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Poor people drive our economy, okay? Poor people ... with checks.
May 22, 2008 4:43 AM   Subscribe

"America's most valuable resource is poor people." The award-winning Internets Celebrities (Dallas Penn, Rafi Kam and director Casimir Nozkowski) take on check cashing joints with a short documentary called Checkmate. Don't know the IC? Educate yourself with Bodega, Cereal Is Dope and the incredibly informative Urine Nation. (via Hip-Hop is Read)
posted by grabbingsand (23 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
You can pay for them to pay your bills for you? CONvenient, indeed.
posted by DU at 4:50 AM on May 22, 2008


One thing I learned about being in debt is that if I die today....I win.
posted by chillmost at 5:25 AM on May 22, 2008


I haven't read yet, but holy crap that is a terrifying quote, chillmost.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:56 AM on May 22, 2008


Postage stamps [50 cents]... postage stamps, at the post office, are 41 cent. What were you gonna do with that other 9 cent? You were gonna fuckin' waste it!

It's true, though: I was. Thanks for these videos. Everybody hates check-cashing places, for good reason, but they do serve a purpose. Like they show, banks just don't open branches in the poorest neighborhoods, and you've got to cash your check someplace.

(Also, on the bodega video... does anyone else have a serious problem drinking quarter water? It burns me on the way down, like overproof jungle juice.)
posted by uncleozzy at 6:21 AM on May 22, 2008


Wow. That was a great way to start my day. It manages to get the criticism and social commentary in there and STILL be amusing. "The economy: fucked the fuck up." Love it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:41 AM on May 22, 2008


Checkmate brought back some memories: I used to use those places, years back, in NYC. I had to. As they point out in the clip, banking in NYC is very poor-person-unfriendly, and I was essentially a poor person in New York. Hand to mouth existence.

Matter of fact, I have a strong suspicion that the Checks Cashed joint they're standing in front of at the opening of the clip is one I used to use a lot, right across the street from my old place, on Fulton Street, Fort Greene, Brooklyn, USA.

Then again, all fire escapes look more or less the same... it could be just about anywhere.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:43 AM on May 22, 2008


I've used those places to get my license plate tags, before you could get them on the 'net. I probably paid $4.00 extra for the convenience. I've also used them to cash checks when out of state and a regular bank wouldn't cash my check, even tho' it was a cashier's check. I got charged something like 10% of the total. Not much you can do if you don't have a VISA check card.

Payday loan/car title places are worse than check cashing places tho'. I've known people who use them on a regular basis and always scrambling to pay off a high-interest loan to keep their car, to get themselves to work, so they can repay the high-interest loan.

I use a credit union now, not a bank. Friendlier service, less fees.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:44 AM on May 22, 2008


Without check cashing agencies you wouldn't have the vital Bank to Check Cashing Agency ratio that helps white people recognize when they should lock their car doors and leer nervously at anybody who approaches the car.
posted by Project F at 7:09 AM on May 22, 2008 [7 favorites]


And I have to agree with Marie Mon Dieu, payday loans and car title loans are so damned corrosive that they wouldn't even make for a funny video.
posted by Project F at 7:16 AM on May 22, 2008


Without check cashing agencies you wouldn't have the vital Bank to Check Cashing Agency ratio that helps white people recognize when they should lock their car doors and leer nervously at anybody who approaches the car.

Bullshit..we'd still have the liquor stores per block ratio and Kennedy Fried Chicken per block ration to tell us.
posted by spicynuts at 8:41 AM on May 22, 2008


Bullshit..we'd still have the liquor stores per block ratio and Kennedy Fried Chicken per block ration to tell us.

I live near a block bookended on one side by a liquor store and on the other side by a Popeye's. The homeless people with the sob stories hang out in front of Popeye's, while the ones that don't even bother hang out in front of the liquor store.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:48 AM on May 22, 2008


I'm pretty sure that selling a first-class stamp for more than its face value (42 cents, or 41 when this was made) is simply illegal.

