Car loan, or why we hate bankers

I bought a Ford Fiesta from Robins Ford in Costa Mesa on Friday, July 30. It’s a great car. The price was good. The salesman was helpful and intelligent and didn’t do car salesman B.S.

I had a preapproved loan from my credit union for 6.1%.

The finance guy worked me a bit for upselling on warranties and insurance products, but wasn’t very pushy. He then wanted to get the loan business. He told me he could get me 6% or better. He was going to work on this over the weekend.

On Saturday he called me and said “I got you 6%.”

A couple of weeks passed. I got a number of loan rejection letters in the mail from various banks. I got no approvals. I called him and asked if there was something I needed to sign additionally, and he said no, they would mail me.

A couple more weeks passed. I called him asking what loan I had, and when I should get the mail. I got voicemail and the call was not returned. Repeat twice.

I called Ford Motor Credit. They had no loan for my car or anything in my name.

I received mail from Chase Bank announcing that my loan had been approved and they’d given me a lower rate because I qualified for same. My rate: 8.39%.

I called Robins Ford and was told that my credit guy no longer worked there. I talked to a new guy. He was polite and professional. He said “look at your contract; whatever is on there is your rate.” He agreed that the whole thing was upsetting. He also said that it was possible to get the credit union to loan me at a lower rate and pay off this worse loan immediately, which was a good thought.

My contract (here’s the part that’s my fault) said 10%. Credit manager guy had literally waved his hand over this as if it was a formality, or some kind of placeholder. Burned.

I applied to the credit union for a loan to repay this one; it was declined due to excessive debt. Doh.

Meanwhile, it was time for me to make my first payment. I already had a Chase account paid by bank transfer, so I set this up for the auto loan also. The system rejected my information at first. I assumed I had made a typo, and tried again. Another failure. Looking carefully at my bank’s site, I saw that they now had a separate transfer number for electronic payments of this kind. I re-entered my bank info and now it was accepted. I paid the current bill and set up automated payments.

On the 22nd of September I got a late payment phone call from Chase. Looking at my account online, I saw that it said the following: next payment due date: 9/13. last payment made: 9/13. Account late. Amount due: my monthly plus a processing charge and a returned check charge.

I called Chase and a comedy ensued. The rep was very pleasant and professional. Together, we took a journey through madness and finance. It was clear that I had paid on the 13th, that the transaction was bollixed, and that a week later the computer decided that the transaction had not gone through and they were considering it a bad check. There was no late fee yet. I mentioned twice that this was during the time when Chase had an exceptionally bad I.T. disaster involving their loan systems, but he was silent about this.

I made my one-time payment with the rep on the phone, and he said he would get the bounced check charge remove.

Today, I looked at my Chase account. The account was now listed as overdue with a late charge. The last payment still said the 13th. And my new payment was listed as “in process.”

The bankers have mentioned recently that their feeling are hurt, that they feel bruises, that they are being unfairly vilified by the media and public servants. Why do we attack their large salaries? Why do we resent their guaranteed bonuses? Why are we insisting that the regulators regulate instead of sipping the bankers’ Scotch? Why do we fly into tantrums when their bold, risk-taking, disruptive innovations in finance blow up and kick shrapnel in our faces?


But it’s a snappy little car.

mortgage bro’s (slight return)

Finally pushed over the limit by this asshole (youtube video):

The talk radio mouths and the right-wing press have locked on to their version of the financial crash, and why foreclosed homeowners should not receive help.

The problem, they say, is that “political pressure” forced lenders to make bad loans to those who didn’t deserve them qualify. Many of these people were clearly n… ni… ne… NE’ER-DO-WELLS. Everyone knows those people can’t keep a mortage. If the government had let these experienced bankers use their own judgment, none of this would have happened. So we definitely don’t want to spend money—OUR money—helping these people out any more!

The subprime and alt-A mortgages were largely written by people I saw daily over the last decade, our famous local “Mortgage Bros.” These guys bought leads from cold-call telemarketers and sold refinancing to anything with a pulse, lying constantly about the risks. They upsold every potential loan, pushed the limit with interest-only ARM on subprime and alt-A garbage loans. They had no reason to care if the bank ever got the money or if their customers kept their houses. They used the system as it was presented.

