Taking advantage of people is totally uncool. Taking advantage of people who work every day fighting for your freedom to take advantage of them is even worse. Yet that seems to be what's happening with at least three stores who sell overpriced goods to service members on credit, and then take them to court when they can't pay.
The tricky part is, thanks to a loophole in the law, stores like USA Discounters, Freedom Furniture and Electronics, and Military Credit Services, can file the suit in the Virginia courts, regardless of where the military member is stationed. So basically they have no way to defend themselves in court.
These stores lure in young service members just starting out in life with their promise not to deny credit to military personnel. What they don't tell these folks is that a lot of their products are extremely overpriced. One website reported that "an iPad Mini, for example, last year sold at USA Discounters for $699 when Apple's retail price was $329."
Another example was Army Pvt. Jeramie Mays, who bought a $650 laptop for $1,799, plus $458 in add-ons. Over the course of a two-year contract, Mays would've spent almost $3,000 on the computer!
Unfortunately, Mays' laptop broke while he was serving overseas in Iraq, and he stopped making payments. So the company sued him in Virginia, while he was still stationed abroad, where he had no way of representing himself. Here's what happened:
USA Discounters brought suit against him while he was in Germany. After winning a judgment, he said, the company sought to seize both his pay and funds in his credit union account. The action froze his account for several weeks, Mays said.
Mays, currently based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, said that for most of last January, he could not withdraw funds. "Trying to take care of two kids and my mother and myself on nothing doesn't help," he said. Around the same time, he finally filed for bankruptcy. His debt with USA Discounters was discharged last March, protecting any assets from seizure.
Of course these companies say they have a right to be paid, and they do. But the whole business is incredibly shady, what with the overpriced wares, the alleged pressure to buy more than they came in for, the excitement of credit approval ... it just seems like some of these people are getting set up to be screwed over.
Do you think these soldiers are being taken advantage of?
Image via Mike Kalasnik/Flickr