Trial Balloon

Winds of Change

Posted at 5:35 AM on May 21, 2009 by Dale Connelly (26 Comments)

Here's a "Trial Balloon" Exclusive, from chief correspondent Bud Buck:

Credit card companies are going to have to change the way they make money.

Legislation is on the way to the president's desk that will limit the ability of card issuers to pile surprise fees and heavy penalties on to people who fall behind in their payments or exceed their spending limits.

"For years and years we've been able to make the bulk of our living off people who are basically out of money," said Don Inkling, spokesman for Plastic Carpet, a company that has promoted its credit products as the pathway to "carefree spending." "That's pretty impressive when you think about it. And we've been able to do it because those customers are too overwhelmed to keep up with all the different ways we've developed to get into their almost empty pockets. But now, we'll have to find a way to get our cash out of those other customers of ours - the careful, fussy cheapskates who watch every penny."

Industry observers predict that credit card users who typically pay off their balance every month and take full advantage of all the rewards programs will soon face annual fees for the privilege, although this could cause banks and credit card companies to lose some business. That's why there is desperate desire among financial institutions to find new, innovative ways to generate income from credit card activity.

One idea circulating in the credit labs is to mount tiny windmills on the card reading devices you find in every retail store.


"If tiny windmills were positioned near the card swiping channel on every cash register in America, they would be turning constantly," said Plastic Carpet's Technology V.P. Chester Grundhofer. "Not all of them all the time, of course, but somewhere, somehow, at least one would always be going. Even in this stifling economy."

How much electricity could be generated by the constant swipe-swipe-swiping of credit cards coast to coast? No one knows for sure.

"The card swiping motion is easy for most Americans, even fatties and pathetic weaklings," said personal fitness trainer Marybeth Badger. "I work with some extremely lazy losers who only signed up with me because it was one of the few things they hadn't bought yet. Their most toned muscles are in the shoulder and wrist - because all they do is pay for junk with their credit cards. Including personal fitness training, thank God."


But could the miniscule amounts of power generated by cash register wind farms be a reliable resource for America's electricity grid?

"We'd have a great surge during the Christmas season," observed Red Watson, micro-generating co-ordinator for Intermittent Energy. "And the gift return season right afterwards would be almost as good. Sometimes to get a refund they have to swipe the card three or four times! February would be bleak, though."

But would spinning windmill blades in such close proximity to the check out be a safety hazard? Bathtub Safety Officer R.J. Rafferty says yes. "We'll see lots more chipped fingernails, for sure, along with welts and bruises from the wrist on out. If this technology takes off," says Rafferty, "I wouldn't go shopping while wearing a bracelet or a wristwatch. Getting one of those caught in a point-of-sale wind farm could be catastrophic."

But it's bound to be good business for manicurists everywhere.

This is Bud Buck!

Any other bright ideas to help the credit card companies stay afloat?

Comments (26)

Good morning, Dale and Mike,

Thanks for playing the Drifters "Save the Last Dance for Me" yesterday morning, even though it wasn't technically a cover. I guess I didn't quite get the concept right!! Yes, it was a Doc Pomus song, but maybe the Drifters were the first to sing it, so that wouldn't be a cover, would it?! It's my favorite version, nonetheless.

The Eva Cassidy "Fields of Gold" gave me chills and goose bumps, it's so beautiful. Has that effect on me every time.

Now, to credit cards - I've always thought that it was a risky business to give out almost unlimited "unsecured" loans, that is, no collateral or liens taken. So we should just sign over the patents to things like the POS windmills as collateral, and they can reap the windfalls, so to speak. Of course, we'd all have to come up with our own inventions. You can keep your patent if you want to.

Posted by Gail in Wisconsin | May 21, 2009 6:21 AM

when we were young, first-married, students, and had very little money we applied for a credit card in order to rent a truck for a move out of state to our first real jobs. we were denied. so then we had to apply to pay cash for the truck rental. we lived just fine without a credit card or credit for all of those early years. now we are old(er) and again have to be pretty careful with our money. we were just talking about whether we could get by without a credit card if the company starts to charge us a fee for paying off the balance each month. it would be less convenient but we would drop our card. i hope the credit card companies can stay afloat but i hope we as a society can discover a way to live more simply, without such inflated ideas of what we "need" compared to what we can afford.
Dale, there's a song, i think (unless this is another one of my mondegreens) it's called "Time For a Sea Change"
Good morning All - sorry for being sorta glum about this.

