Monday, June 21, 2010

Announcing "A Month Without VISA"

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our protest against Bank of America continues as we reach more and more people and educate them about the prudence of withdrawing their money from this abusive bank. I can't thank those of you who have participated in the Bank of America protest enough. You should all pat yourselves on the back for doing a great job!

So, while the Bank of America protest wages on, we're going to take on the next evil giant, VISA USA. For the month of July, we're putting away our VISA cards - in drawers, in safes and safety deposit boxes, under our mattresses, or buried in the back yard if necessary. Some VISA victims may choose to cut their cards into little pieces. Go ahead! Good work!

So why are we cutting the cord to VISA for the month? Well, let's look at VISA's history. To start with, VISA is the demon-spawn of Bank of America. VISA was born in 1958 as the BankAmericard. By the mid-60's BofA began licensing the BankAmericard to banks outside of the BofA network, distributing over 100 million unsolicited cards to bank customers and non-customers alike and creating economic and civic havoc - which they did apologize for. The Feds put a stop to the distribution of unsolicited credit cards as a result. In 1970, BofA relinquished control of the BankAmericard and the issuing banks created their own independent financial corporation around the card. This independent corporation was a closed-door operation. It had no investors from the public sector, and it was not traded on the stock market. This would give BankAmericard additional power by making them untouchable.

In 1975, the various and sundry BankAmericard brands (which included Chargex, Barclaycard, and Carte Bleue) were united under the new name VISA. In ensuing years, the VISA Corporation, like its unholy parent Bank of America, would adopt aggressive advertising and marketing schemes to build its business to be the largest in the world, and then turn around and start stabbing its merchant base in the back. In 1996 VISA was sued by Wal-Mart, Sears, Safeway, Circuit City, and The Limited for market manipulation and conspiring with MasterCard to violate US antitrust laws. The case dragged on until 2003 when VISA and MasterCard settled out of court. Immediately after, VISA cut a deal with all major banks West of the Mississippi to drop MasterCard products and carry only VISA. In exchange for doing this, VISA would provide enough plastic to give every checking account holder in the West a free (read: unsolicited) Debit Card - with the VISA logo on it. For a period of a few years, it was impossible for Americans in the Western US to acquire a MasterCard through their local banks.

There they go, raising that specter of antitrust again. Won't they ever learn?

Also during this period immediately following the class action settlement, VISA redlined the internet, declaring certain classes of internet merchants as "high risk" - regardless of whether individual sites had demonstrated a chargeback risk or not - and giving them 30 days to fork over in excess of $700 per each domain (and another $375 each year thereafter in addition to transaction fees) to maintain the VISA service for which they had been paying nothing up to then. This was clearly a move to strong-arm the small internet business owner into shelling out even more of his profits in order to defray VISA's own penalty for abusive behavior. VISA cards were being used in roughly 70% of all online transactions and VISA knew they could muscle the extra money out of these online merchants who would be afraid of losing significant revenue if they dumped VISA.

And how do you show your contrition for your abusive behavior? Well, by abusing the next sucker you can find, that's how - at least according to the Book of VISA. Messing with the big retail corporations backfired because they have big legal departments. Not so with the little guy. He's much easier to push around. And push is exactly what VISA did so that it wouldn't have to look itself in the mirror and face its own corruption.

Next VISA USA exercised more of its muscle by mandating that their logo and the VISA name could not be displayed on such sites (even in the payment area), and that excessive chargebacks would result in termination of the paid service (the exact number of chargebacks which would define "excessive" was never disclosed to the merchants even when asked point blank). VISA then ruled that merchants are forbidden to add a surcharge onto VISA transactions to offset the cost of the service, and any language that is used on the site that VISA determines unkind to the corporation will result in immediate termination of the service. Furthermore, the credit card giant also gave itself power to control content on the sites that used the VISA service, again using racketeering practices to force webmasters to edit and censor their own material or face termination.

And you thought they were just a credit card agency. Ha! They also fancy themselves as a censorship bureau and moral police too.

In the last few years, banks have been slowly re-introducing the MasterCard brand to their credit card offerings, perhaps to avoid charges of collusion and antitrust with the Demon of Debt, VISA. But once again, as in the earliest days of the BankAmericard, the saturation of the market with VISA cards and the willingness of the banks to put VISA branded cards into the hands of anyone with a checking account has taken its toll on the economy. Now, issuing banks, backed up by the weight and power of the VISA Corporation, are raping the people they hooked on their "plastic heroin" - charging ever increasing interest rates to their customers regardless of re-payment record, lowering purchasing limits, destroying credit scores, and bullying the very people that gave them the power to begin with. Sound familiar?

VISA is a loan shark. A mobster. A racketeer. A monopolizer. A manipulator. And a charlatan. For every time they throw a little money (YOUR money, may I remind you) toward the Olympics, or planting a tree in a city park, or other such unnecessary but nice gestures, they con a whole new set of people into believing that they are indeed the Good Guys. The "winning team." And who doesn't want to be associated with the winning team? But it's all just a paper smile pasted over the face of Satan. Membership may have its rewards, but they go mostly to a select few at the top of the VISA dungheap. Meanwhile you pay dearly.

A Month Without VISA is a protest designed not only to reduce the flow of money to the "too big to care" company, but also to help wean you off of the VISA addiction they have instilled in you. We will help you break your dependence on plastic while reminding you that ANY company that punishes you for doing business with it, whether you are the consumer or the merchant, isn't worthy of your loyalty or your money.

There are alternatives to VISA. There are other credit cards, obviously, and they can pretty much all be used as widely as VISA. And there's my favorite VISA replacement: CA$H. Cold hard cash. If it was good enough for my grandparents it's good enough for me. And merchants will appreciate your giving them cash. They don't have to pay someone else a fee to accept it so it creates a higher margin of profit for the owners of your favorite stores.

My barber has a sign in his shop: "Credit Makes Enemies. Let's Be Friends". Good words to live by. Start being friendlier on July 1, and put your VISA cards away. Continue to pay off your debt to VISA, but don't incur any further debt on your VISA card for the entire month. You'll feel good about yourself once you see how easy it is... and I should know. I stopped the co-dependency ride with VISA years ago (when the banks colluded with VISA and ditched MasterCard) and I couldn't be happier. It's time our nation learns it can be emancipated from the wretched clutches of the VISA Corporation. Like the banks, it only has the power of our money if WE give it to them. So let's don't.

Join the protest, "A Month Without VISA" and tell everybody you know to join too. Chances are everybody you know has a VISA card. Chances also are they can learn to live as happy a life without it. I have!

VISA is a four-letter word