Who buys the BMW on a Kia budget?

Thankfully there are no calls for government action, but Michelle Singletary still offers a troubling assessment on money and personal responsibility.

Just consider the advertising campaign, “Life Takes Visa.” The credit card giant has been running commercials in which people are hustling through checkout lines at fast food and retail stores. They buy what they want by merely waving or swiping their plastic Visa cards.

But when a customer pulls out cash, everything comes to a screeching halt. The cash-paying customer gets harsh looks from fellow shoppers and the cashier. Then we hear an announcer say: “Don’t let cash slow you down.”

The commercials are funny. But the subliminal message isn’t. It’s diabolical.

The subliminal message is not diabolical (i.e. of or pertaining to the devil). Visa wants customers to use their cards for everything because Visa gets a cut of that, unlike a customer’s cash transactions. Banks issue cards under the Visa brand. These banks want customers to carry a balance on their cards because it generates interest. The message of the commercial is only the first, given that Visa and the banks that issue Visa cards are separate entities.

Immediately following the diabolical conclusion, this from Stuart Vyse, author of Going Broke: Why Americans Can’t Hold On to Their Money, the subject of the article:

“Much of the difficulty stems from new retail technologies that make it easy to act without thinking,” Vyse says.

That is an entirely reasonable conclusion because it places the responsibility for thinking or not thinking on the individual using the card. It does not involve any satanic machinations on the part of large corporations to force Americans into a vicious cycle of debt.

This is similar to the common refrain on guns, that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. That’s correct but too semantically succinct. Of course guns kill people because it’s a method to do so. But Smith & Wesson doesn’t pull the trigger for the murderer.

And Visa doesn’t provide the card number to retailers when there’s no money in the bank to pay for the expenditure.

2 thoughts on “Who buys the BMW on a Kia budget?”

  1. Aren’t most of those commercial for VISA debit cards, which — in terms of paternalism — are vastly superior to credit cards (which, of course, can also be used merely as “liquidity cards”)?

  2. I don’t pay close enough attention to the commercials, but I think you’re right.
    “Debit cards: spend only what you have.”
    Diabolical, indeed.

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