Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Charging for… Not Charging?

The recent move by Bank of America and others to charge people for using their debit cards provides a porthole into the mind of the corporate person. The corporate person is not a real person that works for a corporation, it is the legal entity that the corporation itself has become – especially in light of recent supreme court rulings.

A corporation is, of course, not really a person and should not be legally treated as such. A corporation much more resembles an ant colony – it’s mindless automatons performing whatever task is needed to satisfy the never-ending hunger of the nest.

Corporations are armies raised to seek profit. There are many ways to make a profit, and to increase your profits. The “free market” fantasy professed by so many politicians (and their corporate owners) promotes the good, old-fashioned way – by making something better than your competitors or somehow offering more value to your customers so that consumers buy more of your products/services.

Another way to make more profit is simply to charge more for the product or service that you already offer. Banks know that it’s a pain for customers to change to another bank, and if gradually ALL the banks charge for the things that used to be free, there won’t be any incentive to change anyway.

To a corporation, an incomplete opportunity to make a profit is seen as a cost. Let me say that again, because it’s an important insight into the inherently disfunctional corporate mindset: If there is some way that money COULD be made, but it is not being fully exploited, that it seen as a LOSS.

Through the lens of this contorted thinking, bankers at BofA and other banks realized that they make lots of money when customers use credit cards, but not debit cards. Hmmmm… How to fix this? It’s simple: charge your customers for using their own money.

How do banks and other corporations get away with changing the basic terms of a debit card or other contract? When you enter into an agreement with a corporation, say for a bank account or something like cell-phone service, the contract explicitly states: “This agreement is subject to change.” What???? Well I certainly don’t have the power to change it. Only they can change it and, guess what? It’s never once been to my benefit.

I’m writing my bank now, in type size 2 (here’s an example), and informing them that they are now paying me 99% interest on my deposits – weekly. I’m sure it will work.

-Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com


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5 thoughts on “Charging for… Not Charging?

  1. I love the idea of writing to the bank and using the contract language to your advantage. Of course one person writing in will just give someone there a chuckle; but I wonder how they’d react if thousands of customers wrote in demanding the same thing…Do you think they’d get nervous?

  2. Great article, Tom. My wife and I are checking out joining a credit union. Any thoughts?

    Alon Shalev

  3. Thanks for the replies. It appears that my attempt at typesize tomfoolery failed. Damn computers. Whatever happened to WYSIWYG? Tanya, I love your idea. How do we get that idea out to the “occupy wall street” protesters? They’d eat it up.

    Alon, I belong to a couple of credit unions but they are both SoCal based. I think that’s the only way to go, though. I also have a “normal” (ripoff) bank (it must sound like I have lots of money but I keep about $16.24 in each account). I keep wanting to transfer my $16.24 to a better bank, but I can’t figure out if any of them are really any better. My bank just decided one day to drop my interest rate on my savings account to something like 0.05% – REALLY. That’s what they do.

    We really need Elizabeth Warren to be active in our government. She wanted to make rules that all this stuff would be up front and transparent so that consumers could make informed choices. A few people are now saying, “Elizabeth Warren for president.” I’d vote for her!

  4. Good article Tom!

    I’m thinking about going to the Occupy Walnut Creek protest tomorrow at 4pm. Haven’t decided yet but feel compelled to walk the talk.

    • Thanks Roger. I feel the same way. I’m going to stop by the SF crowd tonight. Maybe I’ll do some campaigning for Kucinich, 2012.

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