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Pat Bagley cartoon piratically skewers the credit carrrrd industry

Daniel Ray

Somewhere along the line, the image of the credit card industry changed from friendly enabler of fun and granter of freedom to pillaging raiders of the open wallet. If this were “It’s a Wonderful Life,” it would be like watching warm-hearted George Bailey devolve into the money-grubbing Mr. Potter.

Award-winning editorial cartoonist Pat Bagley of the Salt Lake Tribune made that point visually today with his cartoon.

bagley_8-4_10r-529x379It notes both the avaricious reputation of the industry, and the limits to the added layer of consumer protection from the Credit CARD Act of 2009 and the recent Wall Street reform law.

Bagley, winner of the 2009 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning, was kind enough to reply to my e-mail asking what his inspiration was for the cartoon. I gave him my Mr. Potter analogy.

I think I touched a nerve. He wrote:
I’ve never been a fan of current banking practices designed to squeeze every nickel from small clients, especially when I remember that not-so-long-ago many banks were customer oriented. But the proximate cause for Wednesday’s cartoon was an article from The Wall Street Journal about banks’ attempt to get around the proposed consumer protection agency.

Mr. Potter was the widespread image most people used to have of bankers. It was a profession right down there with dog catcher and used car salesmen. It is only recently that they were held up as some kind of rocket-scientist, money-making whiz kids with super-duper algorithms too complex to explain to the hoi polloi.

Yes, outrageous charges for piddly overdrafts. I noticed they began years ago at $8 or so and are now around $59. Bank managers used to void the charge if he or she knew you as a regular customer. No longer.

Other complaints — I hardly know where to begin because I don’t know what they did. For instance, trying to pay off a credit card bill only to later find a finance handling charge that led to a late fee.

I’m pretty sure there are these eager business grads from Northwestern deep in the bowels of every bank whose only function is to invent some new way to separate people from a few more pennies. The winners get promotions and big bonuses. The rest of us get screwed.

Probably more than you wanted, but I’m old enough (54) to remember when banks were still marginally concerned with their customers. No longer.
George Bailey, where are you?

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  • Well supposedly the introduction of a new “customer centric” bank on the high street in the UK (Metro) is supposed to solve all these problems!
    Their selling point is superior customer service vs. rates (they are actually a lot worse with regards to savings rates than the existing incumbent banks, which seems a bit backwards as most companies rely on special rates for new customers to make some headway) so maybe they are what we are looking for.
    I think though that perhaps AMEX has (had it right? they’ve introduced credit cards recently too I know) it right vs. the other companies. You get the convenience of plastic, but its like a debit account … you need to pay it off every month and you’re not supposed to carry a balance (unless you want to pay some ridiculous fees). The service level provided by them was also extremely solid and useful which is exactly what you want.