
Subject:      WHTMOMTTTCU 3
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <>

    So, Rupert, uneasy with the person he is dealing with, says:
    "Uh...  there are people you can write to to register a
complaint.  We have a board of directors and an advisory board.  You
could direct your inquiry or your expression of dissatisfaction to
one of them... uh....." [checking once more to be sure his hair is in
its rightful place...]
    ME:  "Oh, yes, that would be Bill HOLLER, a colleague of mine, a
good friend, and incidentally, coincidentally, ironically, a southern
gentleman who comes out of a Baptist tradition, or something similar,
if I remember correctly, and is currently a member of the Board.
Yes, Mr. Holler will be interested in hearing about our discussion,
I'm sure." [giving Rupert a mildly threatening look, by now writing
down his name in my notebook...]  "Do I understand correctly that you
are still saying that you will not renew this credit card?"
    R: [getting a little more out-of-control] "That is *precisely*
what I am saying.  You have not met the requirements for keeping this
card.  You have not done what you agreed to do when you applied for
this card.  And, *furthermore*, you come in here without any
*remorse* at all, telling me that the regulations are not important,
and just because you made big payments you think we are going to make
an exception to our policies, policies that are clearly stated.  And,
you don't give me any indication that you are *sorry* about what you
have done, and no assurance that you agree to these policies and that
you promise to *never* *do* *this* *again*!!!!"
    Now, I am beginning to think that I am not really in the office
of the executive of a bank, that I am not old enough to be this
person's father, that I am not a *professional*, that this is not a
waking moment but a dream, that I just absolutely *have* to remember
every detail of this episode to report to my friends who love me and
care about my welfare, my buddies who are really missing out by not
sharing this wordsler moment with me.  Can't stop now, this has taken
on an <inevitable> quality, so I say, acting more hurt and
scandalized than I really am:
    ME: "*Rupert!*, I feel like you are talking to me as if I were a
child.  Are you going to make me stand in the corner for being bad?"
    R:  [by now, absolutely quivering] "I want some indication from
you that you understand these policies and plan to abide by them."
    ME:  "I understand the importance of making the payment on time,
and I intend to do so regularly, without fail."
    R:  "Some kind of explanation for your past intransigence?"
    ME:  "My wife writes the checks and sometimes she forgets."
    R:  "Some expression of remorse for the deplorable payment
    ME:  "I'm sorry my wife let that payment go into the third cycle.
I plan to speak to her about that."
    R:  [smiling and in control now]  "Well, if you had come in here
with that attitude, instead of the idea that what we do is absurd and
unreasonable, we could have settled this with much less
    ME:  "I'm sorry I did not come in here with that attitude.  Can I
have my credit card back?"
    R:  "I'll take care of it.  *With* the understanding that, if
this ever happens again, we will deny the reissuance of your card.
Is that clear?"
    ME:  "That is perfectly clear.  Do I understand that you are
going to reissue this card?"
    R:   "Yes, I am going to authorize renewing the card."
    ME:  "Thank you.  I appreciate that."
    A handshake, a congenial suggestion that I give his regards to
Mr. Holler, and a pleasant goodbye.
    I walk away from the credit union, get in the Miata, and scream,
at the top of my voice:  "WOW!!!!"  I drive home, grateful that I am,
in the last analysis, a friend and colleague of my buddy, the New Kid
On The Block, my Baptist ship in the heathen storm, my
spiritual anchor in the profane surf, my.....
    I get home and report this incident to the tc\sw, who is not
particularly interested in anything except whether we get to keep the
card, and who doesn't quite understand that this <recent unpleasantness> 
is due to her handling of the bank account.
I do *not* press the point, leaving well enough alone.
    I go in my home office and look at my credit card, lovingly and
admiringly.  Planting a big kiss on the VISA sign, I say:  "You're
mine and I love you."