On Sept. 8, 2009, a Red Bluff, Calif., woman named Ann Minch started a one-woman revolt. She posted a video on YouTube of herself explaining that she would refuse to pay her Bank of America credit card balance until her newly raised 30 percent interest rate was slashed. She called her refusal the beginnings of a “debtors’ revolt.”
“You are evil, thieving bastards,” Minch said to some unnamed bankers in the video. “Every last one of you should be rotting in prison.” (See video below).
The video of the 46-year-old stepmother soon caught fire. The Consumerist, Huffington Post and MSN Money all linked to the video, which pushed it to reach more than 390,000 views as of Wednesday. The publicity sparked media requests from NBC, CBS and Fox News, and prompted responses from hundreds of YouTube users, too.
The publicity got Bank of America’s attention, and a representative agreed to take her interest rate back to the original 12.99 percent. However, after the conversation, she saw that her rate was only reduced to 23.74 percent, which Minch claims is still unacceptable. But that didn’t stop her from posting another video about her YouTube-inspired triumph, in which she tells people to keep hope alive.
“Just because my personal account situation has apparently been resolved, which is a small victory for this debtors’ revolt movement, we still have a war to fight,” she said.
Whether that war will actually be waged is unlikely. In a world where the Intertubes can make you someone and no one in one day’s news cycle, it’s likely Minch’s revolt will end without a bang. Banks will continue to raise rates, slash credit limits and close accounts, and people will live with it.
And that seems to be the attitude most people have on YouTube: You got yourself into this debt — so deal with it. One user asked why Minch racked up almost $6,000 in debt in the first place and then made only minimum payments to the account. Another pointed out that Minch admitted to not having a job and not owning any real assets or equity, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when her rate jumped. Yet another user asked sarcastically if it is “morally wrong” to borrow money and not repay it.
Supporters of the revolt don’t have many answers, but they do have one unifying complaint: It’s just not fair. One video response, which I won’t link to due to graphic language, said he moved his account from BoA to a smaller bank, which was one of Minch’s suggestions, in hopes of sticking it to the man. Another user had a simpler solution: Pray with me that Jesus will fix all this. One video even suggested dressing up in robes, grabbing some garlic and crosses and killing the “vampire bankers.”
There are, of course, more legitimate avenues of reform. One, the most sweeping federal credit card reform law ever, was signed into law by President Obama in May 2009. The Federal Reserve proposed rules Tuesday that guide bankers in implementing it. The law, when it goes into effect in full next February, generally prohibits interest rate increases during the first year of an account being open. The legislation also will stop companies from increasing the interest rate on existing credit card balances, with some exceptions.
But maybe it’s not just interest rate jacks and credit reductions that got people in an uproar. Maybe people are just fed up with Big Brother telling them what they can or can’t have. To this extent I agree with the debtors’ revolt. After billions of dollars of our money was given to the banks, it is frustrating to see them turn around and punish us. But refusing to pay what you borrowed is childish and will only hurt your credit score. That in turn can damage your chances of getting a loan or even a job.
And I doubt in today’s economy, anyone can justify that.
Here’s Minch’s original “Debtors Revolt” video (Warning rough language, including one four-letter word):
See related: 11 tips for dealing with debt collectors, 8 things you must know about credit card debt, Confessions of a lousy debt collector