Monday, January 31, 2011
It's that time of year again- hold on to your wallets, taxpayers!
Here are two H&R Block Ads which are conveniently run together to show us the two faces of tax preparation "services:" The Dishonest, and the Just Plain Stupid and Insulting.
First, the Dishonest: "How fast can we get you your refund? In about twenty-four hours." And in the blink of an eye, we get the minor detail that the customer is not actually getting their refund, but a Refund Loan. What's a "Refund Loan?" Why, it's an amount H&R Block is willing to hand you in exchange for taking full possession of your refund once it arrives. H&R Block is perfectly willing to float you this "loan" as soon as the State and Federal Governments have confirmed that your returns have been accepted. You just pay the fees and interest up front, you see. Great deal- for the desperate suckers who NEED THEIR MONEY RIGHT NOW.
Now, before you say "hey John, stay with the times- H&R Block doesn't OFFER Rapid Refunds anymore!" I'll stop you by pointing out that they do offer something called a "Refund Anticipation Loan." And if you can find any difference between the two, I'll concede the point.
Second, the Just Plain Stupid and Insulting: Book-ending some future tax cheat who is actually going to claim a deductible for a shirt and tie stained by coffee (are you kidding, H&R Block?) we get spat on TWICE by the same spokesman for this awful company. "And I almost went into medicine (snort)"-- what does this even mean? You have more opportunities to separate hard-working but ignorant people from their money doing tax prep than if you had gone into medicine? I've been behind the scenes in medical buildings- I really must beg to differ.
There are a few pieces of good news, at least: First of all, these ads, like the ones for Lexus's "December to Remember," have a built-in expiration date. Come April, they'll be off our televisions for another eight months or so. Second, at least H&R Block doesn't hire people to dress up like the Statue of Liberty and wave signs on the highway like Liberty Tax does (you've got to be REALLY desperate, disconnected, and stupid to be drawn in by THAT level of banal crap.)
Still, it's sad to think that there are people out there who live so close to the margins that they would be willing to part with a big chunk of their tax refunds in order to walk away with some money in their pockets a few weeks earlier than if they just waited for the direct deposit to land in their bank accounts. And worse that there are companies like H&R Block perched like vultures waiting to take advantage of these people, every single year.
And call it a "service."