I fully realize that nailing these places for marking up postage stamps is roughly equivalent to getting Al Capone for tax evasion.
posted by oaf at 8:51 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


That was really good, thanks.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:08 AM on May 22, 2008


These are really fucking funny and good, these dudes need some distribution.


"It's the most nutritious food group...within the bodega"

Whole Foods? In the Bronx, more like half foods.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:39 AM on May 22, 2008


Ha! Great stuff. I can see my building in a few of the 'Checkmate' shots. Several of the store fronts were filmed on Broadway, underneath the elevated JMZ train. Never had much use for these places myself, but I suppose I can see their usefulness...

To be fair, Bushwick has seen a huge increase in the number of commercial banks over the last five or so years, and of course ALL of them offer "free" checking of one sort or another.
posted by triptychrecords at 10:04 AM on May 22, 2008


I haven't watched the video, but this is not about exploiting the poor, it's about exploiting illegal immigrants. The rise of check cashing places is directly tied to the growth in illegal immigration. How do you think illegal immigrants manage their finances? They can't open bank accounts because you need SSN's to do that. But they have bills to pay like anyone else. So they have to go to check cashing places where the cash they have or the checks they receive can enter the financial system. If you think of the money they collect for work as "illegal", this is how that money gets laundered.

This is the unknown dark side of immigration policy. You have all these people who simply want to work and live normal lives, but the system forces them into the black market just to pay their bills. Illegal immigrants need to be given some legal status just so they can participate in the legit banking system, make plans, borrow money, and build lives like everyone else, instead of being forced to live like criminals.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:43 AM on May 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


I love the internets celebrities! Thanks for posting this.
posted by YoungAmerican at 10:45 AM on May 22, 2008


This was fun. Thanks.
posted by hojoki at 10:56 AM on May 22, 2008


this is not about exploiting the poor, it's about exploiting illegal immigrants.

How about we meet at a nice happy medium and say it's about exploiting the poor and about exploiting illegal immigrants? The poor are like illegal immigrants that were born here.

Nice, quarter waters for everyone, my favorite flavor is blue.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:59 AM on May 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


From the first link:
Commercial banks don’t exist in the ‘hood.

Been to any small-to-mid-sized rust-belt town that has seen the factories move away? This ain't the hood, and there are bank branches all over. Yet, the check cashing/payday loan shops are all over the place like dandelions. I think it has something to do with not having enough of a cash flow to be able to leave money in a bank in the first place.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:28 PM on May 22, 2008


Banks, step your game up!
posted by Brocktoon at 12:56 PM on May 22, 2008


This is the unknown dark side of immigration policy. You have all these people who simply want to work and live normal lives, but the system forces them into the black market just to pay their bills.

This isn't quite accurate. First, it is possible to open an account at a bank with a Mexican Matricula Consular. Also, because the employers wish to cover their tracks for employing illegals and avoiding paying unemployment, many are paid in cash (when at all). So, it's not so much the check cashing part that exploits illegals, its the Western Union office and Cashier'-Check-for-a-fee "services" housed at the same bodega that exploits these workers
posted by Pollomacho at 1:11 PM on May 22, 2008


This isn't quite accurate. First, it is possible to open an account at a bank with a Mexican Matricula Consular.

I live in the predominately Hispanic Mission District in San Francisco, which has a dearth of Check Cashing/Payday Loan shops...a LOT. Not so much in the poorer Tenderloin and Hunter's Point.

San Francisco worked out a deal with the banks to allow Mexicans to open up an account with a Consular card, you forgot about the REST of Latin America.

Also the simple lack of educating day laborers about the service. Lastly, these places are also Western Unions, and remittances back home to their family is the #1 reason they are working up here. Banks are slow, inconvenient and not very competitive than these one stop shops for sending money back. Remittance is such big business, companies like Nexxo spring up to compete NOT with banks but with Western Union/Check cashing places by adding ATM-ish kioks in corner liquor stores and pharmacies.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 5:13 PM on May 22, 2008


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