Student loan giant Sallie Mae has announced it's moving its headquarters to Delaware.
This is very good news for all those Delawareans who, ever since they were kids, dreamed of one day working in collections. Sometimes dreams do come true.
I can't begrudge anyone any job these days, so I suppose an expected 1,500 jobs over the next five years is good news for the area — even if those jobs don't appear sustainable or fulfilling or otherwise socially beneficial. A soul-crushing paycheck is still a paycheck, after all.
But I don't trust Sallie Mae as an institution and I'm not terribly confident in their business model (I've never heard any financial advisers tell their clients, "You should invest more in inefficient middlemen") or their future prospects now that President Obama has forcibly weaned them from the taxpayers' teat.
Mainly, though, I dislike them. I've been collecting Sallie Mae stories ever since my class of '90 graduated. These aren't my story — I was fortunate to get my degrees without having to be indentured to Sallie Mae — but they are the stories of friends, relatives, co-workers and acquaintances. Many of these stories are similar and they suggest a pattern — a sordid and sleazy pattern.
That pattern goes like this:
Student graduates and does not immediately find a high-paying job.
Student contacts Sallie Mae and arranges a six-month deferral of payments.
"No problem," Sallie Mae says. "Your next payment won't be due for another six months. Here is your confirmation number."
Student writes down confirmation number.
Two months later student gets a phone call. "This is Sallie Mae. Your account is now two months past due. You must send a payment today or we will [dire threat]."
Student explains about the deferral and recites the confirmation number.
Sallie Mae explains that the confirmation number is meaningless and that the deferral was not properly arranged due to [vaguely complex reason]. Sallie Mae offers to arrange the deferral properly, but payment of [the initial two months/interest/late-fee/surcharge/processing fee] will be required that day.
Student makes payment and arranges proper deferral. Student receives confirmation number.
"Thank you," Sallie Mae says. "Your next payment will be due in six months."
Two months later, student's phone rings. "This is Sallie Mae. Your account is now two months past due. …"
Student explains again about the deferral and recites the second confirmation number.
Sallie Mae explains that the second confirmation number is meaningless and that the second deferral was not properly arranged due to [vaguely complex reason]. "And our records show a history of late and missing payments," Sallie Mae says, "and between that and your terrible credit score, we're not able to offer any further leniency."
Student says, "But I have excellent credit."
"Not any more, you don't," Sallie Mae says, and penalties ensue.
I have heard this story many times from many people. Too many times not to suspect that this is a deliberate tactic — something Sallie Mae representatives are trained and instructed to do.
If you have a similar story, I would like to hear about it.