CityBeat’s Living Out Loud – Cincinnati Blog

{January 9, 2007}   Socking it to the Poor

robin-hood.jpgMoney probably doesn’t buy happiness but when you’re poor, sometimes it’s hard to think that way and I do think big companies make money off us.

I’m a waitress in a diner and don’t have a checking account – don’t really make enough money to have one – and when I go cash my small check, the bank that it’s drawn on charges me five dollars. Maybe that teller telling me that doesn’t think much of it, but five dollars is a lot of money to me.

My phone was disconnected last month, because I was late making a payment. They charged me a reconnection fee.

If I’m late paying my electric bill, Duke Energy charges me a late fee. Sometimes I feel like calling them up and telling them that if I had the money, I would pay it on time. No point in that, guess it’s my problem.

Sometimes I think those people in the big fancy buildings and in the suits are laughing at us here in The Hood. Where’s Robin Hood when you need him?

Karen @ The Hood



Polly says:

You know the old saying, the rich keep getting richer and the poor keeps getting poorer. Karen, we’re in the same boat.

hard as nails says:

let’s all hit jean up for a loan.

Jim Stanton says:

Actually, Karen, there are a lot of banks and credit unions in Cincinnati that offer free checking. You don’t need a lot of money to open a checking account. Do some shopping around.

Maggie says:

I know all about having to cash paychecks without having a checking account. I bounced some checks some months ago and now no bank will touch me. Somehow I always feel cheap when I go into a bank and just want the check cashed but I really shouldn’t. They are making money off me.

Rita says:

Jim is right; you have to call around to alot of banks and be very assertive. I’m not implying you have an issue with that – I have know you can hold your own.
However, I work with people with housing issues. In one incident, a person wanted to set up a checking account and she was told she had to have two picture id’s – such as a drivers license and a passport. (Do what?) A passport? I’m sure a passport is the top priority when money is so tight and we struggle to break even at the end of the pay period.
When I called the bank to advocate, the rules changed to one picture id and a utility bill with the same address as the license.
An additional issue for we country folks is the total the lack of transportation that additionally limits choices.

Heather says:

Yeah, but when you get a bank account, the fees are only just beginning!

I’m pretty good at arguing my way out of fees, but it’s gotten more difficult lately. I mean, when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, your account is bound to go negative once in a while (plus I suck at math), and then you get slammed with fees, sometimes hundreds of dollars woth. If I had money for fees, my fucking account wouldn’t be negative! Now, how do I pay the rent?

I guess I shouldn’t complain, I have it better than a lot of people. Still, as I inch my way up the ladder, it’s not getting much easier.

Beth says:

I’m with you. It sucks to live paycheck to paycheck.

Barbara says:

Sometimes you have to pull yourself up, Karen. Come on, There’s no reason not to have a checking account. Listen to Jim Stanton. You can get a free one.

hard as nails says:

is that larry in the photo?

Marilyn says:

Karen, yes $5 can be a lot of money. I remember going into a grocery store with $7 to buy my daughter and I food for a week. This was an eye opening experience. Here I was with all this lovely food all around me, but I couldn’t buy it.

I ended up getting generic soups and crackers.

So you actually go to the bank that the check is drawn on and they still charge you $5 for check cashing? This is outrageous.

Marty says:

You’re a darling, sweetheart, but go open up a free checking account somewhere.

Biscuit says:

Karen great post.

Many years ago had a a financially tough stretch. I’d get so pissed at the bank because if you bounced one check (poor math skill or oversite) then you ended up bouncing every check and the fees would add up quicker then I could pay them. I’d also get pissed when I had to pay a late charge to one of the utilities. At some point I had to take responsibility fo the fact the I was bouncing the checks- not the bank, I was late paying my utility bills- not the utility companies. When I look back on it I realize that the only bill I paid on time was the cable bill because I didn’t want turned off. I was a man whose prioritities were out of wack.

Brian says:

Karen – go to a credit union, there are little or NO fees for simply getting your own money out. Banks are for corporations and people with lots o’money, credit unions are for workin’ folks like you and me.

The Cincinnati Credit Union on Vine St., before you get to McMicken going up the hill is in your neighborhood, just go there to open a checking account. Keep on keepin’ on, girl.

Heather says:


While it’s not the bank that’s bouncing the checks, that doesn’t give the bank the right to fleece you. By law, when there is a breech of contract (which is what the bank calls a bounced check or an overdrawn account), the injured party (the bank) is only legally allowed to charge the amount that the injury caused them.

It does not cost the bank $35 per transaction, therefore, they are overcompensating for the injury caused by an overdrawn account.

This is why, if you’re good at arguing, you can argue your way out of fees.

Most people are too willing to bend over and take it, which is why they keep screwing the people who can least afford to be screwed.

Every Cincinnatian says:

Yes, our local corporations and financial institutions are first-rate wealth extractors. We suggest endorsing your check back to the diner and receiving cash from them.

