They were out there every day, it seems, set up on card tables in the corridor between the college bookstore and the mail room. I think they were attired in the same conservative garb that has made me despise every employee at Enterprise Rent-A-Car ever since. They had stacks of bland application forms, mugs of those dime a dozen Bic pens that always go flat in the middle of a mid-term and, oddly, candy and toys.

With each application, they'd give away a mini Koosh ball or a jumbo bag of either M&M's or Skittles. One by one, every 90210 attired moron from our college would saunter up, books in hand, to apply for a chance to sell their souls. Being overtaken by the stylishly lacking grunge fashion that was popping up in 1992, I never felt clean cut enough to talk to these people, let alone fill out a damn form for a toy. Besides, I already had a Koosh ball and they were always out of peanut M&M's when I came to check my mail. I think I got my application for soul sale out of a copy of Rolling Stone or some such nonsense.

We all know the irony of their little tables, how they prey on the one bracket of the economy that, while having supposedly the largest percentage of disposable income (what a wonderfully fitting way to describe take home pay!), also earn almost none of it, and therefore are seldom mature enough to handle credit. We all also know how much money they make off of us when we can't handle it. But it was the Pavlovian gifts, the trinkets of youth being handed out by strangers when we were all told that was the worst thing to do in any situation, that framed the entire exchange in an eery perfection of the American Dream.

And how hopeless most of us are to actually resist such obvious manipulation from within the institution we were told was supposed to prepare us to avoid it, even though most of us know going into college what bullshit even that is.

Am I bitter? Well maybe. Just a tad. :)

60 Minutes recently did a story about this very subject. Colleges which are making millions of dollars for letting banks hawk their credit cards, right on campus: should the banks be allowed to do this? In a nutshell, the story was based around a student, Sean Moyer, who hanged himself after accumulating $14,000 in debt with the cards he obtained. On this note, it is needless to say that the story was more than just a little biased towards the "they shouldn't be doing it" side.

While my condolences go out to the family of Mr. Moyer, I found it odd and unfair that both his mother and the host of this particular segment placed the blame squarely on the credit card vendors who gave Mr. Moyer the credit cards in the first place.

"Anybody that has 18-year-olds knows they are not adults. I don't care what the law says. They are 18 one minute; they are 13 the other." O'Donnell, Sean's mother, says.

Regardless of whether his mother agrees with the law or not, the fact remains that a person is indeed considered an adult at 18 years old (where ever his college is located, anyway). This student can legally smoke, vote, watch pornos, the whole deal. In addition, he is legally allowed to hold a credit card. At 18 years old, there is a demand for credit cards.

Keeping this in mind, it goes against the fundamentals of the USA's capitalist system to deny supply to a legal demand. Of course, the bank moguls are out to make a profit just like anyone else. Therefore, when a company supplies someone with anything legal that there is a demand for, can we really blame the company for providing that service/product? Especially when the law explicitly permits them to do so?

The fact of the matter: these 18 year old college students are considered adults. If one opposes this, it is up for that person to take it up with their district representative to raise the adult "age barrier," not to point fingers at people running entirely legitimate businesses.

When colleges allow banks to market their cards,
1. The colleges and universities make money by giving XYZ Bank exclusive hawking rights for their campus.
2. The banks make money (off the interest of the cards).
3. The students learn how to manage and build credit with their very own credit card.

If these adults run into trouble with these cards, it is due to their own irresponsible behavior and not the fault of the supplier. Nor is it the duty of the supplier to question what the law dictates, ie. "although they are technically adults, do they really know the concept of money?" They are in no position to have to make these considerations. If you have a problem with this, you must take it up with your local rep and not with the vendors who are answering the demand. "You shouldn't have given it to me, because you should've known that I wouldn't be able to handle it" does not cut it. You're an adult now.

dragoon says: It's remarkable how many people think individuals aren't responsible for their behavior anymore, just groups or even just society.
jop, strawberry, etoile say: The drinking limit in the US in 21, not 18. (wh00t's apologies.. this Canadian has modified the w/u)

Whilst I have not seen the programme that sparked this node, and therefore cannot comment on the details of the poor guy and why he felt he was so desperate he had to take his own life, I would just like to add my own response.

(Would also like to add that I agree with the opinions above - a credit card, and the use of it, is the responsibility of the individual)

But what if the banks are responsible?

Eighteen years old, and the wonders of plastic were mine. I was utterly responsible for this, amazingly, heeding the advice of my parents, and setting up a direct debit to cover more than the minimum amount needed every month.

It was great! I got to buy the stuff that I'd always wanted but never actually got my act together enough to save for - any cd? cha-ching! concert tickets? cha-ching! Decent birthday presents for family and friends? Ring that up too, my good man - I HAVE PLASTIC POWER

Another birthday, and I was in university, with all the unholy spending and inevitable debt that comes with the learning experience. Yet again, I had heeded the advice of my parents, and switched my normal plastic - and the remaining balance on it - to a student credit card, with lower interest and a slightly higher limit.

In order to do this, I filled in reams of paper, with a personal assurance that the balance would be switched over, no problem - after all, Miss, you aren't allowed two credit cards...

Very official letter plopped through my door, confirming that the balance had been switched, my original credit account closed and, crucially, my change of address noted.

Thought no more of it. Oh dear...

On a routine visit to my father, I discovered a letter from the company informing me that I was waaay over my limit, and as no payments had been received for the last seven months, I was in danger of being blacklisted.

Not only had they not sent it to my new address, but (and this is a very big but), the letter was referring to my original credit card - the one that had been 'closed down'! I had received no less than two letters and a phone call from my personal banker assuring me that it was so!

'You're not allowed more than two credit cards, Miss, it is a statistical impossibility that this could happen - there is more chance of of The Lord Almighty himself manifesting Himself in my office than there is of you getting two credit cards....' Ha!! I snort in derision....

Not only had they both transferred my original balance to my new card while simultaneously leaving it outstanding on the original, they had not thought to tell me about the avalanche of interest accumulating on the now Everest-esque balance of my original (supposedly shut-down) card.

After a seven hour (I swear it was that long) confrontation with everyone from the Managing Director of the company to the cashier who dealt with my original request, I was informed that it was entirely my fault, which it patently was not, and that I was responsible for the remuneration of the balance - which now amounted to nearly two thousand pounds. Oh, and while you're here, try and do anything about it, and the full might of this corporation will swing into action and crush you like the teeny-tiny bug that you are, leaving you county-court-judged and blacklisted for the rest of your miserable existence....

I have only just paid this monstrous debt off, and for a while, watching all my pay-checks fly into the pit that was my credit card was severely depressing.

Credit card debt, that was not the individual's fault. Rare, but as I know all too well, it does happen...

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