The idea that these were stolid, cautious men in pinstriped suits, sworn to the fiduciary duties of their banks, who were somehow forced by dashiki’d oppressors in the Federal bureaucracy into giving money away to the NE’ER-DO-WELLS would be funny were it not such a repulsive lie.

Make no mistake. The financial industry made loans that could not be paid, knowing they were bad loans. They pushed those loans hard on their customers. And they knowingly mislead their customers into taking on impossible obligations. Thousands of these brokers committed criminal fraud.

If this was an attempt to redistribute wealth to the NE’ER-DO-WELLS, it backfired. The result was a lot of Harleys and speedboats and cocaine and blowjobs provided to the grinning, empty-souled asshole Fonzies of Orange County. If you don’t want their customers to be saved from eviction, let’s use the money to build them a very unpleasant jail.

Grim Meathook Present

I’ve been to the pharmacy twice in the last two days, once to leave off a prescription and once to pick one up. Both days the line has been at least 15 people long to pick up and about half that to drop off. This is maybe 3 times as long as usual.

The employees said “sorry, our hours are cut.” When I came in today I turned around and walked out because I didn’t have an hour free to wait. Fortunately I didn’t need the prescription right away.

If upper middle class people with good benefits in a resort town in Southern California are now waiting an hour to get their prescriptions, because the drugstore chain has cut hours way down, what’s it like right now in Wal-Mart land? My guess: not so great.

I’ve also noticed discounters like Target carrying less inventory and less variety. If I don’t get to Target before noon on a Saturday the chance of finding the lightbulb I need is halved.

Something went down at the bank in the same shopping center the other day and they have an armed security guard now. That’s new.

It’s not the end of the world, especially here. But if I can notice the quality of everyday life slipping here? It must be getting really special in poorer bits.

Gatsby 2.0

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

“The margin calls hit some chief executives who had borrowed to buy company stock. These included Chesapeake Energy Corp. Chief Executive Aubrey K. McClendon, who was forced to sell nearly his entire stake in the company, which he had accumulated in recent years, including a $43 million purchase in July. “These involuntary and unexpected sales were precipitated by the extraordinary circumstances of the world-wide financial crisis,” Mr. McClendon said in a statement. “In no way do these sales reflect my view of the company’s financial position or my view of Chesapeake’s future performance potential.””

Annals of Employment: PC Load Letter 2.0

Today I had to submit a financial form to the office. I work remotely, so I couldn’t just fill it out and drop it by the finance person’s office. The question was: how to get it there?

The form was an Acrobat PDF. Nowadays, many of these can be filled out as forms onscreen and then printed or emailed or faxed, making them easy to fill out and easy to read. Not this one. So the problem was: how to get it to the office without driving 50 miles in heavy traffic?

As I realized what was necessary, a tear rolled down my cheek.

I printed out the document and filled out both pages in black pen. Then I took them to the scanner/printer device at the other computer. I scanned each one in, which had to be done separately. The first go scanning them in greyscale produced an illegible grey smudge like a 1980s drugstore copy machine. I redid it at 48-bit RGB color and the greyscale document came out right. What the…?

Now I had two scanned-in .PDF documents, each one half of the previous .PDF document. I used Adobe Acrobat Pro to combine these into one document so that I could send it as one fax.

Now it was time to fax. This involved connecting to the other computer and using its modem as a fax printer. It should be simple, but it rarely works the first time. It’s never clear how to find the modem/fax/printer in the first place. Decisions about long-distance prefixes and area codes have to made by trial and error. Feedback from the computer sending the fax is almost nonexistent. To make the whole thing perfect, I was doing all of this over a wireless network.

Because of these things, the promise of faxing over the network with ease is a cruel lie. I walked back and forth at a ratio of five times per page trying to see the status of my fax, hear the fax modem dialing, figure out if it had been sent, etc. The first go was a failure because I’d been given the wrong fax number. The second try vanished ambiguously from my computer, but showed as “sent, okay” on the machine actually attached to the fax modem.

