WORK Meetings: TimeDebt

In the Spring of 2014 there will be an entourage of WORK meetings that seek to answer: Does a time bank system to pay back our student loans make sense? Because we all work unpaid internships and volunteer jobs anyways, is there a way to place value in the work we do do? Below is a general outline of the form the conceptualization workshops will take on in order to understand where this project may go.

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The WORK meetings are open to the public and will take place around a large rectangular table with reserved seats for invited key players selected because of past work and research that relates to debt, time banking, alternative currencies, and corporate lending. The guiding thesis as of now is: Does a time bank system to pay back our student loans make sense? Is the value of our labor worth the value of our money?

A detailed agenda will be handed out in the beginning of each meeting to guide the topics of discussion. During the first meeting, the WORK intern will present a powerpoint presentation outlining where the project was in its early stages as 'a barter with sallie' and where it seeks to go as 'Hey Sallie: TimeDebt'. Agenda points may include topics such as: 1) defining the academic credit system versus the banking credit system, 2) defining what our education is worth and our ideal work situation that was shaped by our studies (whether we are currently doing that work or not), 3) what work we do that would qualify as work to credit back to Sallie*, and 4) how to get Sallie involved.

The meetings will take the form of conceptualization workshops where a whiteboard will be of use to map and grid necessary points, decisions we make, and action steps as we move forward. The goal of the meetings are not to solve the student debt problem but rather to brainstorm on the notion of time banking our student debt and re-valuing the work we do in our daily lives even if not paid with mainstream money. They are a chance to share personal stories on our daily work and burdensome debt as it relates to our lives. Minutes will be recorded and emailed to participants to guide potential future meetings.

Business casual attire is suitable. Pens and notebooks are necessary but not mandatory if one's method of remembering is different than others. Homemade donut holes and coffee will be served.

*Sallie Mae will be the focus in the early stages of the project as she is the most offensive lender in the U.S. The hopes are that this system could be replicated for other private loan lenders as the Hey Sallie: TimeDebt system develops.

time + labor

We're in South India right now with a lot of time on our hands to think about time and labor. (Time is time and hands are labor, get it?) We've been thinking about it in such a way that maybe rather than bartering with Sallie personally, perhaps she would be interested in accepting credits (because we don't have $) that represent the work we DO do in our unpaid internships and volunteer work. Let's create a system together for paying Sallie with Time/Debt credits! Hands and Time! Debt and Time! Credits! Labor!

This is just the beginnings of Hey Sallie: TimeDebt.

Join! 

Email the WORK intern to get involved: work@worktheartproject.org

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Jasmine

Betty called me on Friday and left a message saying that Sallie had come up with a response to the hard mail I sent a couple weeks ago. In the message, Betty told me to call Sallie back and one of Sallie's colleagues would relay Sallie's thoughts on my barter proposal. If I can offer a piece of advice to those of you suffering the Sallie debts, SEND HARD MAIL! Sallie and her team (Betty, Jasmine, Jason, etc.) have to respond to our hard mail. It's in their contract. They take it seriously. And they need more people like me proposing new solutions. Do it. It's fun.

This morning I spoke with Jasmine (Betty's colleague) on the phone asking about Sallie's response to my hard mail barter proposal. Jasmine and I got sad together. We got sad about society. You should listen.

I hope she's ok.

I still feel icky.

 

Recalculating

I finally recovered from the hiccup a few days where Kristen grew skeptical of interviewing me because I mentioned barter in our email exchanges. Then it dawned on me that my outlet into actually proposing a barter with Sallie is not through some external company called the General Revenue Corporation who just serves as another one of Sallie's minions! Duf! Kristen of GRC ain't gonna do anything to implement a new barter policy. She's scared and confused by change. That's why she has the job she has. I need to talk to the lady [Sallie] herself!

If my research has served me correctly, the bonafide legitimate headquarters of Sallie Mae is in Wilkes-Barre, PA. I need to get an interview there so I can speak with her and her bf, JJ.

As I climb back onto the horse of high hope (yes, I just said "horse of high hope"), the email pasted below was sent to Sallie five minutes ago.  

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Dear Sallie,

I just had this memory of when I was a little tiny girl living with my mother and two older sisters. In order to get us to do our chores she arranged a system of compensation but rather than giving us actual dollars, she gave us poker chips. If you cleaned the sink you got one chip, if you cleaned the toilet two, and if you cleaned the tub you got three because that task was the most back breaking. The greatest thing about this system was that once we received these chips, we couldn't do anything with them. They didn't mean anything and beyond her giving us those credits to denote that we did our tasks, they were essentially useless. And over time, the system fell out of place and me and my sisters started doing our chores because we understood that we also wanted a clean bathroom and needed nothing in return. 

You may wonder where I am going with this charming anecdote. 

At this moment in my life and all of my friend's lives we are finding it incredibly hard to keep up with our payments to you because you prefer high interest rates. Interesting taste you have but the problem is that it is crippling us with fear, stress, sadness, anger, and all of those horrible things that life does to some people and not to others. I know we all struggle but there are varying levels of strife and we should work to minimize it for everyone.

What I am proposing to you is that we decide on a barter contract where money is not the tangible medium of exchange rather that I work for you and you, out of the kindness of your heart, decide to lessen my debt burden. This may mean lowering my interest rate, lowering my overall balance, or providing a manageable monthly payment. The way this would work is that you would make a list of chores/tasks/food you need and I would propose what I need from you in exchange (it may look similar to the examples I mentioned above) and then we would meet in person to discuss a trade that would benefit both of us. From that conversation we would form our barter contract. 

