From Nextdoor today it was learned that Title Max will be the new occupant of the former Gatsby's restaurant at Fulton and Alta Arden. While it's generally a good thing to have a business in an otherwise vacant space, one can certainly wonder if the community will be better off with this particular tenant. Title Max is in the automobile-title lending business. It's parent company is TMX Finance, the nation's largest auto-title lender. Title Max promotes its products as an option for borrowers who might not qualify for other sources of credit.
An auto-title loan is similar to a payday loan, but larger and with more at stake. Like payday loans, auto title loans are meant for people who are broke but who own their vehicles outright. Both types of short-term loans carry triple-digit interest rates. But instead of borrowing against their next pay check, customers pledge their cars. With auto title loans, borrowers typically hand over title to their vehicles and agree to pay off their loans after one month. If they can’t do that, they can pay only the interest due and roll over the principal to the next month. Who has a problem with that? The Better Business Bureau, for one. They give it an "F" due to customer complaints such as those displayed at Consumer Affairs.com. To be clear, just because there have been problems elsewhere, no one wishes ill upon the office about to open here. Arden Arcade has lots of payday loan places, which is probably what attracted Title Max to establish a branch here. Though bordering on outright usery, such businesses ARE legal and they DO provide a service to customers. Let's hope this new one won't rip off poor people. Let's hope everything comes up roses for the business and its customers. Even if hope isn't a reliable business plan for thriving community.