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Pearlstein: Bank Customer Service

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Steven Pearlstein
Washington Post Columnist
Wednesday, May 13, 2009; 11:00 AM

Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein was online to discuss how banks treat their customers versus the way they want to be treated themselves on Wednesday, May 13 at 11 a.m. ET.

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Read today's column: Community Banks Cry Foul, but What's Fair?.

Pearlstein won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 and is co-moderater of the On Leadership discussion site.

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Arlington, Va.: Hello Steve, thanks for the interesting column on risk-pooling. Nice to see the how the system works against the littler guys, even on a higher level. Now I don't feel like I'm the only one getting nailed!

On another note about bank customer service, I've continually received a very poor attitude from one bank employee at a branch that I visit at least 2-3 times/week. I own a small business and go to this bank frequently for change and deposits. This employee constantly rolls his eyes when I walk in, or gives me a little attitude when he speaks to me, and once he actually stopped helping me and asked someone else to finish up for him. I never talk to him, I never give him a hard time or ask him to make difficult transactions, so I don't know where his attitude comes from. I also have seen him with other regular customers and he seems nice. At one point I was thinking of talking to the manager about his bad attitude, but decided against it. At any rate, you would think in this economy and banking the way it's going, they would be happy or at least polite enough to help me. I have accounts at 3 other banks but this bank is around the corner from my business, which makes it very convenient. How should I handle this situation? I know it's not such a big deal, but his customer service toward me is so poor it's very aggravating to go to the bank now, and now I don't even make small talk with the other employees like I used to.

Steven Pearlstein: Its an interesting dilemma. One reason bank service is so spotty is because many customers are like you -- the key factor in their decision of where to bank has to do with location. Banks know that, which is why they spend a lot of money on expensive offices at key locations, and not enough money on customer service. My advice to you is get a bit more exercise and find a close but not closest bank that offers you service. And I'd be very explicit about it: go into two or three local bank branches, ask to talk tot he manager, tell them that you are considering moving all your business to one bank and ask them what they want to say and do for you. I think you'd be surprised at the responses.

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Herndon, Va.: Are there any rules that say how long a customer must be given to pay a credit card bill? I have had several months recently where if I wait a week and pay several bills at once I notice that I only have a few days left to pay my credit card bill. I always thought that if they process the payment before sending the next bill that I am fine, but it looks like I only have two weeks to pay without being forced to pay a fine.

Steven Pearlstein: In the old days paying bills, and billing, was a once amonth process. I can remember when I used to wait until the last weekend of every month to sit down and write all my checks for the month. And it worked just fine.

Today, as you note, there is often only a two week window to pay bill and I'm sure credit card companies are the biggest sticklers on this because even moving the average payment up one day is probably worth millions of dollars to them in terms of the float and the time value of money. My advice is simply to pay the bill when it comes in. Once you get on that cycle, its a one time adjustment for you but after that, it will be 30 days between payments and you won't have to worrying about when the check will be posted. My other advice, of course, is to pay credit card bills in full and don't borrow from credit card companies. If possible, open up a line of crtedit on your house for those times when you're short of cash.

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New York, N.Y.: Steve,

I think your comparison of bank risk premiums to auto insurance is faulty. Insurance companies price policies based upon the probablity of accidents occuring in given populations. However (with the the exception of fraud), people don't try to get into accidents. Unfortunately, accidents happen, but people don't try to have accidents for their own self gain. On the other hand, Citi, Merrill, Bear, etc. engaged in reckless behavior for their own benefit---large bonuses. They didn't take into account the massive losses that could follow.

In this respect, the small community banks are subsidizing the reckless behavior and bonuses of Wall Street.

As an aside, I found your recent column criticizing the hedge funds that wouldn't agree to the Chrysler bailout a bit unusual (and angry). I'm no fan of hedge funds, but if someone buys Chrysler debt, don't they have the reasonable expectation that the usual and ordinary rules of law and bankruptcy will apply? You seemed to be much angrier at the hedge funds than the Wall Street companies who caused this mess with their perverse bonus and incentive schemes.

