I'm used to businesses where anything offered for sale can be printed out on paper to take home and consider. That is how many people comparison shop. That doesn't happen in payroll lending.
Payroll lending businesses do not provide any information other than a rate chart on the wall until they get a look at a customer's financial information.
Advance America, 101 Plank Road, was the first store I entered for a story on payroll lending (See Page A-1). The employee was polite, but couldn't give me any information until I brought in a pay stub and checking account information. Once I gave him information, he could discuss specifics.
I explained I had never applied for such a loan before and didn't have those items. Then I started to copy down the rate information displayed on the wall showing annual percentage rates and the straight fees for loans of different amounts.
The employee became upset when I started writing down information and asked what I was doing. I said I was just copying information so I could compare with other businesses. He refused to explain what each column of the chart meant.
When he continued to press me on why I would write it down, I told him I was a reporter working on a story. He immediately ordered me to leave the premises.
I agreed to leave as soon as I finished copying the chart. The employee made a quick call, presumably to his boss, and told me again to leave. He did give me a national number to call.
When I continued to write down the information, he made another phone call and told the person on the other end I refused to leave. "I'm not refusing to leave, but I am writing down information publicly displayed on the wall," I called out loudly enough for the person on the other end of the phone to hear.
I asked the employee if I could just talk to the person he was calling, but he refused and hung up. I asked if I could use his phone to call the national number and he told me he didn't have phone service.
This employee later called my editor and said I should be fired for disrupting his business. He admitted to my editor I had been in the store only minutes and no customers had been in the store.
I then headed across to Norwalk Korner's Plaza to the next business, National Cash Advance. I took a couple of minutes to compile my notes before that stop.
As I walked up to the door at 201 Milan Ave., I was met at the door by a woman who politely, but firmly, told me the company was owned by the same national company as Advance America and reporters were not welcome. She handed me a card with a different national number.
I headed across the street to Cashland at 214 Milan Ave. The manager there was friendly and told me what documents I needed to get a loan the standard pay check stub, checking account information, identification. When I told her I didn't have that information and asked if I could write down the loan information displayed on their wall, she said to write down whatever I wanted and also pointed out several brochures on services such as prepaid debit cards and information on several types of insurance and on identification theft protection. The manager said she couldn't give me any more information until I brought in my paperwork and filled out an application.
I told the manager I was a reporter working on a story and she said she knew because she'd already gotten a call with my description from the first store. They have different ownership, but the first store employee had made a round of "warning" phone calls.
My next stop was at American General, 461 Milan Ave., Suite 2. While the employees there said they couldn't give me any specific information until I brought in the necessary paperwork, they gave me brochures and explained the process. When I told them I was a reporter, they said they hadn't gotten a "warning."
They explained they were not allowed to make statements to the press and gave me their national number.
I headed to my next stop at Check Into Cash, 180 Whittlesey. This store had also gotten no advance warning so I went through the usual I didn't bring the necessary documents, but would like for you to explain the process to me. The employee told me she would explain it once I brought in the necessary documents. Since rates were also posted on the wall and were slightly different at the $800 range, I started copying down the information.
The manager objected to my writing down any information. I said I was a reporter and wouldn't ask her any questions since I understood she couldn't make any statements, but I was just writing down the information posted and needed a national contact number. She demanded I leave and refused to give me a national number to call.
I asked again for the number and she made two phone calls saying that I was copying down information and wouldn't leave. After another request, she wrote down a number on a post-it note and gave it to me, again demanding I leave.
All of the other numbers turned out to be legitimate, but the number I got from Check Into Cash was not the national company number, but instead a number for a national trade association which represents many paycheck lending companies.
I couldn't find the last store Fast Cash Express Tax Place by the address, 80 Whittlesey Ave., so I went back to the office to call for directions.