The Bad Credit Hotel, brought to you by the U.S. Treasury

United States Department of the Treasury   Welcome to the Bad Credit Hotel. You might, at first, be spooked by the Halloween-ish music that greets you like a haunted house — with an ominous voice-over reading “Don’t let your credit put you in a bad place.” Or by the hotel receptionist who greets you and ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
592344_080926_credithotel5.jpg
592344_080926_credithotel5.jpg

United States Department of the Treasury

 

Welcome to the Bad Credit Hotel. You might, at first, be spooked by the Halloween-ish music that greets you like a haunted house -- with an ominous voice-over reading "Don't let your credit put you in a bad place." Or by the hotel receptionist who greets you and asks, "You look lost... come to solve the great mystery of credit?"

United States Department of the Treasury

 

Welcome to the Bad Credit Hotel. You might, at first, be spooked by the Halloween-ish music that greets you like a haunted house — with an ominous voice-over reading “Don’t let your credit put you in a bad place.” Or by the hotel receptionist who greets you and asks, “You look lost… come to solve the great mystery of credit?”

But here’s the real scary part that I forgot to mention: The Bad Credit Hotel is brought to you by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Really.

Just as the financial crisis was spinning out of control last week, the Treasury announced a joint media campaign geared at educating younger Americans about how to manage their credit. The online Bad Credit Hotel game is part of the campaign. Click on the clock to learn that creditors cannot call you before 8am or after 9pm. Click on a library book and the receptionist will suggest you begin studying “history–credit history that is.”

Ok good–this campaign is geared at preventing another credit crisis. The skeptic in me, however, sees a bit of irony in the Treasury’s teachings on debunking the “mystery” of credit. Mystery is about the only thing that looks certain in this financial crisis. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury is set to become the biggest creditor in history.

Didn’t Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson learn on Wall Street that timing is everything? With bailout talks in chaos, and controvery growing over what would be the biggest government injection in history, my favorite scene of the game begins with a “worldly” treasury-dreamed-up character explaining, “I was once young and careless like you, spending my money like a sailor…”

Dear Mr Paulson, not the image of Treasury you want to promote, noble as the intentions may be.

Perhaps the reason Congress is giving Paulson such a hard time these days is that they, too, have checked in to the Bad Credit Hotel, heeding this next character’s advice: “It’s hard to find your way when things are at their darkest… don’t let the smoke get in your eyes.”

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

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