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Dr. Robert Lahm quoted in Business Week article, “About That New, ‘Friendly’ Consumer Contract.”

Brian Grow, a Senior Writer with Business Week magazine first contacted me in late February 2009, right around the time my wife was undergoing major surgery.  This was a very difficult situation, because our home in Tennessee has not sold, thus far, despite our best efforts.  A slow market is obvious, but our circumstances have been exacerbated by some very ineffective representation for over a year, spanning three real estate listing agents.  Short sales that advertise prices below what the banks will actually accept don’t help, either (I think this pricing strategy is unethical, too).

We were always ready to show with an immaculate and well cared for home, “staged” and with all of the right fragrances, a shine on the appliances, and cleanliness otherwise, inside, under, outside.  We also cut the price: again, and again, and again, and again, trying to be competitive with the market.  Nevertheless, I have been working in North Carolina during the past academic year, and my family has been back in Tennessee.  My wife and I are “separated,” except by virtue of real estate, rather than by marital woes or choice.

The separation and commuting back and forth have been a little taste of hell.  This may also explain — as I have been paying “double” on housing costs during this period of time — why it is that when Chase sent its change in terms notice, it did make me “sick to my stomach” (Brian quoting me, and now me quoting him).

My father was a fighter pilot, and his being called away for military service while I was a child is something I still remember well.  Our situation (that of my wife, children, and myself) has not been that bad, since I’m not being shot at.  But it has certainly been challenging, nonetheless.  I thank those who are serving and protecting us in the military, now.

The aforementioned surgery was timed to coincide with a spring break the following week, and thanks to colleagues at Western Carolina University who have been extremely kind to me, I made some arrangements to fill in for an advising day and one of my classes during the week of the surgery itself.

After spring break was over, I backed out of my driveway in Tennessee, with my wife left essentially in the care of our two children.  I had pulled down everything we could think of from cabinets and closets so that food, towels, blankets, cooking utensils, toilet paper, and other necessities for their survival, camp-out-style, could be reached.  It’s not as though I was the one who had the surgery, but I felt terrible, leaving.

Brian impressed me greatly, not just as a journalist, but as a human being.  We spoke and emailed several times, and he regularly inquired about my wife’s recovery.  The first time we talked, he was immediately warm and conversationally generous — coming across as the kind of person I’d enjoy having as a guest at a back-yard Bar-B-Que (I love cooking, but my wife says I brag too much when I’m in the kitchen; nevertheless, I invited her for dinner for our first date over two decades ago, so you decide!).  Brian is also intellectually vibrant, and I enjoyed our talks.

Brian had nominated me as a candidate for one of the photos to be included in his article, which I now know is entitled, “About That New, ‘Friendly’ Consumer Contract” (April 30, 2009, online; May 11, 2009, print). At the time, I did not understand that the decision would be made elsewhere by editors, so I was scrambling for a tie and accessories, which I did not have with me in Tennessee when Brian was conducting his initial interview.

I tell you all of this to give you context.  I’ve been praised on this site for fighting Chase, and the abuses of credit card companies in general.  However, I’m just a regular person who like many others before me, is working hard to take care of my family, and trying to do right by others (such as students and credit card holders who are either consumers or small business owners).  At the risk of employing an old cliché, I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like anybody else.

I was generally very pleased with the article.  If it’s not clear by this point in my post, Brian Grow was very “decent” towards me and I appreciated the way he treated me during the interview process.  He’s a good guy.

I had hoped for a little less “about me” and a little more about the small business issue.  That being said, if the article directs traffic to the site, at least visitors may realize that my advocacy is “not so much” about me or any of the personal trials and tribulations that my family and I have faced (we consider ourselves very fortunate, in fact — my wife is much better at this point), but about the issue of abusive treatment of customers by credit card companies.

As can be ascertained from Brian’s article (page 3 of the Internet version), after several sickening months Chase did back down relative to my particular account.  Yet, I have not backed down, and I do not intend to do so, unless and until Chase issues a press release, and admits that it made a mistake relative to all account holders.

Brian was nice, when he stated that “abrupt changes have turned into a public-relations challenge for Chase.”  However, let’s be more direct.  “Chase didn’t admit any wrongdoing” (ibid).  That’s typical, but  the New York Attorney General flatly said that “Truth-in-lending laws prohibit this very conduct.”  Chase apparently even tried to infer that because “there were ‘no negotiations’ with Cuomo’s office,” that it was not engaged in wrongdoing.  I’d like to see this smokescreen cleared by suggesting that the most likely reason that there were no negotiations is because Chase was in violation of Truth-in-Lending-Laws.

I wanted to be a pilot like my dad; indeed, as a boy I dreamed of traveling even farther, in the space program (eyeglasses intervened).  Things don’t always turn out like what you may have imagined, hoped for, or planned.  But here’s what I do know now, credit card companies: with little or no provocation, you have attacked my former colleague, my wife, my former neighbor (an entrepreneur), me (and therefore my whole family), and millions of other undeserving account holders — consumers and small businesses.  Your lack of restraint is unprecedented, especially after taking bail out money and during a volatile time when we are all struggling in a weakened economy.  And we’re now banding together.

My dad used to quip the old pilot’s joke that “any landing you walk away from is a good one” (humor aside, I can understand that point of view; earlier jets were notoriously dangerous).  Well, abusive credit card companies (especially you, Chase): we’re going to “shoot you and your fancy corporate jets down” with anti-marketing missiles, alternative financing sources, lawsuits, and regulation that you royally deserve to receive after what you have perpetrated with such ruthlessness.  These actions against customers, orchestrated by scheming executives, whose only moral code is apparently unbridled greed, will end.

The next time you “kick me when I’m down,” you’d better make sure I’m dead.  I’ve been very “friendly,” thus far, and so have the vast majority of other account holders.  We’ve been paying our bills and meeting our obligations no matter what we have individually and severally been confronting in our own respective lives.  Therefore, abusive credit card companies, you’d better straighten up and fly right.

I recently celebrated another birthday (alone; I’ll be home soon for my cake, dear), and I’m old enough to not want a fight, but still young enough to declare to abusive credit card companies: