Warm and Fuzzy Grocery Debt?

The dark side of Buy Now, Pay Later

Andy Spears

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Photo by Maria Lin Kim on Unsplash

I’ve written quite a bit recently about the convenience and ubiquity of Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) products such as Sezzle, Klarna, Afterpay and others.

So, a recent piece by Mary Finnegan that takes a deep dive into the world of BNPL caught my attention.

State of “Buy Now, Pay Later”. 07.08.22 | by Mary Finnegan | Limited Liabilities by Colbeck | Jul, 2022 | Medium

Finnegan does a great job of presenting both sides of the BNPL debate. That is, consumer advocates are pointing out all the many risks of the products while proponents and founders of BNPL companies point to the benefits side.

Here’s one of the sections I noticed that is, to me, a cause for concern:

BNPL providers, for their part, hope their product continues to be “top of wallet” while expanding credit to historically underserved groups. “The number one most visited physical retail used by Debit Plus consumers right now is Walmart groceries,” said Levchin. “That’s probably the warmest, fuzziest news I’ve heard about the product so far. We want it to be top of wallet. We want it to be the thing that people take to go shopping for their family to give them financial flexibility.”

What? It’s warm and fuzzy that the economy is NOT working for a large number of Americans? So much so that many use BNPL to finance their grocery purchases? Only a 1 percenter who is profiting off of poverty would feel “warm and fuzzy” about grocery debt.

As I noted in a previous story:

One survey indicated:

32% of Buy Now Pay Later plan users have had to skip paying an essential bill such as rent, utilities or child support in order to make their payments. Even after that, 30% report that they’ve struggled to make their payments.

Now, you no longer need to skip buying groceries because you’re carrying too much BNPL debt — you can just buy your groceries with a super…

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Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN —Public Policy Ph.D. — writes on education policy, consumer affairs, and more . . .