Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Wonga vs the sovvie ring

Sovvie or soveriegn rings ain’t what they used to be. Growing up I remember them as being obvious markers of the rough-working class. They were flash, they were tacky and if you wore enough you had a ready made knuckle duster (men and women, boys and girls). They also performed the important economic function of being a readily pawnable asset, it being reasonable to assume the wearer was also the owner.

These days you don’t see so so many. Fashion is probably a factor along with the price of gold pushing them out of reach of some whilst encouraging others to cash theirs in for good. And when the only portable valuable an increasing number of people have is a contract mobile phone, pawnshops become less of an option.   

Online payday loans appear a ready alternative to pawnshops then in ways that stem from this and their sheer convenience to an extent those arguing for a credit union alternative appear unwilling to acknowledge.

Another “advantage” payday lenders have is their anonymity. Even though the pawnshop I used had confessional-like booths, the whole experience felt stigmatised and came complete with a readily imagined scope for public humiliation; I still remember how, after sliding my goods through the grill , I walked quickly away clutching my tenners like they were fresh pornography. I reckon the association remains today, only now it favours the online lender just as it does the online pornographer. Equipped with a laptop in the privacy of our own homes, we’re free to indulge our wants regardless of how exhorbitant or explicit they may be.

So in many ways payday lending appears no more than a new way of meeting a longstanding desire for instant access to cash, only now our ability to fulfil it has been reduced to little more than the speed of our internet connection. To be sure, economic factors underpin the growth of payday lending, most obviously the incessant, downward pressure on incomes that's set to continue for the forseeable future. However, I reckon cultural factors, in particular the changed interaction between what technology makes possible and what we're now free to feel comfortable doing also matters.

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