Steven Pearlstein: First, I'm not angry at hedge funds at all. My only point was that they are entitled to what they are entitled to, and no more. And what they are entitled to is what they would have gotten as secured lenders int he event of a liquidation, which is exactly what would have happened if the government had not decided that, as a matter of public policy, it was going to try to save the company. We can argue about what the secured creditors would have gotten at liquidation, but the 35 cents on the dollar that they are offered is certainly within the target. And I wrote very clearly that the bankruptcy judge should satisfy himself, based on expert and independent testimony, that that was the case. If so, then the hedgies would have got what they were entitled to.

What they are NOT entitled to is any of the benefits of the government rescue, even if those benefits go to unsecured creditors who happen to be farther down the line in terms of the credit structure. If the government decides it wants to save the company abnd help those people -- i.s. the workers and pensioners -- then that is the government's business. But for the hedge funds to be whining about the "fairness" is beside the point. Its also not fair that hedge fund managers get to earn millions of dollars a year but the people whose money they manage earn an average of $45,000. Life is sometimes unfair. Get over it.

As to your suggestion that the people who run Citigroup actually wanted to run the company into a ditch, that's silly. They lost more than anyone from their misdeeds. They didn't lose everything, of course, because they had paid themselves handsomely during the fat years. But most lost their jobs, their reputations and lots and lots of paper wealth. I think the insurance analogy remains a pretty good one.

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Woodbridge, Va.: Do you believe, as I do, that years from now, what we are currently doing (bailing out banks, AIG, etc.) will come back to bite us but good?

We are doing what is prudent AT THIS TIME. 5 or more years from now, who knows?

Steven Pearlstein: There is moral hazard -- the signal to people in the future that if they take undue risk, the institution will be bailed out. But remember, its the creditors in most cases that are being bailed out -- not the shareholders, not the executives who were in charge at the time. I don't think anyone is going to look at the experience of AIG executives or Citigroup executives or Countrywide executives and say, in the future, "Gee, that's the model I want to follow for getting rich."

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Princeton, N.J.: As usual, you're right on concerning the strategy of the problem, but you didn't say much about the tactics--how banks provide poor service. In my case, my bank unilaterally lowered the valuation of my home by about 50 percent and then reduced the credit limit on my home equity loan to my balance.

O.K., but what I want to point out is how they treated me when I tried to discuss this. They refused to give me any information as to how they arrived at this valuation change. They said that if I wanted a real appraisal, I would have to pay them an outrageous fee and use their appraiser whom they would not identify. It would appear that using an appraiser whose business comes through the bank is a clear conflict of interest. Also the bankers at my local branch who arranged the loan in the first place had no knowledge of this and no ability to discuss it. They only people I could contact were young PR types who could only recite what I already knew.

This is extremely short sighted as I have been a good customer of this bank for a long time, but as soon as the situation allows, I will transfer my business to another bank.

Steven Pearlstein: What happened is that they simply looked at your zip code, calculated what the changes in the average home valuation was, probably doubled it, and reduced your line of credit to that amount. It may be your bank. Or it may be someone else who really holds the note, which is why your branch bank is helpless in dealing with it. Welcome to the wonderful world of securitization.

There's really not fighting this. And at this moment, you will find it hard to get a competing home equity loan to take out the one you have, particularly if you want it at the previous level. If you want to fight hard, you can stop payments and have your lawyer send them a letter indicating that they are in violation of your agreement and that you are putting the payments in escrow until somebody with authority contacts you to work things out in a businesslike manner. Or you can simply grin, bear it and as soon as you can refinance, go to a different lender. Once you do, make sure you send a letter to the president of the bank indicating that why you left, why you won't be doing business with them and what steps you will take to let all of your neighbors know that they would do better to do business with someone else. In the meantime, you might consider putting up a lawn signs with the name of the bank on it and one of those big circles with a line through it over it. I bet you get a call within a week.

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Seattle, Wash.: Thank you for your thoughtful, informative, extremely helpful columns and chats. My question is a little off-topic. A few months ago, you opined that we probably won't see a sustainable stock rally this year, as the economy is unlikely to turn around before 2011. Therefore, I (along with many I know who read you religiously) am staying out of stocks for now. If anything changes between now and 2011 (if you reassess and conclude that it's advisable to start getting back into stocks), will you mention this in your column? Thanks very much.

Steven Pearlstein: Yes. Obviously, I'm watching this rally carefully. You've seen a lot of commentary about whether its real or whether its a sucker/bear market rally. Nobody knows in truth. My own guess is that what we saw between 6500 on the Dow and 7500 was a necessary correction from an over-reaction and panic on the downside. Given the level of profitability and the state of the economy, a Dow somewhere between 7500 and 8500 probably makes sense, and I suspect it will stay in that range for quite a while, with occasional forays outside that range, until there is genuine turnaround in corporate profits. That may come as early as next year, so keep an eye out.

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Washington, D.C.: I recently had a incident with Citibank. I had withdrawn all my money in November, but had not closed the accounts so the fees started moving the accounts negative, so when i came in to close them out, the bank admitted they had no idea what their own charges were for marked "miscellaneous" but you guessed it, SP, they charged me anyway.

Steven Pearlstein: You can tell them to pound sand, but they will put it on your credit report if you don't pay the fees. You should report them to your local better business bureau, and send a copy of your BBB letter to the branch manager. He'll probably take care of it.

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Bowie, Md. The difference between the insurance and credit card industries, in that the former makes a profit on its low-risk customers. The latter also treats customers as part of a risk pool, with the ones that get into trouble making up for all the (credit card company's) losses on the people who pay on time.

Elizabeth Warren, who now review TARP, wrote in her book The Two Income Trap, that a major credit card company invited her to speak to their board about how to reduce losses from bankruptcy. She told them it wasn't difficult to identify a bankruptcy candidate, so don't lend them any more money. Their chairman said: those people are our most profitable customers. We make our income on the ones in trouble. We just wanted to know how to prevent loses when they actually declare bankruptcy.

Credit card companies, in contrast to insurance which helps ameliorate life's bumps, make their money EXPLOITING people who get into trouble.

Steven Pearlstein: That is, indeed, a big difference between insurance and credit card companies, although perhaps not as big as you think. Insurance companies make a tidy from from their high risk pools, as well. To the extent that insurance companies can charge much bigger premiums to higher risks, they do the same thing as the credit card companies.

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New Jersey: My Big Bank actually paid money to have a metal shelf with a pen chained to it taken OUT near the ATM slot. I am left to make out the deposit envelope information on my knee.

I truly hate my bank, except for one thing: they have LOTS of convenient ATM locations. I want to switch to my small credit union, but can't figure out a way to negate that advantage.

Steven Pearlstein: I really think this is the moment for people to consider moving back to community banks and credit unions and sending the big boys a strong message. Talk to your credit union, tell them your problem and see what they say. Who know -- they may have a program that allows you to use anyone else's ATM's for free if you maintain a certain balance. Or think about how many times you use an ATM a year, caluculate the cost of the fees for using other ATMS, and see if that cost is more than offset by other savings you might gain (in money, hassle, etc) by switching your business to the credit union. It may be less than you think.

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Chicago, Ill.: I can see the Fed making a case for not having allowed some very large banks to fail. I don't necessarily agree but I can see the argument. The Administration now appears set to attempt to save GMAC. Bascially GMAC sells loans for cars and property. They are anything but a systemic risk. Why justification is there from the Administration to save GMAC? The conspiracist in me thinks the Administration will attempt to use GMAC to give preferrable financing to GM/Chrysler customers on the back of the taxpayer. If so, it would seem to competitively undercut companies like Ford, Toyota, and Honda that are surviving on their own. Your thoughts?

Steven Pearlstein: I haven't looked into the GMAC issue, but its good you raise it. The auto financing part of it is clear cut -- GM needs it and it needs to be part of the GM rescue. What's not necessary is to rescue the mortgage and other divisions of GMAC, which the government should try to spin off in some fashion.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: Thanks for an interesting column. I understand the nature of risk-pooling, but yesterday I read about a regional bank in Indiana who has done everything right yet will have to pony up $500,000 to the FDIC vs. $42,000 paid last year. Are the big banks who are largely responsible for this mess we're in paying proportionately higher premiums that reflect their contribution to the crisis? $500k vs $42k seems a bit much for a bank that played it straight and conservative.

Steven Pearlstein: Yes, the big banks are paying proportionately. And perhaps even more, if their risk profile has gone up, because FDIC premiums are supposed to reflect the riskiness of the bank assets, to some degree. As for those numbers you cite, they are inflated, because Congress is on the verge of cutting in half the one-time special premium the FDIC sent the banks earlier int he year, from 20 basis points to 10 basis points. Instead, they will borrow money from the Treasury. So I suspect that bank will go from $42,000 to somewhere around $350,000 -- still a big jump. Remember also that $42,000 was way too low, which the banks are very cleverly failing to mention. It should have been higher, the FDIC wanted it to be higher, but the banks put on such a push to keep them low during the good times that they put the fund in the fix it is now in. If premiums had been set properly, to reflect the risk that a number of large institutions would fail all at the same time, then there would be no need now for such a huge increase. So the banks, including the community banks, are partly to blame for their current predicament, because of their ill-advised and short-sighted lobbying during the boom times.