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | May 21, 2009 6:21 AM

Good morning, all!

Another nice blog entry, Dale.

Wishing everyone a great day. For me it's going to be a busy one.

Posted by elinor | May 21, 2009 6:33 AM

Barb, thanks for the reminder of the term mondegreen. I just had one, listening to the Jaztronauts singing "Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah". It sounded to me like someone had a mouthful of hot food, trying to say "Eat Hot Pork. Ahh! Ahh!"

Posted by Gail in Wisconsin | May 21, 2009 6:37 AM

Thanks for your credit card story. Imagine that - being denied credit! Some younger people have never experienced that, although times are changing.
Speaking of that, I'm a bit confused about the song you're looking for.
Time for a Sea Change?
Everybody's Gotta Make a Change Sometimes?
Sea Cruise?
Can you give me any more lyrics or details? Anyone?

Posted by Dale Connelly | May 21, 2009 6:41 AM

They could build some other functions into the magnetic strip on the cards. Maybe a card could be used to start public intertainment machines and they could charge for the extra functions. Phones and iPods don't have to have a monopoly and being multi-functional, right? Or we could just start paying a small fee for the services of using a card, but we don't want to do that, do we?

Posted by Jim | May 21, 2009 7:19 AM

Greetings Heartlanders! I agree with Gail -- if they can make their money from a little windpower, I'm all for it. While I've certainly used and enjoyed the benefits of credit cards (more than I should), the credit card companies have made obscene amounts of money with very little oversight.

I don't have a problem with businesses making a fair profit for what they provide, but credit companies have squeezed consumers for every possible fee and outrageous rates, purely for additional profit and unbridled greed.

Obama's legislation is long overdue to rein in these criminals. I believe Barb in Blackhoof is correct, also -- we do need to live more simply, need less stuff. I like using the check/debit card as way of tracking spending without carrying cash all the time. Living within our means is harder and harder to do these days, but we do our best.

Sorry for the long and glum post, but this issue is a hotspot for me. Looking toward a nice day -- have a great one, everybody!

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | May 21, 2009 7:23 AM

Can't think of any windmill-related songs off the top of my head. But it made me think of about "Southern Cross" by CSN or "Sailing" by Christopher Cross.

Posted by Mike in Albert Lea | May 21, 2009 7:46 AM

Barb, thanks for reminding me of the term "mondegreen", as I experienced one this morning hearing the Jaztronauts singing "Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah". I thought I heard someone with a mouthful of hot food trying to say "Eat Hot Pork! Ahh! Ahh!"

(I posted this comment earlier, but it never appeared. Must have gotten lost in outer space.)

Posted by Gail in Wisconsin | May 21, 2009 7:58 AM

Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah?

Hey, how did you get my secret code?

Posted by Elroy Jetson | May 21, 2009 8:00 AM

Good Morning!

I'm all in favor of capturing credit card related wind but I'm thinking more along the lines of a chin-mounted windmill for credit industry blowhards. This approach could also be adapted for use with politicians during campaign season if they were strengthened for the political winds.

I worked in the credit card industry for a time and found out that folks who pay off their cards and never carry a balance are referred to as deadbeats!

Happy Thursday everyone!

Posted by Mark | May 21, 2009 8:04 AM

Does anyone else think Guy Davis' "Sweetheart Like You," sounds like a Dylan song? Lately, my daughter has been signing off on emails with, Keep on keepin' on. Now I know where she got it! Plagiarizer!

How much of a balance would you have to carry to avoid the fee? It wouldn't bother me to neglect paying off my card entirely each month. It's not like I'd really know what that even feels like!

Hey Dale, no offense, but yesterday's topic was a lot more fun!

Posted by Donna | May 21, 2009 8:04 AM

Hi Dale - sorry to ask for a song and then disappear into the barn. it IS one my mondegreens. Steve informs me that it is "Time for a COOL Change" by the Little River Band. oh well. i like that song also :-)

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | May 21, 2009 8:14 AM

Dale, maybe play something from Man of La Mancha -- tilting at windmills is tangentially related -- I can't remember any of the songs except Dulcinea and the title song...

Or Money Makes the Volrd Go 'Round from Cabaret?

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | May 21, 2009 8:16 AM

Yes, Donna, I agree.
Yesterday's topic, initiated by Elinor, was much more engaging. And it was more pleasant to deal with Elinor as opposed to Bud Buck, who initiated today's topic. He is SO serious!

