If you watch a Rangers game on TV for more than about five minutes, you're bound to encounter manager Ron Washington telling you wonderful things about Ace Cash Express. If you can ignore the glare from Washington's shiny pate -- he often appears sans baseball cap, even though he is a man who benefits greatly from having a head covering -- you'll learn that Ace is the place to go when you're down on your luck. The compassionate employees there take care of you and can quickly get you the cash you need to feed your children after you spent your last dime on your ailing grandmother's emergency gall bladder surgery, or something like that.
But that's not really how things play out in the real world. The payday lending industry is built to profit on the backs of the poor and financially naive. A borrower takes out a loan and often, whether because they shouldn't have been given a loan in the first place or because of usurious interest rates, they are unable to pay it back. So they take out a loan from another lender to pay back the first. The vicious cycle has been well-documented.
Why then does Washington, whose salary is somewhere in the $1 million range, tell fans to use a business with such a distasteful business model? Over on his blog, CitySquare's Gerald Britt wonders the same thing. Last week, he wrote a letter to Washington, owner Nolan Ryan, and general manager Jon Daniels questioning the practice.
He recounts one CitySquare client who took out a $300 loan to buy school supplies and, after she couldn't repay the loan in two weeks, wound up owing $900. A city ordinance passed last year aimed to put an end to the industry's most egregious practices, and there is a push for stronger rules on a state level, but that doesn't change the fact that the business is, by its very nature, predatory.
"(T)here are those of us, who cringe every time we see these (Ace) commercials during a game broadcast, who refuse to believe that neither he nor the Texas Ranger organization are aware of their negative impact of these businesses on individuals and whole communities," Britt writes.
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Britt rattles off some stats: there are more payday lenders and auto title loan businesses in Texas than McDonald's and Burger Kings combined. On one two-mile stretch of Camp Wisdom Road, there are more than 20 of those lenders.
"They have, for all intents and purposes choked out economic development in an area that once thrived with commercial diversity."
There are other factors at play in the destruction of commercial diversity, but Britt's request that Washington, and, by extension, the Rangers organization, should stop legitimizing a rotten industry, is a valid one. The team certainly wouldn't condone, say, Josh Hamilton pitching his favorite brand of chewing tobacco. Payday lenders occupy the same moral sphere.
If nothing else, think of the fans who are subjected to Washington's scalp anytime they watch a game. It's just cruel.