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Alexandria, Va.: Two words (and an ampersand):

Burke & Herbert.

How do they render the most extraordinary service in the region and still sit on top of the profitability tables? And no, I don't work for them.

Steven Pearlstein: In an earlier draft of the column, I mentioned Burke & Herbert, but it fell out because of space. But you are right: if you live or work in or near Alexandria, it is a great bank to consider. But here's the question: why doesn't everyone in Alexandria bank with Burke & Herbert. I don't have an answer to that and would like to know if anyone else does, because they are clearly among the best of the best.

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Arlington, Va.: No NY, Ny your auto insurance is not simply based on your driving record. it is also based on your credit score and late payments if any and where you live besides age, sex etc.

Auto insurance is the biggest scam going!

Steven Pearlstein: As i said....

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Colorado Springs, Colo.: I've had such a good experience with my credit union, I can't imagine using a commercial bank. Don't most people qualify for a credit union, one way or another?

Steven Pearlstein: Yes they do. And this drives the bankers crazy, because they think it is unfair that they have to compete against institutions that don't pay taxes.

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Ashburn, Va: With the mortgage situation in this country what it is, there are some really good programs for people to refinance and take advantage of lower rates. I've called a few banks in the area and they seem rather baffled by my inquiry. It's like they don't even know that these programs exist. Are they snowing me or are they really as clueless as they are coming across?

Steven Pearlstein: I'm afraid to say they may be clueless...

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Atlanta: You have a great column today. Definitely explained things well. My comment is this: This is why people shouldn't live beyond their means. of course, we had congress to show us how to do that...and we (or many of us) lived accordingly.

If you don't carry a balance, then you don't have to worry. This is why debt is not good - because the other party can do what they want, and well, you are the one living beyond your means, so you are 'stuck' so to speak. This is why I don't borrow money (but for the house). Credit cards are always the worst way to borrow, cause you don't really put any collateral up - so you are basically saying: trust me. Over the years, credit card companies were doing just that. And now, they can't anymore. So they are doing what they can. Well, if you didn't have a problem before (i.e., didn't borrow money in the first place) you don't have a problem now.

I know I sound coldhearted, but all I see are people around me who bought houses they couldn't afford, went on vacations they couldn't afford, drive cars they couldn't afford, and buy stuff they couldn't afford.

Those like me, who pay my bills, well, again (as has been mentioned before) no bailout for me - in fact, I have to pay for all those people who were living high on the hog. Don't get me wrong...I'm living within my means, and there are definite rewards (internal) for that. But also...well, what are we (taxpayers/govt) rewarding? That is the behavior we are going to get, ad infinitum, when we keep rewarding it.

Steven Pearlstein: All good points. But don't overstate how much you are subsidizing people who took on too much credit. It's there -- no doubt about it. But its not huge sums, all things considered. A lot of investors have will lose a lot of money as a result of those loans not being repaid.

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Ballston, Va.: Talking to the bank or your credit union just gets an apology and crummy service continues. I have been cursed at over the phone by employees of the Navy Federal Credit Union. Their wonderful security folks left a message on my phone for me two years ago about suspicous activity on my VISA card and debit card from Vegas and they were not going to accept any more charges. When I returned I raised all sorts of cane and asked if I now had to call and have my travel approved by Navy Federal along with DOD.

The NFCU branch is my building is great and has kept me as a member becuase they usually fix things. The Branch manager is incredible!

Steven Pearlstein: Interesting.

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Cameron, N.C.: Good morning, I pay my bills on line via BoA checking. I receive my bill notices via email and snail mail. I notice that email shows up 7-10 days before snail thus i get at least a week more to pay. I always sign on when I get the email and schedule the payment for a day prior to the due date and always pay in full. No late fees or interest payments for me.

Steven Pearlstein: Good advice.

