John Oliver on Payday Loans

“Basically, payday loans are the Lay’s potato chips of finance. You can’t have just one and they’re terrible for you.”

Bad Paper: A Debt-Collection Game with Some Questionable Advice

Felix Salmon built Bad Paper around Jake Halpern’s book and New York Times Magazine piece of the same name. By playing the game, you can put yourself in the shoes of a debtor or collector and explore the different scenarios. You win when you get the case dismissed or collect a judgment.

It’s an interesting exercise, but the game is misleading about what it takes to win in court. According to the game, all you have to do is show up in court and say “Excuse me: Where’s the proof that this is my debt?” to the judge.

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Comcast Won’t Let You Go [UPDATED]

Warning: listening to this phone call may make you want to throw your Comcast modem through the front window of your local Comcast service center.

This tracks pretty closely with my own experience. It took me over six months and multiple phone calls and transfer/disconnection requests to get Comcast to stop charging me for my business Internet connection after I moved out of my office.

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Revenge for a Gym Membership Scam

Reddit user virinix says he was scammed by GoodLife Fitness back in the 90s. In brief, he signed up for a trial membership, decided to cancel, and canceled his membership before it began. Two years later, the trouble started.

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Federal Government Turns Into Massive Zombie Debt Collector

Three years ago, Congress added this sentence to the farm bill:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, regulation, or administrative limitation, no limitation on the period within which an offset may be initiated or taken pursuant to this section shall be effective.

What that sentence did was remove the statute of limitation on debts owed to the federal government. As a result, according to the Washington Post, the Treasury Department is intercepting hundreds of thousands of tax returns this year, to collect on very old debts, some going back to the 1960s. So far, it has collected something like $75 million using this tactic.

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H&R Block Cosplay

It’s getting close to tax time, and the H&R Block down the street from my house has one of those crazy-wavy-tube-guy things out front. It always reminds me of this video, which makes me crack up:

Speaking of tax preparers, you might be tempted to get your “refund” early by getting a refund anticipation loan. Don’t. As I have written before, refund anticipation loans are basically a payday loan in disguise (i.e., a really bad deal). Skip it, and file your tax return earlier next year if you want to get your refund faster.

Thanks to Tim Hwang for reminding me of the video.

Don’t Order the Second-Cheapest Bottle of Wine

It may seem like a good idea, but the second-cheapest bottle of wine is probably the worst deal on the wine list. From Urbanspoon:

Restaurants realize that many people won’t order the least expensive wine (no one wants to look like a cheapskate!) so they often go for the second cheapest. That’s exactly why it’s often the most marked-up bottle on the list.

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How to Use GameStop as a Bank


Does anyone else use Gamestop as a bank?

I got really pissed off with US Bank because I kept overdrafting my account even though I opted out, and the same thing happened with my credit union when I got a debit card.

Now whenever I get paid I go preorder a whole shitload of games. Whenever I need money, I go to the nearest gamestop and ask for my money back on a game I don’t want and make a withdrawal. The lines are shorter at gamestop than at the bank and I can trade in old games and have money go straight to my savings account. Gamestops are just as prevalent as banks in my town and I work at a mall so it’s even more convenient than running an errand to the bank or using an ATM and getting charged.

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Would You Buy This $99 Wedding Dress?

Weddings are “really, egregiously, horrifically expensive” says Caitlin Dewey for the Washington Post. And she is right. CNN Money put the average cost of a wedding in 2012 at $28,400. Caitlin Kenney, a reporter for NPR’s Planet Money paid $3,500 just for her dress.

When my wife and I were married at the end of 2006, we didn’t have a lot of money, so our entire wedding cost just a bit more than Kenney’s dress. She wore a bridesmaid dress and looked amazing in it, but I think she would have looked pretty seriously at this dress if it were available at the time.

I guess it’s fine if couples want to blow nearly 30 grand on a wedding, if they or their parents actually have that much money to spare. But if I had the choice between spending $20,000+ on a wedding or a down payment on a house, I know which one I would choose.

(h/t Felix Salmon)

Confidentiality Agreements Are Not “Standard”

Today’s outrageous social media story concerns Patrick Snay, who settled a lawsuit against his former employer for $80,000. The settlement agreement contained a confidentiality clause that he apparently violated by telling his daughter that “he’d settled and was happy with the results,” and that his daughter apparently violated when she posted this on Facebook:

Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”

Gulliver, the defendant, saw the posting, refused to pay the settlement due to the breach of the agreement, and now the whole thing is front-page news.

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