The answer to the country's credit crisis might be found in a walk around the mall.
Like 97 percent of us, I pay my bills, my mortgage. And because three percent of the people in our country are raging deadbeats, our leaders now have us believing that Armageddon is coming.
But I wasn't buying the dance, not by a long shot. We Americans are resilient consumers who spend on our egos. That's why we walk the malls searching for a new look, charging the slightest of improvements along the way.
So recently, at four in the afternoon, I conducted my own experiment at the Mall of New Hampshire. I wanted to know how much credit I could get during this so-called "credit crisis." I focused on seven different stores and set a goal to get $10,000 worth of credit in under an hour.
I parked outside Macy's and headed for the service counter. The perfume aisle in the women's department curled my nose hairs. "Can I get a credit card?" I asked the middle-aged woman behind the counter at customer service. "Sure can," she said. I expected to be fingerprinted or even water boarded for asking. After a quick read of my license and some personal information, I had my first $1,000 line of credit and it was only 4:07 p.m. With a dry laugh I headed out into the mall.
Next stop: Zale's Jewelry. Nice, pricey items made of silver and gold. They'd never let a Greasehead like me run a tab here. I asked the woman behind the glass counter if I could get a Zale's credit card. "I'd just need some information," she said. "I have that." I told her. "Well, it only takes a minute," she said. Perfect. I've got time.
By 4:26 p.m. I was approved for another $5,000 at Zale's. Amazing. I told the woman I might see her on Saturday. I've been thinking about getting a silver pinkie ring in the shape of a horseshoe.
Half-cocked with confidence, I headed over to Abercrombie and Fitch to roll some dice. A girl with a Bedford-style smile approached me near the sweater vests. I told her I was looking for a credit card. "We have that," she said. "Right over here, please." Same drill: my license and a couple signatures. It wasn't even quarter-till-five and I was approved for yet another $1,000.
I had 15 minutes to go before my experiment was over. I was down $3,000. Radio Shack told me my approval would take a week. As did Victoria's Secret. I asked the long-legged woman behind the counter if she minded if I hung out until then. Denied, yet undaunted, I motored over to Old Navy. Right away I was hustled to the second register. I punched in my S.S. number and presto: another grand was granted. Love this country!
By now I was down $2,000 with only five minutes to play. Staring up at Eastern Mountain Sports, I laughed at myself. "You can't hardly swim, rookie!" I wasn't even sure EMS provided credit cards. Well, they do, and before I knew it I was approved for another $3,500. Rattlesnake Mountain, here I come!
It was just shy of 5 p.m. and I had about $12,000 in fresh credit to spend. I was tempted to buy some new club shirts, a bottle of Mambo Cologne and some wing-tipped leather shoes. Instead, I went home, canceled each card with an annual payment, then looked up at the sky and was happy just knowing it wasn't on fire. NH
This article appears in the February 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine