January 28, 2010

Small Business Loan Purgatory

The Pig Banker If' you’ve been peeking over my shoulder on Twitter at all then you probably know that I regularly complain that I really need a clay pugger. What’s a pugger, you ask? A pugger (or as my friend Liz calls it, a plugger), is a clay processing machine which automates the reclaiming of unusable clay and will not only convert it into reusable clay but, if I get the right model, will also wedge it into air bubble free clay.

A lot of people are shocked to find out how labor intensive handmade pottery is. The lifecycle of a piece from start to finish is at best 2-3 weeks, and that assumes that all of the planets align. Usually 4-5 weeks is a more accurate estimate. I’ve had to turn down many a custom order request because the buyer didn’t expect such a long wait. But never mind that, I was really just interested in talking about the pugger.

Without a pugger, I’ve been hand wedging clay. Hand wedging is very strenuous, tedious, and time consuming work. To wedge an amount of clay that would last me an hour at the pottery wheel can take me upwards of 30 minutes. The only good thing about hand wedging is that it keeps my biceps in killer (!) shape.

So I need a pugger, that much is clear. Next came the decision about how to pay for it.

I mulled it over, checked prices, made phone calls, balanced the checkbook, and discussed it with my financial advisor (the husband).* In the end, I decided to apply for a loan through my bank. Well, it had been my bank until it was recently swallowed up by Chase Manhattan. Now with the fancy lobby and all of that bulletproof glass, I hardly recognize it anymore.

Here’s the synopsis of my experience, diary-style. Read it and weep (and then leave a comment to commiserate).

December 20– Called bank to inquire. “Come on in! We can help you with all of your financial needs!”

December 22 – Sat down to discuss options with loan officer. Got the gist and brought home the three page application.

December 23 – Delivered completed application to the bank.

December 28 – As per their request, brought in the husband to cosign app.

January 4 – Back to the bank to discuss and provide website link. Nearly went ahead with the home equity line of credit (the easier route) until it became clear that the $100 fee wouldn’t be waived. Decided to pursue the business loan version instead.

January 13 – Called loan officer to inquire about status. Was told they’ve decided to convert the app to an SBA sponsored loan. They’ll need more documentation including detailed specs for the pugger and a copy of my ‘08 tax returns.

January 21 – No word back yet. Called to inquire. Still awaiting a response from corporate. Waiting patiently, but getting angrier and meanwhile reading articles praising recent SBA loan incentives for small businesses.

January 28 – Rep called requesting ‘09 tax returns if I have them completed already (don’t) and all glazedOver sales data from ‘08.

So that’s where it stands right now.

No…wait! Hold the phone….

The postman just delivered a letter from Chase. They want me to fax over a recent paystub. glazedOver is an online pottery shop. No paystubs.

If this isn’t an exercise in futility and frustration, I don’t know what is. It seems I’ve been kept busy producing tons of paperwork so that the bankers can be kept busy. I think I’m fully cooked at this point.

You know what, Chase. I’ll just pay for the pugger myself.

*The husband is not licensed to provide legal or financial advice in the state of New York.