I decided that it had been sent, and fired off an email to the recipient, because of course anything can and will go wrong with the fax on the other end: paper jam, paper loss, toner failure, and inexplicable failure to receive a document or notify anyone that a problem has occurred.

Finally I sat down with relief to do some actual work. This was not to be. From the other room, I could hear an insistent beeping. Perhaps the fax modem hadn’t hung up? Sometimes they decide to stay on the line and one has to manually kill the connection.

I went into the other room to find the fax modem trying manfully to send the first fax, the one with the wrong number. I called up the dialog window to see fax jobs and deleted it. I went back to my desk. Three minutes later the beeping started. I marched into the other room and once again deleted the job. This time I stayed and watched. The same thing happened three more times.

Looking at other system preferences in desperation, I had to unlock one with my administrator password. A light suddenly shone upon me, and I saw the problem. Administrator privileges were required to remove a fax job. Sure enough, after I’d proved I was entitled, the fax job stayed removed. The system never told me that I wasn’t permitted to kill the bad fax without admin privileges: it just cheerfully removed and reinstated the bad fax job, forever.

Now I’m back at my desk, waiting for the email saying the fax was never received.

If anyone has extra peacock plume pens and pots of India ink, I’d be grateful for a loan. I have parchment and papyrus already.

Why yes, yes it is.

I heard a carnival barker-style bellowing ad on the car radio yesterday while listening to the all-news AM station. It was the usual mortgage broker appeal to refinance, this time with the added warning that rates were going up. The ad concluded:

“It’s the biggest no-brainer in the history of Mankind!

Your tax dollars at work! Or mostly at play!

There were a few news items about the mortgage catastrophe today. Instead of saying “hey everyone the so-called subprime market was usury and fraud and soon it will all collapse and we will pay and pay and pay,” they said that there was “increasing concern” about the “dip” in the “subprime market” and that foreclosures were occurring. Also, big time Democratic Senator Dodd was intoning that we must save the American homeowner and punish “predatory lending” since he had just discovered the other day that the mortgage business was being run by actual burglar-type criminals.

I assume that this will result in a huge S&L style bailout eventually. The homeowners will be “saved” by a “public/private partnership solution” in which taxpayers foot the bill for yet more mortgage bros to refi everything. Five or six egregious offenders will be convicted of fraud because of “predatory lending,” and everyone else will refi their rap sheet and continue.

Get out your checkbooks everyone. You’re about to pay out for the last fifteen years of appletinis, Humvees, shiny shirts, big watches, square-toed Italian shoes, blowjobs, cocaine, Harleys, Las Vegas, more cocaine, Mexican resorts, Dave Matthews Band tickets, still more cocaine, and one more appletini for the road.

I could have told them all this years ago

There is a Yahoo! Discussion Group solely devoted to pissed-off investors in Diedrich Coffee:

The Register ran an article about it today.

I like the fact that the pissed-off investor’s pissed-off introduction refers to Gloria Jean’s as their “best business.” Actually I remember their “best business” and it was kinda different from that. Kiss your cash goodbye, guys. Maybe Starbucks will give you a nickel on your dollar.

Annals of Finance: Those Loan Checks in the Mail

You may have seen these things, I get a couple a month. A check arrives in the mail. Sometimes it’s an actual negotiable check, or if not it’s a binding voucher of some kind. It’s for a large sum of money, made out to me. If I cash it, it turns into an unsecured loan. I’ve always been curious why everyone wants to loan me $5000-$8000 without security.

I always shred these, since I don’t need any more debt. But I can imagine getting one of these and saying “Okay, I sure do need five grand right now” and cashing/redeeming the thing.

I looked at the latest one more carefully. The “check” is bilingual; they sent it to me Spanish side out. It’s for $6,000.95 (love the 95 cents). I can redeem it at any HSBC office. I have then taken out a loan for this amount at 29.980% APR. Because we still have some vestiges of government they have to tell me this in bold type, and also tell me my payments, how many payments there will be, and the total finance charges. This is a five year loan with monthly payments of $194.08 and:

The total finance charges are $5,643.85.

So that’s why they’re happy to loan that much.