By Meriem Cherif
Of all the qualities that have the possibility to define our generation, poor financial management shouldn’t be one of them. Afterpay is an online service that allows its users to buy a product immediately, and pay for it in interest-free installments. The service, which launched in 2014, is available on multiple websites like Urban Outfitters, Target, and Finish Line. With quarantine leaving everyone to rely on the internet to make purchases, many might feel enticed to “shop now” and “pay later,” as Afterpay promises. Although it is portrayed as harmless and carefree on their website, Afterpay feeds into the vice-and pillar-of American culture: consumer credit. First appearing in the post-WWI era, a fast-rising consumer culture led American families to find ways to stretch their incomes. Consumer credit granted them this financial capacity, and soon the “Classic American” owned a Ford car, down payment for a house in the suburbs, and high debt from having to pay it all off. By the late 1920’s, consumer lending was the tenth largest business in America, worth over seven billion dollars. However, as Americans borrowed excessively, they were unable to pay back their debt. This financial plunder played a leading factor in the economic bust of 1929, better known as the Great Depression. Afterpay deals with buying clothes and makeup rather than cars, and it won’t lead us to a recession, but the idea is still the same. These financial services, which are growing in popularity, distort a consumer’s perception of how much money they own and spend. Individuals will be more frivolous with their purchases, comforted by the false cushioning that Afterpay provides. In reality, consumers fall into detrimental spending habits that will leave them financially struggling in the long run. Moreover, some parts of their terms are not clear to the consumer. A late fee ranging from seven to ten dollars has to be paid by the customer if they do not pay their installments on time. However, this fee is not clear cut— there is always some fine print. In their terms of service, Afterpay states that they will “report any negative activity…(including late payments, missed payments, defaults or chargebacks) to credit reporting agencies.” This can have lasting effects on the consumer’s credit score, which can hinder them from making large purchases in the future. With the drawbacks that come with using the service, Afterpay should not become the standard of online shopping, and we must stay diligent in resisting these financial traps.