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Note to Herndon re-credit card payments: My card company (Chase) has an option where you can have them automatically deduct your payment on the due date. You can choose the minimum payment, the statement amount, or another amount. I discovered this option after one of their statements was delayed in the mail and cost us penalties (we have ALWAYS paid in full, on time). It removes the stress of wondering when the due date is.

My personal automatic payment gripe is Verizon, who after you've signed up for automatic payments proceeds to take the money from your account early, unlike every other utility which takes the payment on the due date. They used to take it one or two days early, have now moved it up to seven to ten days early. The difference is still not worth writing a check and paying postage, but as Steve pointed out, they make millions when they do this for all accounts. I really need to complain to some legislators or a utility commission or someone.

Thanks again, Steven, for all your excellent columns and chats!

Steven Pearlstein: Sounds like a good consumer issue you have with Verizon. You might send a letter complaining about it to your state senator and assembly member, with a CC to Verizon's president in Virginia. Or write a letter to the editor of your local paper. I bet you get a response.

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Manhattan, Ks.: Hi Steve--just wanted to let you know that my insurance agent, Justin Case, says your column this morning was an especially lucid explanation of the concept of risk pooling.

Steven Pearlstein: Thank you. Thank her.

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Florida Chick: Thanks for your superb work. keep at it. do. not. retire. ever.

Steven Pearlstein: Never????

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B of A Buyout Screwed Up My Credit: As a longtime B of A customer, I had my credit card payments set up for auto pay. When the N.C. company bought them and took over, they screwed up the auto pay systems and dinged ME with all their screwups -- cause increased interest rates (how does 35% sound to you?), ridiculous, late fees, etc -- on ALL my accounts.

This was years back and I am still dealing with the repurcussions in terms of exorbitant interest rates, denied credit etc.

Can you recommend a lawyer/law firm who will take on a behemoth that doesn't mind screwing over customers, not taking responsibility and tell me 'too bad you trusted us'?

I'd like to see all of them crash and burn and to be treated like the mafiosos they are. They don't get any sympathy from me and if I could pull the trigger on all of em, I'd gladly do it.

Steven Pearlstein: I'm sorry I can't recommend a lawyer for you. Sounds like a nightmare.

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Rockville, Md.: "Steven Pearlstein: I really think this is the moment for people to consider moving back to community banks and credit unions and sending the big boys a strong message."

Know any with no-fee ATMs in California, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and Miami, where I took money out (for free )last year?

Steven Pearlstein: Sorry, I don't.

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This employee constantly rolls his eyes when I walk in,: Why on earth did you decide against talking to the manager about this employee? This is seriously unprofessional. You don't think they're going to retaliate by stealing your money, do you?

Steven Pearlstein: I'm not sure the writer didn't have good reason not to complain about an employee. That employee would tell all his colleagues and suddenly you get known as the "problem customer."

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Atlanta:, Ga. re: market rally

But me, as someone who wouldn't stop working for at least 20 years, well, if I can buy stuff cheap now, why not? I'm cautiously putting money into the market (and retirement, well, I shouldn't need that for many many years, maybe MORE than 20) - so, if you/people think that the market WILL rally - isn't now the time to buy?

Steven Pearlstein: Actually, I agree that people should be continuing to make regular purchases of shares through their 401 Ks and stuff. I was referring to the money that you might have taken out of the market a year or two ago in anticipation of the downturn. I'm not sure I'd be going back with all of that just at the moment.

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Denver, Colo.: Hello-I have had poor experiences with Citi, BoA, and Wells Fargo. I have had extraordinary customer service with Navy Federal Credit Union and USAA's banking. What makes these quasi-federal banks better? The difference in my experience has been startling.

Steven Pearlstein: A lot of people agree with you, which is why Navy Federal is one of the biggest "banks" in the Washington region.

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Carlsbad, Calif.: Hi Steve. A quick question about credit union reliability. My wife and I (retired both) have put most of our savings into credit union share accounts, thinking they were "safe." We put the money into several accounts maxing out at $100k. But, now our local branch is closing, as are three others, and so I have asked for information about the investment portfolio of the credit union to determine if we should try to absorb the penalty and move our funds. I have met a stone-wall on questions of sub-prime loan exposure etc. and have been told that there is no law requiring the credit union to make that info public. Is that correct? Thanks

Steven Pearlstein: Not sure. Your deposits are insured up to $100,000, so I'm not clear why you feel the need to see how they are lending or investing depositors money.