Heather says:

Also, won’t Kroger cash your check for free if you have a Kroger card?

jake says:

i don’t know you, karen. maybe you’re shy when it comes to your check, but there are ways not to pay fees. Like Brian said, go to a credit union, or as heather says go to your closest kroger store. stop giving away your money.

Bill says:

Yes, listen to Brian and go to a credit union. If you think Fifth Third Bank is your friend, you are sooooo mistaken.

biff says:

One option would be to a get a job that pays more or work more hours but I guess it’s easier to blame others for the mistakes you made.
Believe it or not banks are in the business to make money. They’re not a charity. They have to report to their owners (stockholders)

Matt says:

Hey jackass biff,

You don’t know Karen’s situation and don’t know her circumstances. I’m guessing you work for Fifth Third, the only bank you’ll NEVER need.

Heather says:

Making money doesn’t have to involve screwing people.

Actually, making money should not involve screwing people.

biff does have a point (however rudely he chose to make it). You really need to get an education Karen, or you’re going to spend the rest of your life scraping to survive in the hood.

Go to FAFSA online and fill out a form for financial aid. You can get money for school and money for living expenses while you go to school. Call a local community college and ask how to go about getting your GED. After you get your GED, enroll in a college and get a degree or a certificate in something… ANYTHING!

hard as nails says:

biff, old buddy, old pal, old fifth third worker.
i’d suggest you not do harm to karen. she has a lot of friends here who look out for her.
now go back to counting your money.

Jackie says:


Do you know what it’s like to be poor? Do you live in Over-the-Rhine? Do you even walk through The Hood? You clearly don’t have the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Larry Gross says:

“I guess it’s easier to blame others for the mistakes you made.”


It’s a little hard for me not to take that remark personally. I know Karen and as Matt pointed out, you don’t know her situation or where she’s been. I do.

If anybody is trying to pull themselves up from where they are right now and trying to make a better life, it’s Karen.

Heather says:

Also, if you can stomach the work, nursing homes will pay for the 2-week course needed to become a nurse aid.

Some places require a high school degree, but it’s not a state requirement, and they seldom ask for proof.

It’s not easy work, but you’ll probably start out making at least $8 an hour. If you’re not making over $10 after a couple years, apply somewhere else (for some reason, they hire experienced aids at around $10, but they rarely pay an aid who’s been working for them more than $10).

Marilyn says:

I realize that sometimes the written word leaves alot to be desired insofar as communicating all the nuances of emotion. However, Biff leaves no room for mistaken perceptions. He has little empathy.

He must be republican!

hard as nails says:

biff is jean’s half-brother.

Marilyn says:

“Biff says Jean is not his lover. Whoo”

Nancy says:

You guys need to stop jumping all over people when they don’t agree with you. It’s very unfriendly.

Heather says:

Not agreeing is one thing, being rude is something else entirely, and we don’t have to tolerate meanness.

Matt Future says:

i’m not going to defend biff’s tone but he is correct in his statement that banks and other companies are in business to make money, not to function as a charity. why should a bank cash a check for a non-customer for free? someone has to pay for that teller to perform the transaction. the bank is providing you with a service which requires compensation.

late fees are similar. it sucks if you don’t have the money to pay a bill, but that doesn’t change the fact that the business is entitled to payment for services rendered.

do you as a waitress expect a tip from your customers or is that an “excessive fee” (they already paid for the meal, maybe your salary should come from that)?

i don’t like money-grubbing suits either, but let’s face it, they also employ everyday people who are just getting by (and no, i don’t work at 5/3). it’s easy to rag on the guys who sit in the ivory towers, but a lot of other people much lower down the ladder would also be affected if we adopted a system like the one you seem to advocate.

i’m not trying to be rude or condescending, and no, i don’t know your circumstances or story, but let’s not paint this as only filthy rich vs destitute poor while leaving out the folks in the middle.

Matt says:

Matt Future’s response is fair and balanced (god, I’m I turning into FOX news?) Biff is rude and is an asshole.

Rita says:

One word – karma. If you are not careful, you will come back as a social worker. Not a pretty picture – guarenteeeeeee


Banks have the right to charge a fee for bounced checks, but it’s the way they do it that seems unfair to me. They will run that bad item through every day until you cover it, charging a fee every time. They run through all the debits before the credits, *in hopes* that you will bounce something. I recently had a huge penalty taken out on me when i took my own money out of my own savings account. ‘Splain that one to me! So, they did, and basically their explanation was that it was Federal regulation. Still smells like BS to me. If I didn’t have the bills I do, I probably wouldn’t even have a bank account. Keep the money in a coffee can just like my granny did.

Heather says:

You know what else they do to maximize charges? They line the withdrawals up from largest to smallest.

So let’s say you have $100 in your account and six charges going through. One charge for $91 and five for $10.

Now, if the $10 charges go through first, you’ll end up with one overdraft fee.

Which is why they put the $90 charge through first, so you’ll get five fees.

5 X $35 = $175

At the very least, to be fair, they should put the charges through in the order you made them.

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