Georgia: ‘Re Mark Holman and the $15 he owes you from 1970. If you found him and charged him interest on that $15 for the last 34 years, how much would he owe you?’

☞ If I were charging the 18% credit card rate, it would come to $4,196.46 – plus late fees. At the 21% some cards charge, it would be more than twice that.

With the $29 late fee each month, at 21%, it would come to $1,089,722.80.

And at the 27% ‘default rate’ I saw on a recent Citibank credit card offer, with those late fees added in each month, you’re talking $4.4 million.

You see why the credit card companies hope against hope you get into financial difficulty?

John: ‘In the summer of 1959 I worked at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills as a page boy. The superintendent of service, my immediate supervisor, was a very nice man, but a compulsive gambler. From time to time, he would call me (and others) over to his desk and borrow $10 or $20. This was quite a lot of money for a page boy who worked for twenty-five- and fifty-cent tips, but I never had the courage to say no. By the end of my second summer, he owed me exactly $250. He had never made even one payment on this growing loan, even though we both knew the exact total. I never wanted to antagonize him because the following year I would be eligible to be a bellhop, a much more lucrative position.

‘Jump to 1996. My wife and I are attending a reunion of her very large family at another Catskill resort. As we are standing in the lobby I am looking at the Superintendent of Service desk, and the fellow’s name and face look strangely familiar. We look at each other, and after a moment or two we recognized that we had been fellow page boys some thirty-six years earlier. We spent fifteen minutes or so recalling all our fellow workers, our bosses and even some memorable guests. Towards the end of the conversation, he pointed out the man who had been superintendent of service at the Concord – he was now reservation manager at this resort. He brought the old ‘super’ out of his office. He remembered me well. We recalled many humorous incidents and many friends and co-workers. When I mentioned the earlier loan, his memory went sour, gave me a big bear hug, excused himself and returned to his office.’

☞ Note that since 1959, $250 would have grown to $3,441 at 6% without late fees, or to $12,081 at 9%, or to $1.3 million at 21%. Add in $29 monthly late fees and ratchet the rate up to the 26% I see American Express charging a green card holder I know who chooses to extend his payments (while keeping $200,000 in a money market account – go figure), and you get to $57 million and change. Of course this is silly, because there were no credit cards in 1959, and the monthly late fee is a more still modern invention.

☞ Note, also, that for loans of any size, you may want to use, as described here a couple of years ago. Had I done so over the years, my guess is that I would be at least several thousand dollars ahead.


Jerry Minkoff: ‘May I suggest that a better place to read Molly Ivins’ column is here. It’s posted more promptly, and they maintain an archive – e.g., the one you suggested Friday.’


But I love it anyway. Fiat lux.


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