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Nashville, Tenn: Mr. Pearlstein,

I thought your story this morning comparing FDIC to other insurance businesses was a bit of a stretch. If regular insurance companies only maintained less than one percent of the insured total as capital reserves they would be shut down by state insurance regulators. What private insurance business could get away with suspending premiums entirely as it has been reported for FDIC?

Steven Pearlstein: Answer: an insurance company backed by the US Treasury.

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Ellicott City, Md.: For the poster who didn't want to change banks because they had tons of ATM machines - I rarely use the ATM anymore. I buy groceries with my credit union's debit card, and get cash back right there.

Steven Pearlstein: See -- there is a way!

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Atlanta, Ga.: re: bankruptcy, auto makers...

I completely disagree with you. just as we're telling people - hey don't worry, don't pay your bills and we will bail you out, same goes for investors/companies.

If investors are told that - hey we're going to change the terms of how bankruptcy works because we feel like it (and, it looks like the case is, the Unions helped me get elected, so I'm going to help them with their stuff now) - then who's going to invest in US companies? The hedge funds or whoever have many choices, and if you are going to change the terms of business/bankruptcy because this is the way the wind blows, well, then investors aren't going to invest in your (US) businesses. Sorry...

Steven Pearlstein: Nobody has changed the terms of bankrupcy. That's simply factually not true. The bankruptcy judge has to follow the law and you have no reason to believe that he won't. But if he finds that 35 cents on the dollar is what the secured creditors would have gotten in liquidation, then by law that is all they are entitled to. Period. Do you have any information that would indicate they would have received more?

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Nashville, Tenn.: Don't you think the "responsible banks" would have had more success in complaining about the insufficient FDIC premiums during the past decade if they had been assisted in voicing there complaints by those of you in the press?

Steven Pearlstein: Let's not blame this one on the press, shall we.

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Chicago, Ill.: In response to the Arlington, Va. poster who doesn't like how he is treated. His problem is that he is keeping business at 3 different banks, thus lessening his power with any one institution, and most likely getting the bottom rung of the customer service ladder. If he would combine all of the business with one institution, he would probably move up a rung and have substantially better customer service and people being happy to see them.

Princeton's complaint about a conflict of interest between the bank forcing him to choose their appraiser is also off the mark. Banks have to have lists of approved appraisers, and they must have someone order it who is not involved with the approval of the credit or will benefit from the approval to comply with federal guidelines (FIRREA I believe). The bank gets nothing out of referring appraisals to certain appraisers, and the regulators have severely cracked down on any bank that tries to influence an appraised value in any direction.

Steven Pearlstein: Thank you for that clarification.

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Anonymous: GMAC is no longer part of GM but of Cerberus Capital Management.

Steven Pearlstein: I realize that. But it still provides a great deal fo the financing for GM auto purchases by consumers and dealers, based on historical relationships.

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San Jose, Calif.: Would you consider the trend towards community banks and credit unions one of the few "silver linings" to come out of this financial crisis? Personally, I don't necessarily believe "bigger is better", especially when it comes to banking, unless you happen to be a multi-millionaire. I've been a member of a credit union for over 20 years and they have always provided great service. It's where I got my first auto loan and first mortgage, and they always were helpful, friendly, and fair. Regarding ATM's, they are a member of a nationwide ATM network, so I can get cash from many grocery or convenience stores (such as 7-11) without paying fees.

Steven Pearlstein: Yes, it might turn out to be a silver lining, although the big banks will spend lavishly on marketing and new branches to try to prevent it.

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Nashville, Tenn.: Paying bills online is an option, but for my bills there are also "convenience fees"-- charged by the utility companies etc-- which make a $.44 stamp seem paltry. That's why I continue to mail checks.

Steven Pearlstein: Complain to your utility regulator, and send a cc to the company.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Sorry if this is off-topic and naive, but I'm trying to come up with an analogy that makes sense of the overall current financial situation.

Did there become too much lending pyramided on other loans, in the same way two kids will bet each other "a million dollars" back and forth? I mean, once you start treating loans with 90% payback likelihood as safe, it's not hard to keep inflating the economy 11% every time a new loan originates.

Steven Pearlstein: No, you're not naive at all. That's exactly what happened.

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Steven Pearlstein: That's all the time we have today, folks. "See" you next week.

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