Posted by Dale Connelly | May 21, 2009 8:17 AM

forgot to suggest that everyone come on up to Wurst Fest to hear the Wurst Polka Band and eat the best wurst (brats) at TJ's Country Store in Mahtowa on Saturday 23rd. run/walk/sit/eat/sing/dance - Cynthia and i will be there at 11 a.m. to beat the brat rush..... it's a country joy!

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | May 21, 2009 8:18 AM

Barbara brought up Don Quixote - Gordon Lightfoot has a great song by the same name - even has lyrics about tilting at windmills. Got Lightfoot?

Posted by Mike in Albert Lea | May 21, 2009 8:26 AM

morning, all, from utah! gorgeous place--i'll send dale a funny cat picture and also one of a puppy to cheer everyone up after thinking about credit cards...

personally, i've got a different take on this----let them go bankrupt! it will be fine for most of us---others will step in to offer credit, perhaps in a better way! we'll still have our debit cards, cuz that's not really a credit card, just a cash card. and those folks who have made SO much money off me and the rest of you and then managed to ruin their company can just experience the consequences. ha.

i'm proud to say that i have put this whole vacation on my debit card, not the credit card, having (gasp) actually saved up the money i needed for it before taking the vacation! saving some dough by making good use of the room fridge to have eat-at-home breakfasts and suppers...

loving it here, by the way---the sanctuary is an inspiring place. let's talk about animals tomorrow, dale!

have a great day, everyone--i'm off to take care of abandoned, needy kitties and old dogs, and visit the area where they keep/care for parrots this afternoon. maybe a hike in zion national park on saturday...

Posted by Kay H | May 21, 2009 8:26 AM

loved the "change" songs, especially otis redding. thought of billie holiday's lovely "you've changed".

Posted by elinor | May 21, 2009 8:30 AM

That's right Dale - it's Bud, not you, who's the downer. I think Bud and I share similar levels of seriousnessity. I googled to find songs with the word serious in their titles, but came up with nothing. Any RH can think of?

Posted by Donna | May 21, 2009 8:30 AM

Maybe the change we should be talking about is the change we find under the pillows of the couch, or in the bottom of the washing machine. Ever have the experience of putting on a jacket and finding $.75 in the pocket? That can 'change' your entire out-look on the entire day!

My father-in-law used to say, "If you have your health and two nickels to rub together, you're rich." I think he was right.

Any happy songs in the library about small change?

Posted by Teri In Zimmerman | May 21, 2009 8:38 AM

okay, that's my new favorite rhyme---serious and delirious!

p.s. eep opp ork ah ah to you, elroy!

Posted by Kay H | May 21, 2009 8:38 AM

Sorry I don't have the Gordon Lightfoot song, everyone. Our Lightfoot collection is sub-par.
Thanks, though, for all the suggestions.
My first hour mishaps will lead to a slight change in the schedule - hours 2 and 3 will be rebroadcast today instead of hours 1 and 2.

Posted by Dale Connelly | May 21, 2009 8:53 AM

Teri -- nice "pivot" in the topic, made me laugh.

barb in Blackhoof -- I WISH I could get to that Festival, it's my favorite kind of gathering; if there's any way... Would love to meet you and Cynthia.

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | May 21, 2009 9:00 AM

Isn't it great to hear from Kay H? Wonder who Elroy is?

I can't believe no one jumped in and said, "Sweetheart Like You is a Dylan song, stupid!" I learned that just now surfing the worldwideweb. I'm serious!

Barb and Cynthia - have fun at the fest. Eat a brat and drink a brew for me.

Posted by Donna | May 21, 2009 9:13 AM

off topic - more joyous:
Catbirds are back!
also this morning as i had Niblet and T out for their morning nosh in the meadow, heard: Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, LeConte's Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Sandhill Cranes, Orioles, Yellow-shafted Flicker, Kingfisher, Raven, Crow, Red-winged Blackbird, Brownheaded Cowbird, Bobolink, Goldfinch, Robin, Buebird, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow (making a nest in Nib's and T's Gentlemens' Club), Brown Thrasher, Phoebe, (i never know what kind of) Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Common Yellow Throat, Tennessee Warbler, Ovenbird, and i forget what else. Haven't heard some of my other favorites yet: Sedge Wren, Eastern Wood PeeWee, Veery, Hermit Thrush, or Alder Flycatcher (says "Free Beer!").

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | May 21, 2009 3:18 PM

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