Due to the economic crisis, the number of clients of the former Mont de Piété is up by 30%

Well put, the air dignified and resigned, he stands there, right as an I, in the big crowded room of the Municipal Credit of Paris. Waiting for his turn. In his clenched hands, a small paper bearing the number 424. “Why am I here?” He repeated, detaching the syllables one by one, his gaze fixed on an imaginary horizon as if to avoid yours. the ring left to me by my father on the death of my mother, a gold signet ring that will allow me to borrow 130 euros to pay my monthly consumer credit. ”

Then, after a heavy silence: “I have just declared myself in personal bankruptcy at the Banque de France. This started with difficulties to pay for a dental prosthesis. My retirement was not enough. I took credits to repay my debt, then credits to repay my credits, I ended up selling everything I had, I still have a few books left, and this signet ring … ”

Like 423 others before him, this Monday, December 7, Denis M., 68 years old, former computer engineer, came to seek an emergency solution to his money problems, with the oldest financial institution in Paris. The old Mont de Piété was created in 1777 to protect the French from usurers. It has never worked so well since the crisis. Between 500 and 600 customers flock there every day, 30% more than in 2008, of all nationalities, of all ages. And now, of all social categories; middle classes and bourgeois families, tenants and owners.

Some have been ousted from their bank after too many unpaid bills. Others dare not pass the door. Most are over-indebted. They allowed themselves to be asphyxiated slowly by revolving credits quickly subscribed in stores or on the Internet, with unscrupulous “credit merchants”.

The crisis, with its share of unemployment and precariousness, loved ones to help, sharpens their difficulties. “I bring jewels for 750 euros.I will pay back as soon as I touch the Assedic at the beginning of January”, assures Mélissa L., a vivacious young woman of 24, “Guadeloupean of metropolis” , came with her girlfriend thanks to “word of mouth ” “It’s just a passing,” she continues with a smile, to pay my rent (200 euros, in Sarcelles) and Christmas gifts for the family ” . Did she contact a bank before the Municipal Credit? “Oh no, I’m suspicious, and I could not pay every month, it’s simple and not very expensive, you pay a little interest and you pay back when you can.”

The “bad debt”

Beside her, a pretty young blonde woman sketches an embarrassed smile. The anonymity guaranteed to her in exchange for her testimony reassures her. Alice S., 31, said softly, “It’s not easy to be here, I’ve come to bring some jewelry that I’d like to pick up later, because of financial difficulties in general.” Local taxes have increased I have people to repay in my family and consumer credits I earn 1,000 euros per month, my husband 1,500. That’s right, especially with a child … ” The respectful welcome of Municipal credit and the discretion it provides him go well: “Here, we owe nothing to anyone, or almost. The banks are not very honest when they charge 8.50 euros for a letter telling you that you are in the open. ”

In the big room that continues to fill as the afternoon progresses, the tongues finally untie. Modesty, shame sometimes “to have arrived there …” , a recurring expression, is dissipated in front of the desire to tell, to share his burden the time of a meeting, even fleeting. If the customers arrive with knotted stomachs, they leave visibly relieved, their well secured, within the pocket tickets that will allow them to hold a month or two, more if the object has value.

“Here, you have your daily dose of strong emotions,” says Céline Burel, head of the head office agency, in charge of social loans proposed in addition to the traditional pawnbroking activity, some stories are hard. responds with a human treatment adapted to each case. There are solutions to relieve the lives of people. Credit restructuring is on the rise: “For a year and a half, people with more loans – five, six – have been able to pay rent, nursery and canteen bills, family loans. at ten years fixed rate, we help them manage their budget … ”

In fact, for Jean-Pierre Rochette, CEO of CMP Banque, and his deputy Emmanuel Bouriez, the social evil of the time is called “bad debt”. “We are paying all these years of easy credit, they say in concert. The crisis only reveals these problems and aggravates the difficulties. The relationship to money can count as much as the loss of income.”