For a few years now, I have rented a small shack down by a harbor not far from New York City. I keep stuff there. It's a relic of a time past when I was sort of crashing on my own. At the end of the driveway there's one of those collections of mailboxes you see by the marinas of the world, a bunch of tin containers with the little metal flags the mailman puts up when he's left something inside.
For a long time now, though, my life has taken me in other directions, and I don't spend a lot of time in my little one-room studio/shack by the water. Two years ago, I informed all of the vendors and merchants and friends and others who might send me snail mail that I had a new, primary address.
There was no way I could get to everybody though. So when I do get out there every few weeks, or months, actually, I find my mailbox stuffed with junk. There's the occasional item of actual interest, but 99% of the contents are from entities that are soliciting me in one form or another. Catalogs. Missives from Chrysler, from whom I purchased a vehicle three years ago and who wants me to be its love slave. Continual pleadings from organizations that want to save one thing or another. And solicitations from Chase. And solicitations from Chase. And solicitations from Chase. And...
JP Morgan Chase (JPM) is a banking institution, as you know. I used to have an account there, but for one reason or another I moved on to another institution. It's no better or worse. It's just nearer to my office by about eight yards. So I go there.
Selling people credit cards must be one of Chase's high-margin businesses, because once they get your address they never let go. At the beginning, perhaps 1500 mailings ago, I found it kind of amusing. I'd go to the mailbox and there would be my catalog from Frontgate, and my multiple entreaties from the World Wildlife Federation, and about eight envelopes from Chase. Zero percent financing! Important financial information enclosed! Some had return addresses announcing who the junk mail had come from. Others were more clever and showed no leg on the outside. I would rip them up and toss them. I don't need any more credit cards. Isn't it the rampant, indiscriminate granting of credit that's gotten the financial institutions of the world into so much trouble, anyhow? After all this time, wasn't it clear that I had no interest in their stupid credit cards?
And still they came, like water bugs through a rotten floorboard, again and again, promising all the good things life has to offer with a big 0% on just about every one. And I would rip them up. And still they came.
Which of us understands the inner workings of our own soul? I know that I, like Hamlet, have always but incompletely known myself. So I'm at a loss to explain to you why the constant influx of mailings from Chase works on me the way it does. The truth is, at this point in time, what feels like thousands and thousands of wasted intrusions later, they really and truly enrage me. I have gone from bemusement to annoyance and then way, way past that. I see red. I fling them across the room. I curse the organization that cannot comprehend that five years of silence means that if I am interested in getting a credit card from Chase, or opening and account at Chase, or taking out a loan from Chase, that I will friggin' GO TO A CHASE BANK!
I guess the final straw for me was this past week. I am moving out of that little shack because I want my stuff closer by than it is now, and I have very little use for a getaway to which I cannot get away. I am also moving to get away from Chase. So far they haven't found my new address. I am hoping that continues.
Perhaps the last mailing I will receive, if God is in heaven and smiling upon me, is the one I just dealt with. It was one of those bogus checks that shady merchants send to entice you into a paying relationship with them. It was made out to me at my old address, dated November 20, 2007, in the amount of $9.25. That's nine dollars and twenty-five cents. After all the years we've spent together? That's all?
At any rate, I'm not too proud to cash a check for $9.25, particularly one I receive from an old business acquaintance for doing nothing. Curious, I turned the check over and read the message on the back. It said:
"By cashing this check, I agree to a Trial Offer in Hot-Line and understand that the $59.99 semi-annual fee will automatically be charged to my Chase credit card account unless I cancel my membership by calling 1-877-658-8950 before the end of the Trial Offer period. I understand that I will also be charged every six months at the then-current fee and must cancel to avoid future fees and receive any applicable refund."
A negative option. Have you ever tried to cancel anything with a large institution? It's like trying to quit the CIA. That's beside the point. A check for $9.25 to entice you to enlist in a service that costs $120 a year. I don't know about you, but I don't pay yearly fees for my credit cards. So the generous offer of nine bucks now sits torn to shreds in my wastepaper basket. It felt good to tear it up. The pleasure was momentary, though. Because down in the depths of my heart, wherever that may be, I know one thing for certain. No matter where I live... no matter what I do...
They'll be back.