Thursday, July 4, 2013

I owe my soul to the Company Store: How would YOU like to be paid with a prepaid bank card?

Posted By on Thu, Jul 4, 2013 at 1:46 PM

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

- from “Sixteen Tons,” a song about coal miners, made popular by Tennessee Ernie Ford

Though there are conflicting stories about the exact origin of the song, “Sixteen Tons” is about the life of of a coal miner (or substitute any low-wage worker, if you like) and how impossible it is to drag yourself up from the pit from where you find yourself.

According to Merle Travis, who released the song in the 1940s and whose father was a coal miner (as was my grandfather on my father’s side of the family) the chorus “another day older and deeper in debt” was a line he heard often growing up, as well as the line about owing one’s soul to the company store.

Under the system that the coal miners worked, no cash was paid out; instead, they received credit vouchers which were only good for use at the company store.

What happened as a result of this enlightened economic policy? Well, unions in America flourished even more.

Boy, that’s behind us! And as armchair philosophers like to tell us, the need for unions is long gone - the American worker no longer needs these nurse maids.

Zoom ahead to 2013, and the headline in the Business and Farm section of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

Wal-Mart covered in payroll-card probe


Maybe somebody at Walmart Command should read a history book sometime, or at least listen to some classic American music during office hours. I’ve got a whole list of songs I could suggest, if they’d like . . .

Wally World - and a group of other companies, including McDonald’s and Home Depot - are under investigation in New York over the fees charged to folks who get these prepaid cards instead of paychecks.

There was a piece on MSNBC last night, which first made me curious.

Oh, you scoff. What is the deal? I’d take me one of them cards, rather than a paycheck any day.

Well, maybe if you were a moron, Dainty Reader. But other than that?

Because who benefits from this?

Well, if you get a paycheck, you cash your check at the bank (or a check cashing establishment, if you are among the “unbanked” as the new description goes - no, really) and that is that. But every time you use one of these cards?

Heavens to Betsy!

A nice bank, somewhere (which issued the card) gets a nice fee.

For each and every time you use the damn thing. Isn’t that special?

Each and every time - a fee.

Maybe you could spend most of it all in one place, and at one time - like Walmart?

Maybe you’ll get a choice, and you can continue to get a paycheck . . . Or maybe this will be the wave of the future.

Some companies say that the cost of paper is behind the move . . . Something that will bring cheer to the low-wage employees who (or even those who don’t make low wages but resent the costs) will be making this sacrifice for the environment.

One question:

Are executives of the companies in question being paid with prepaid bank cards? Any of them?

Okay . . . stop laughing. Really. Stop.

Today’s Soundtrack

Today’s blog was written to the soundtrack of of the CBS production of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which was released on CD in 1995.

Doctor Suess, Boris Karloff and all those great songs. Especially this one:

You're a mean one, Mister Grinch
You really are a heel,
You're as cuddly as a cactus, you're as charming as an eel, Mister Grinch,

You're a bad banana with a greasy black peel!

You're a monster, Mister Grinch,
Your heart's an empty hole,
Your brain is full of spiders, you've got garlic in your soul, Mister Grinch,

I wouldn't touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!

You're a vile one, Mister Grinch,
You have termites in your smile,
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Mister Grinch,

Given a choice between the two of you I'd take the ... seasick crocodile!

You're a foul one, Mister Grinch,
You're a nasty wasty skunk . . .

Well, you get the idea. I don’t know why this song keeps going through my head this morning.


Quote of the Day

How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life. - James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan


Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

More by Richard Drake

  • The Man Without a Country

    Obviously he wasn’t really a man without a country, but considering the tenor of the times, even in a place like Fayetteville, it is understandable that he might be reluctant to reveal too much to a stranger.
    • Oct 22, 2016
  • Boozman the Barbarian

    Arkansas Senator John Boozman always seems to come across as the mildest of men, but one of his most recent ads puts me in mind of the famous exchange from the 1982 John Milius directed Conan the Barbarian. 
    • Oct 17, 2016
  • On the matter of Donald Trump and reflecting on one’s own sexuality

    I come from a generation in which magazine articles suggesting that “No means Yes” were ever present in our formative years.
    • Oct 13, 2016
  • More »

Most Shared

Visit Arkansas

Searching for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Searching for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park

A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.



© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation