Object Depravity and The Digital Loan Shark

Can I Zip it? Please Don’t.

I watch the new advertisement for zip pay in horror. Nick Kyrgios, Flex Mami and Mellissa Leong to name a few do their best to convince you that you can afford their lavish lifestyles. All you have to do is agree to pay later and instantly you can have whatever you want…wrong! In a pandemic addled world these consumerist messages add a whole new level of ferocity to this new capitalist scheme.

Although I was not quick to jump on the ‘digital layby’ bandwagon, I did get caught up in the zip pay trap when a young 26 years old, I agreed to put my open college’s writing course on a zip pay plan as a hecs debt was not available with this course. I didn’t realise that during my course, I would become homeless and had to change my accounts due to a shady ex who had my bank details. I forgot that they were charging an account that no longer existed. What they don’t tell you about is all the extra fees they hit you up with, without explanation. This was the last time I would ever trust a digital layby for anything.

Although ZipPay has a policy on financial hardship, news companies report that these digital loan sharks are taking advantage of vulnerable Australians, in particular young Australians. As is reported in Skynews Mr Swan told Sky News Afterpay’s shares were “skyrocketing” due to younger Australians being “quite adverse to credit cards. Stocks are now at their highest with these companies as their ability to keep people in debt has made their stock prices more expensive than even the biggest of department stores. The worst part is that not only do these companies sell their debts to debt collectors who are more aggressive at getting money out of vulnerable young people but also that these industries are not regulated like other financial services. A 2018 report by the ASIC found the products “can cause some consumers to become financially over-committed”.

The sad thing is that ZipPay is only making the capitalist message more aggressive but what is the true message of capitalism? Although the official definition of capitalism is characterised as the right to individual wealth the physical effects of capitalism on individuals and the planet have been devastating. When capitalism becomes internalised, individuals grow to equate their productivity with their self worth. This damaging mindset in Japan causes people to die from various conditions related to overworking. In 2019, there were 1,949 suicides in Japan related to work problems. Internalized Capitalism has also been glorified in academia. Anders Hayden a political science professor at Dalhousie University says of academic life “We need to produce something to have a sense of value. Hopefully, it’s successful. But can we rest on our sense of success? No. You need to be productive again to have a sense of self-worth. In terms of academic work, you internalize that as well,”

The problems with Capitalism has also been linked to Covid-19 as mentioned in Jennifer Cohen’s Journal article on the Profit motive vs Public health she writes Profit-motivated behaviors can keep people from accessing necessities for health thereby harming individuals and possibly damaging population health. These poor attitudes towards humans and the planet also equate to the devaluation of the lower economic class and the homeless. In the year 2000 during the Olympics, the government temporarily put the street homeless up in hotels because they were embarrassed to have other countries see them.

Coming back to ZipPay; ZipPay also uses reverse psychology as their main business plan. Have you ever heard of the cookie test?

Imagine hundreds of 4-year-olds each alone in a room with a delectable cookie or a scrumptious marshmallow. Before they reach for the enticing confection, an experimenter offers them a choice: they can have one right away, or get two if they just wait. Can they resist sweet temptation for 15 agonizing minutes, or do they surrender to instant gratification?

This wait and reward theory also applies to money. If you make a habit out of saving for things, by the time you get these things, you appreciate them more. Zip pay uses this theory in reverse by weakening peoples willpower. Once you receive the goods, the motivation to pay it off quickly gets weaker until you go over the interest free period and by that time it gets harder to pay off. Not only that but scientists who conducted the original cookie test in children found that the children who failed the original test 40 years later became more prone to substance abuse and higher body mass making them possibly prone to other addictions such as money. The digital loan sharks work exactly like credit cards, except they are online.

Advertising and media has always worked on psychologically convincing consumers that they are lacking in something and these zip pay ads do just that. Which increases depression and object desire in those most impacted by the financial crisis caused by COVID-19. People can’t go overseas and experience the world in the way they would like to, which makes them more susceptible to filling that void with things and when you don’t have the money then it makes you more vulnerable to scams. Originally I think the ‘digital layby’ evolved from companies like nimble and wallet wizard but these companies make it obvious that there’s debt involved and possibly interest.

The digital layby glosses over interest and debts by convincing you that you can have it all.

What’s more concerning is that Veterinary Clinics are jumping on the bandwagon too with their version of Zippay called Vetpay. My partner and I discovered Vetpay when we ended up taking our cat to a very high priced after hours veterinary hospital. They didn’t offer bulk billing or instalments and they demanded payment before they would even take in our cat and the only option they gave us (because we didn’t have pet insurance) was Vetpay. My partner and I didn’t trust this Vetpay thing so we paid it off as fast as we could and even got a no interest loan elsewhere so we didn’t get caught up in fees with these people.

I tried looking up information about Vetpay and besides the bad reviews of others getting ripped off and being caught in interest fees there isn’t a lot of information out there except the official Vetpay sites where they claim that they are supporting the integrity and ethics of the Veterinary Industry by partnering with Veterinarian Practices to offer a flexible payment. Another concern about VetPay is that I’ve only heard about it this year and I can’t find any information about when they were established or information about the ASIC even checking whether they are ethical or not. It seems clear that VetPay is the lovechild of ZipPay and AfterPay’s success’.

Humans are not empty voids in need of filling and having lots of money does not make someone more desirable, happy and fulfilled. Someone can be money deprived but still have a fulfilling life. I find the most joy creating art that was once trash. To a degree D.I.Y. combat’s object depravity by encouraging people to make things they want/need with things they already have in their home. No matter how much we try to combat the damaging messages in Capitalism the more Capitalists try to make their voices louder by coming up with more schemes to trap you into debt. The only way we can really combat the capitalist message is to work on our own toxic patterns developed from overexposure to media and advertising.

Fulfillment comes out of care and that care starts with the self not with an invisible loan you could never pay off. Fostering Awareness of internalised capitalism in your everyday life, creating boundaries around acts of self care, and having a mantra to remind yourself that you are and have enough are just three top ways in which you can fight internalised capitalism whilst also striking a work life balance. You must remember that you are a human being not a human doing. Internalised capitalist behaviour can also be an indicator that you haven’t been taking the time to reconnect with yourself and a great way to do that is through yoga and/or meditation. I make it a habit to meditate every night as I lay in bed for sleep. It’s become such an integral part of my sleep routine that if I don’t do it, I find it hard to get the best rest possible. Meditation has not just been a great way to connect with myself but it’s also helped me feel more connected to others and to be mindful to be more compassionate. Learning to nurture ourselves and others fosters community and community isn’t created with capitalism. Community is about people connecting and looking out for each other. Community is the opposite of profit, it’s not for profit and it is something that is more vitally important the more lockdowns we have to endure.


“Cookie Test Yields Secrets of Self-Control Years Later”. in , , 2021, <https://www.livescience.com/15821-cookie-test-control.html> [accessed 28 May 2021].

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Feminist Writer and Artist. Well known for her essays and interviews in UNSW’s Framework Arts Journal and her articles in The Hawkesbury Bushcare Newsletter.

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Aria-Joshes Keeshan

Feminist Writer and Artist. Well known for her essays and interviews in UNSW’s Framework Arts Journal and her articles in The Hawkesbury Bushcare Newsletter.