Thursday, April 9, 2009

People Get Mean When Times Are Lean

Wouldn't it be great to have so much money you don't know what to do with it? Want a bigger cement pond out back? No problem. Someone cons you into buying Central Park in New York? Oops. Unfortunately, most of us can't be that carefree and spend-easy with our money as the Clampetts. We have to be a little more careful with how we use it, except I have been known to pick my teeth with a dollar bill, but only if the corners are really crisp. And, hey, you can't spend a used toothpick.

I've almost stopped going to Blockbuster Video. Before last weekend, it had been months since my wife and I rented a movie. To try to save money, we've decided to just watch the movies we already have. For our kids, we even put all their DVDs in an album so they can browse through their 50+ collection of Spongebob and Scooby Doo. But my wife just had to see Twilight, so we took the whole family to Blockbuster and spent over $25 on rentals for us and the kids. That made me kind of sore, spending that much money on DVDs that we have to give back in a couple of days. When my wife and I finally settled down to watch her movie, it froze up on us about halfway through. Of course when I turned it over to look at the underside, it was loaded with scratches. We live on the other end of town, so I wasn't about to go over there that night to get another copy. I figured I would get my money back on that rental.
The next week after work I took all the movies back and explained the problem with the Twilight DVD. They asked, "Why didn't you call us about the problem?"

I replied, "What do you mean? It was after 11 when we realized the problem."

"Well," she said, rather curtly, "we don't do refunds on scratched rentals. We only do exchanges. But I'll make an exception this time."

I felt a little indignant about it, and thought an exchange wasn't good enough, especially since I've always thought their rentals rather pricey to begin with. But I was glad that I'd be getting my $5 back. At the same time, another customer was cussing a different Blockbuster employee because he wouldn't accept his membership application. He didn't have a copy of his credit card with him, just the number, and he couldn't understand that the employee needed to see a name next to the number on a card, without seeming to accuse the guy of using a stolen number. Then the customer cussed the other guy more when he ripped the application and threw it in the trash can, claiming that someone might steal his credit card number off the unaccepted application. My complaint seemed minuscule.

Directly afterwards, I stopped for gas. When I went in to pre-pay, now standard since people began driving off without paying for their gas in record numbers, there was an old man who handed a couple of already-scratched $10 tickets to the cashier behind the counter. The cashier gave the man a puzzled look and told him that they weren't winners. "What do you mean, no winner?" The man complained. I deducted that the guy might be farsighted. "Fine. Just give me a couple more of the number 47s," he said, handing the cashier a 20. The cashier gave him a dirty look. "And no need to get an attitude about it," said the man. "Y'all are the ones making your money off of these."

I know times are hard for everyone (except for maybe coal companies and liquor stores). I see more and more people lose their tempers or show their rear ends over money, more so than usual. I was raised to always be tight-fisted about money anyway, so I've been guilty of raising a fuss or two at restaurants and return counters when I don't think I'm getting my money's worth, or going back to the grocery store when I've had a 3-dollar item double scanned by mistake. I've also seen a rise in con-artist scams, honest but naive people thinking they can get something for next to nothing from these charlatans. I think it was Mark Twain that said, "The lack of money is the root of all evil."

I don't know if I'm going to loosen my grip anytime soon, but after this week I might think about being a little more considerate when it comes to my money disputes after seeing how other folks have been reacting. Maybe I should take some advice from the writer and cynic Ambrose Bierce and his book The Devil's Dictionary in this definition, "Money -- A blessing that is of no advantage to us excepting when we part with it." In truth, though, I favor one of Jed Clampett's quotes more, "If money were skunk oil a hound dog couldn't smell me."


MacDaddy said...

Good stuff, David. I got you linked at

Rethabile said...

Enjoyed that much. And it is all true, everywhere. Even here in Europe. More scams, more bitterness, more squabbling over small change.