Historically, when times were tough and money was null, economies turned to barter. In the U.S. today, that time is now. We can't possibly keep accruing unmanageable amounts of debt. I hope you are willing to take this opportunity to set an admirable example of what the modern day relationship of creditor and debtor should look like. Thank you for your time and I will follow up with you via phone or email in a week.

My very best,

Meredith Degyansky

 

Oh crap.

I think I am ruining my chances for the in-person interview and it's all because of money! Ugh, money, you blow! You made me get in a big fight with my mom this week! And you confuse every single person in the world - like how much we should give and how much we should take and where to get you and how to get you! And you make some people do yucky things for you and they don't even get that much and other people do nothing and they get a lot of you! And you honestly just make the whole world sad. Just leave already! Go to space!

Uf, sorry, let me explain. 

My interview was slated for Friday, August 16th at 11 am. And because I am dumb and my computer got stolen, I was distracted and waited to reserve a rental car to drive to Horseheads, NY until one day before (today!). Then, I got all sweaty because when you reserve a rental car too late it gets really expensive unless you take a train 1.5 hours west to Kearny, NJ. And by the time you do that you spend all these extra dollars on strange trains like the PATH and the NJ Transit and Boo! 

So I emailed Kristen of Sallie Mae although she actually works for General Revenue Corporation (capitalism, uck). And this is what happened:  

ME: Hi Kristen,

Uf. I didn't reserve my rental car in time and now the prices are astronomical. This is hard for me especially because my computer was stolen a few days ago! eek! I was wondering if you would be able to move the interview to Tuesday of next week. If not, it's ok, I will go ahead and pay for the more expensive car for Friday. I just wanted to see if there was any flexibility on your end. Sorry for the hiccup.

All best,

Meredith

HER:  Meredith,

I want to make sure that you are in this 100 Percent. I totally understand the issue with the car and it’s not a problem to reschedule. Yet, maybe you should look more into your options and see if you really want to make this potential move to the area.

Next week is booked and September class is filling up quickly, did you want to see about October possibly?

Let me know and thanks,

Kristen

ME: Hi Kristen,

I am not 100 Percent sure because I haven't visited the office or the town of Horseheads yet. I was interested in the interview to see how I felt about it. Like I said on the phone, this position interests me (and working with Sallie Mae altogether) because I am seriously affected by student debt and want to learn more about my situation/help others that I correspond with understand the situation - and perhaps work out a barter system with you all. Money is an item of exchange that I am recently baffled by.

At any rate, I just found a cheapish car rental deal if I take a car from New Jersey tomorrow evening. But if you could squeeze me in sometime within the next two weeks for an interview, I will plan ahead much better. Whether I were to begin in the September or October class doesn't matter to me. Let me know what you think. And thank you for understanding.

Best,

Meredith

HER: I am not sure what you meant by " perhaps work out a barter system with you all. Money is an item of exchange that I am recently baffled by."  ??

ME:  Hi,

Well I was thinking about the people who are plagued by student loan debt and how hard it is to find jobs in this economy that will help pay off our student loans. So I thought if we worked out a direct work-trade system with our creditors then the hours we work could just go towards relieving some of our debt. But it would still go through a job-like interview process in order to decide what both parties need and what both parties can give one another. For example, you need collections persons and I have the skills for that job so I could work X hours per week as a collections person and rather than you paying me, you could lower my monthly payments to XX per month. It'd be more of an interesting way for debtors to form solid relationships with creditors. I wanted to meet you all in person to bring this up though and explain it further.

Is that clearer now?

Thanks again,

Meredith

HER:  No unfortunately that is not how it works. Each person with a student loan, just as myself pays on it themselves.

Why, what a reflective and helpful response, Kristen. BUT NOW WHAT?!? 

 

BAM! Second Interview!

This time in person. It's slated for this coming Friday at 11 am in Horseheads, NY (whoop). The barter will become more tangible in person when Sallie (and/or her minions) can't skirt past the idea that I don't want money for my work rather a non-hierarchical relationship steeped in establishing the needs of both parties and what we can give one another. Something real will happen.

An Interview!

After several go arounds, I have a phone interview scheduled for Monday, August 5th 2013 for a collector position based in Arcade, NY. I'm going to see if Sallie will work out a barter contract with me instead of paying me an hourly wage so that it is an equal agreement on both sides. I'm requesting an exchange not based in money but rather in satisfying one anothers needs. Wish me luck! THE JOB DESCRIPTION!

Office of the Customer Advocate

The barter blog is a representation of my personal experience bartering down my debt with Sallie. This information will be unedited, thick, and potentially boring to sift through but there may be something funny and important to get out of it. Who knows!

My go-to contact department is the Office of the Customer Advocate as they are:

"dedicated to reviewing and responding to customer correspondence addressed to the Chief Executive Officer and other members of the executive management staff at Sallie Mae. We work closely with the Executive Management and service teams within Sallie Mae to respond to your inquiries and ensure that your feedback is heard. We are here to help!"

I am approaching them through phone calls, emails, and hard mail in an effort to get Sallie and her team of fearless leaders to work with me. If you would like to join in the barter blog and share your personal experiences bartering with Sall, contact the WORK intern at work@worktheartproject.org or just do it alone in your room. Whatever is comfortable! Below is information on where to send your barter stuffs.

Office of the Customer Advocate

Bigwigs (use these names for best results):

Jack Remondi: President

Joe DePaulo: Vice President, Banking and Finance

Laurent Lutz: Vice President, General Counsel

Joni Reich: Vice President, Administration

  • email: advocate@salliemae.com (still working on getting personal human contact info)
  • send a letter to:  Office of the Customer Advocate, P. O. Box 4200, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18773-4200
  • call: (888) 545-4199 (this method offers immediate humor albeit frustrations)