Meet Willy Fargo, My Friendly Neighborhood Loan Shark

Willy FargoIt was Saturday morning at Starbucks and the baristas were in full flirt mode.

I paid them no mind because I only had eyes for a lovely square of almond-peach bread. I gave it a wink and I swear it winked in return.

We exchanged meaningful glances.

I would do almost anything for a square of almond-peach bread but I only had enough cash for a coffee grande and there was a line that could not be crossed – like using a Wells Fargo debit card on the day after payday.

I heard a sad story about a guy who tried that. He walked into a Dunk’n Donuts, pulled out his debit card and threw his life away.

Just like me, his check went into direct deposit the night before, but Wells Fargo does things with time that even Albert Einstein thought were impossible.

First they sent his deposit back to the future. Even though his pay check came in first, they processed it last. Then they cranked up the way-back machine to sort his charges by size rather than time, so they could process the largest charges first and let the little ones dribble in after.

The poor slob thought he had a couple hundred dollar cushion but a two day old airline ticket gobbled that up – then the overdrafts kicked in. Before he knew what hit him, the fees sucked up his entire deposit then things got biblical as overdraft begot overdraft.

No one knows exactly what happened to him after that but all we known is – it wasn’t pretty.

So I left Starbucks, cut over to 3rd Avenue and ducked into an alley where a guy who looked like he stopped a truck with his face was discussing business with a client.

Meet Willy Fargo, my friendly neighborhood loan-shark.

I didn’t want to interrupt his meeting but Willy motioned me into the alley (busy guys like him know how to multi-process).

I explained my situation, filling him in about my lust for the almond-peach bread and my fears about using a debit card.

He was sympathetic. “Greg, I’ve been getting a lot of that lately,” he said, grasping his client by the windpipe and hoisting him off his feet, “People respect my hands-on approach. It is why they are coming back to traditional banking in droves.”

The little guy’s legs began to flutter and a bubble of spit swelled on his lips (it appeared there might be at least one less fan of traditional banking).

“Take this little weasel for example,” Willy said.

Here he addressed his client. “Did I not present my terms in one concise paragraph rather than in a twelve page brochure of fine print?”

The little guy croaked, “You did.”

“Did I not define your responsibilities in clear English?”

“Yea-gh-gh-gh-gh-gh-gh”

“Would I change our agreement without notice?”

“Noo—ooo—ooo”

“Would I tack on late-fees without your approval?”

“Murumpth….”

“Would I calculate the vig BEFORE you made your payments?”

Thump. Thump. Thump.

“No,” Willy agreed, “I would not do those dreadful things because unlike some faceless indifferent corporation, I am an honorable man.”

“Uh Willy,” I said, “may I make a suggestion?”

“Certainly.”

“Let the guy breath.”

“That is excellent advice and normally I would be glad to take it under advisement but right now…. I’m kind of upset.”

The little guy turned from a deep shade of purple to a sickly slate gray. I felt so sorry for him that I forgot all about my almond-peach bread.

“Willy!” I said, “what does he owe you? Maybe we can work something out.”

Willy looked dubious, but he dropped the guy in a heap and pulled out a dog-eared notebook. “Lemme see,” he said, thumbing through the pages. “The loan plus the juice comes out to…”

You could almost hear the abacus beads clicking in his skull.

“$24.58”

“You got to be kidding?”

“Nope,” he said with a grin, “the man borrowed $1.75 from me yesterday. He’s a fool for a doughnut.”