Their Pay Day

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My mother died early on a Saturday in St. Louis. Right away my sister asked, "When are you coming out?" I was a cook at Al's Good Food Café on Mission, making $10 an hour. I didn't have the money. I collected from friends what they could give. Got an advance from my boss. But I still couldn't get there.

So I went to the payday loan store. You can't miss their signs, especially when you're looking for a sign from God. I got a $300 loan. You write a check for $300, but date it for your next pay day. You get the cash right away, minus $45. I went to St. Louis. I lost a week of work. I came back, and I was still broke. And I had this loan.

The problem is, you have to pay the whole $300 in two weeks. That's their pay day. There's no way to pay off just a piece. I was making $500 every two weeks. I just didn't have $300. And they were about to cash my post-dated check.

They said, "Don't worry. We'll give you another loan to cover it." Minus, of course, another $45 fee. This went on for two years. I was on the rat wheel. I paid $45 every two weeks. Because I didn't have $300 to pay off my debt.

When my car broke down, I asked if I could please, please, have more time. They said no. They called my job -- thank God I didn't get fired. They threatened to call the DA, press charges for a bounced check. I was trapped. Ashamed, I didn't want to tell anyone. I had written a check and thought, it's easy. When you ain't got nothing you think, "what's $45?" It's not going to break me. But when I figured it out, after 10 months it was $1,000. I thought loan sharking was a crime. It's not. It's legal.


Finally my credit union asked what was going on with all these checks. They offered a real loan I could handle. That's what I did. I've never had more than a couple hundred in the bank, and the money's always earmarked. Sometimes, you just give up. When you give up, you do stupid stuff. I've decided I'm not giving up anymore.

With a Perspective, I'm Mark Laws.