ARE you three or older? Tired of having to save up your pocket money to buy all the toys you can’t afford?
Pocket Money Loans, the first payday loans company just for kids is opening up shop on Monday and could be the answer to your problems – offering an advance loan on your pocket money of “just a little bit more than you can afford to repay” at just 5,000 per cent APR (“it stands for Annual Percentage rate and it’s really confusing and boring”). There’s even a free toy if you miss three consecutive repayments.
The company knows loans can be confusing, but it has all the answers: “Shouldn’t I wait until I’ve saved up enough money to buy the things I want?
“But waiting for things takes ages! Some adults don’t want you to have everything you want. They want to stop you having fun and make you ‘save up’ and be ‘responsible’. Well we say bum to that! Tomorrow can get lost!”
As you will hopefully have guessed, Pocket Money Loans is in fact a work of satire created by Glasgow School of Art alumni Darren Cullen, with which he is seeking to highlight the way the consumer credit industry preys on the vulnerable and even targets children with its marketing, by “taking our consumer debt culture to its logical conclusion.”
He said: “Almost all payday loan companies have cartoon mascots, animated characters or sing-along jingles in their adverts. Their high street shops often have play areas full of toys and some of them hand out balloons and sweets to kids at the counter. It’s a clear fact they target children, as both a means of persuading their parents, but also as a way to groom the next generation of indebted customers.”
Cullen, who initially studied advertising before his degree in fine art, claims that the insidious nature of advertising means we are trapped into cycles of living beyond our means. While he lampoons consumer culture he is also targeting the fact that many who use payday loan companies are in fact forced to do so as a result of dire economic straits, rather than to shop for non-essential goods, saying: “Payday loan customers who repay on time are in the minority and they offer the smallest profit margin to the company. It’s the people who can’t afford to repay on time who rack up charges and compound interest over weeks or months. That’s where the real profits lie, built upon the backs of the poorest, most vulnerable members of society.”
He is pessimistic about there being any meaningful change to consumer culture, saying: “Modern capitalism has to relentlessly grow or die, it constantly needs new markets of consumers and it needs those consumers to increasingly buy more. Obviously that eventually reaches a limit of what people can afford, and when you have a recession, where people have low wages and very little savings, the economy needs them to go into debt in order to keep consuming.”
Money Saving Expert’s Martin Lewis has tweeted his (semi) approval of Cullen’s latest project, posting: “Pocket money payday loans... and worst of all I quite like them!”
Others have been less enthused, with Twitter user @emmahucker saying “payday loans are not good for anyone especially children” and one anonymous correspondent writing to the website to say: “This is a very sick joke. One has to be over 18 to get credit. Please email me for an explanation as to what on earth your sick website is all about.”
Cullen’s previous projects include an anti-army recruitment comic Join the Army – with slogans such as “Be the Meat” – which was recently admitted into the Victoria and Albert Museum’s permanent collection; Baby’s First Baby, a pregnant toy doll that outraged readers of The Daily Mail, and a billboard which claimed “Santa Gives More to Rich Kids than Poor Kids” that incurred the disapproval of one Scottish newspaper, which contacted the billboard company Cullen was working with. When it subsequently informed him they would not be putting the poster up, Clear Channel – the world’s largest owner of billboards – agreed to display Cullen’s work for free.
The shop will be open from 27 October to 8 November, 10am-6pm, Monday-Saturday, at 77 Stroud Green Road in North London. http://www.pocketmoneyloans.com