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April 08, 2014

From Now On, I'm Paying for Everything with Snow Tires.

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by Ron Daly

I was browsing through creditunions.com when I came across this story about a young man (or woman?) who is using GameStop as his bank. He buys video games in advance of their release with his paycheck, sells back the hold credit when he needs cash, and keeps the cycle going. GameStop holds his money, gives a little back, and affords him all the benefits of membership, including "exclusive content". 

I'm not a video gamer, so all the "pre-order" and "exclusive content" talk doesn't mean much to me. But I get what he's going for, and I love it! Gee, why didn't I consider that before now? I'm getting in on the action. I want to buy a few things on order and just hang on to them until I need their cash equivalent. Let's see, what's something I wouldn't mind having around the house or garage?

I got it! Snow tires!

It's the perfect scheme. I'm going to buy a few dozen sets of snow tires, pile them up in the garage, and return them to the manufacturer in mint condition when I'm short on cash! Who doesn't want a set of snow tires? They're so useful...when it's snowing, that is. And when it's not snowing, just put plants and stuff in them, I guess.

See? Why would anyone want to do business with a dumb old credit union or bank when we could just buy expensive things to establish an "account" with a store and then return them when we need...you know, real money.

Holy smokes...I think I just figured out how to make this thing even more simple. I'm just going to pay for things in snow tires! Naturally, everyone will accept snow tires. They'll have to invent new ATMs that dispense snow tires! The value depreciates a bit in the summer, but come the first blizzard this winter I'll be a rich man!

...Oh, wait, never mind. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

We invented money because bartering is too hard. We invented deposit accounts so that your flimsy money had a place to stay safe, outside your home and not on your person. We invented deposit insurance to hedge our bets and to ensure that people's money would be safe. We invented ATMs so you could get the money quickly and debit so you didn't have to use cash and chip-and-PIN so you didn't have to worry about swiping away your identity. We keep improving this system by adding both security and convenience. Sure, you can quibble about inflation and bitcoin and Tetris and Mario, but we've got a good thing going here. Why would anyone opt-out?

The article I mentioned above outlines a few reasons why this misguided gamer might take a different approach to his finances.

This consumer expects branches to stay open later, he wants shorter lines, and he wants low to nonexistant fees. Many credit unions meet these demands, it's just a matter of informing the public. Financial education and community outreach are pillars of the credit union way, this poster is a prime example of a disenfranchised member who needs to be shown the light. With alternatives abound, awareness of the credit union and its connection to community is all the more important.

How strange that, in a world where you can search for anything with a few taps on a smart phone, this guy still couldn't find a credit union or bank that suited all his needs. Is it a failure of branding, of advertising, or of the system at large? Is distrust in and distaste with banks so prevalent that people will trust their hard-earned money to their favorite brands for safekeeping?

Until this guy gets a "no more sell-backs" notice, I'm guessing he'll keep at it. But good luck paying for an emergency car repair or an expensive bill with a bunch of X-Box games.

And I don't think I'm going to switch all my money over snow tires after all. I like my money like I like my history museums: government funded, easily accessible and full of pictures of bygone presidents.

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