Play now, pay later

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British Airways has borrowed a page from the P.T. Barnum guide to sucker-spotting with its new travel-loan service.

The idea is this: If you feel the need to get away from it all, but your life's inflated operating expenses preclude such a luxury at this time, BA will simply loan you the money and send you on your merry way.

There's the small matter of the 15.9 percent you'll be paying in interest. But with two years to settle the bill, why worry? And if you do wind up worrying, just stop in at your nearest British Airways travel shop and borrow another vacation.

The wonderful thing about this deal is that it owes so much to good old American salesmanship. Need a faster car? There's a guy with a shiny suit and game-show-host hair who will put you behind the wheel right now. Just sign these pesky loan papers first. Have you been subsisting with an inferior vacuum cleaner? Five easy payments and you'll be sucking the rugs right off the floor lickety-split.

Here's an idea: Why not give these play-now-pay-later party loans to British university students, just before the end of term? Little Gerald and Prudence will be downing Ouzo shooters on Corfu in a Manchester minute. Just don't let them tell their parents. Grown-ups will never go along with such a great idea.

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