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I Am Elaine

I answered my phone with my standard, “Charles Selden here.”

Long pause. Then a recorded message: “We have an important message for Elaine ---. If this is not Elaine ---, press one. If this is Elaine
---, press two.”

I pressed two.

Another pause while the automatic dialer connected to a fellow who said, “Is this Elaine ---?”

An automatic dialer had called my registered Do Not Call number. But who am I to question technology? They wanted Elaine, I gave them Elaine. I adopted my falsetto voice normally reserved for my grandchildren’s female stuffed animals and screeched, “Yeah!”

He said I owed a lot of money and he wanted to discuss it. I said, “OK, times are tough, you know.”

“Yes, I know, Elaine. Your debit card has an outstanding balance of $1,325.”

“Wowee, that’s a lot of money.”

“Yes, that’s why I am calling you. I want to help you.”

“That sure would be good. Can you get me a bailout?”


“You know, a BAIL OUT. Like General Motors got.”

“Gee, Elaine, I don’t think you can get a bailout for this. Do you have a checking account or a bank account?”

“No, no, I don ‘t have that stuff any more. Too much trouble.”

“Are you working?”

“No, I am talking to you.”

“Look, Elaine, I can help you if you would make a payment.”

“Oh boy, I could use some help.”

We bantered a bit about tough times. Then he came to the point.

“If you could pay this off now, I’ll make it easier for you…..just a moment….I can take off the interest and late fees and we can settle this for $600 right now. How does that sound?”

“That’s really good.”

“Do you have any money?”

“Yup. Sure do!”

“Is it in a bank?”

“No! I don’t trust those banks. I keep my money in my mattress.”

“I see. You need to pay the $600 with a check right away.”

“I could go to the post office. They can make a check.”

“Yes, they can do a certified check. So can some grocery stores. And liquor stores. Could you get a certified check today?”

“I like the post office. They treat me nice there. But I don’t like to stand in lines.”

“You have to pay right away to get this deal.”

“OK, I’ll try. You sure are a nice fellow. What’s your name.”

“Tom Curtis.”

“OK, Tom. You’re a nice boy. I bet your mom’s proud of you.”

“Now you’re going to go to the post office?”

“Yup. Sure am, I’m going to put my money in a shopping bag and go down to the post office. But if the lines are too long, I am not staying!”

“OK, Elaine. Can I call you back in a little while.”

“Sure, Tommy.”

Two hours later Tommy called back.

“Hi. Elaine. Did you go to the post office?”

“Yup. But the lines were too long. I’ll try tomorrow.”

Tommy’s is no longer upbeat. “Oh.” Downhearted Tom.

“Can I call you tomorrow?”


“What’s your number?”


I called the next day and was told the number is operated by ARM. No explanation, address, or details. Did I want to talk to someone. If not, “we’re busy.” Goodbye.

Consumerist Comment: According to Tommy, Elaine’s original debit card transactions were in the $600 neighborhood. It only takes a few Elaines that pay up to make a profitable business for credit the settlement industry. There’s money in those debtors! And Elaine had a debit card? How could she run up $600+ debt in purchases with a debit card that collects payment from a secure source at the time of purchase? In Elaine’s case, it should have been wired to Elaine’s mattress.

Tommy works for ARM, apparently a call center that works for a credit card outfit. See The New York Times article (part of the New Poor series and Predatory Saviors series), “Peddling Relief, Firms Put Debtors in a Deeper Hole,” by Peter S. Goodman, page 1 on June 19, 2010.

Hey, it’s July 4! Time to celebrate the corporate state we are in!

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