OCLA interviewed Chris, a manager in the short-term lending industry in Mt. Vernon, Ohio in March 2013. Here’s a transcript from the interview:
What do you like about your job?
What I really like most about working for Advance America is being able to help my customers. When my customer pays their loan off, and they say ‘Thank you for helping me,’ that really is satisfying.
What types of benefits do you receive?
We have good benefits: health insurance, we’re able to invest into 401Ks, the pay is good. It’s nice to have a steady income that we can rely on.
Has there been a specific time where these services have helped someone in a crisis?
Yeah. I had an older fellow during my first year coming to work here. He came up from Florida during the summer living with his family with his wife, and she got very ill. And he came in here almost in tears. He needed money for her medication, and we were able to loan him. He had been a customer before he moved to Florida, and so it was just a matter of updating him. Then, when he came and paid it back the next month, again in tears and just saying ‘Thank you so much. If it wasn’t for you, I don’t know if my wife would have survived.’ That, quite honestly, is the most fulfilling thing I can think of.
Do you feel you are upfront and transparent with charges for services?
Yeah. We tell everybody this is what the loan is, this is how much it’s going to cost you, this is what the payback is and you’re due on this day. We even go so far as to let them know if there are any late fees involved. We just make sure that they understand that when they’re getting a loan, what they’re getting, and how much it’s going to cost them in the end.
Can you share a time when you were able to protect a customer from becoming a victim of fraud?
We get customers all the time who say, ‘I got this letter,’ and they bring it in, we look at it, and we’re able to tell them, ‘You know, this type of fraud is going on.’ We had a lady come in last summer, and she was trying to send $3,000 to Canada because her grandson was in jail in Canada, and that’s a typical scam that people are doing – getting asked to send money to the grandson you haven’t seen in 10 years. We were able to not send that for her and save her money.
What do you think would happen to the local economy if these services were eliminated?
I think it’d be pretty tough on folks because for a lot of people, this is their only resource. We have customers who come in and say ‘Thank you for being here, I don’t know what I would have done without you.’ Those aren’t folks who have other traditional means to turn to. They have to come to a lender like us or they’re not going to get the help they need. When you need a $300 brake job done, and you don’t have someone to turn to for that, we can do a $300 loan for almost any person who walks in the door, and they can get their brakes fixed. Otherwise, they’re not going to work tomorrow.
What would you say to those people trying eliminate these services?
If they eliminate these services, you’re going to see higher bankruptcies. That happened in Oregon. That happened in North Carolina when that took place there. They’re going to see people with no place to turn to, and it’s just going to cause legitimate hardship for people. If we keep the services, they have some place to turn to. We are a very ethical lender. We take care of our customers.