on being the squeaky wheel…

February 22, 2012

….talking Igor the Kneebreaker into a fetal position…

I hate having to be the squeaky wheel, but if I don’t play that role I can risk getting railroaded and picked clean like last night’s chicken carcass by issuers of retail credit.

Granted, utilizing retail credit is a generally bad idea from the consumer’s perspective anyway, but, like most Americans, I have allowed myself to be lulled into a false sense of security by the temptation to own today’s widget on tomorrow’s income. Other than with capital investments like a home or a new vehicle, which can cost twice as much as my first home did, one is far better off following grandpa’s mantra of pay cash or do without. We know that. I know that.

Nevertheless, I can rationalize as effectively as the next person. On the bright side, my debt to income ratio is such that loan officers swoon and want to shine my shoes and invite me out to dinner. Other than a car loan, and one Mastercard that was unfortunately jacked up last year with unexpected repair bills on the car, we only have a few retail cards that are always paid in full each month. But in walks the inevitable “glitch”.

It doesn’t happen often, maybe once or twice a year in a bad year, but my January payment managed to cross the finish line at 5:01 pm on a Friday afternoon, which apparently is a sentinel event triggering an alarm to “Release the Hounds” and activating a claxon horn over Igor the Kneebreaker’s cot in the back room.

I’m generally kind of easy going, and living in the rural northeast for the past thirty years or so has taught me to chew before I swallow, and to drawl “weeeeeellllll…” and purse my lips before responding to anything more complex than “Nice day, ain’t it? ” Nevertheless, I grew up outside of Philadelphia and lived in Miami for a number of years. I can still spit fire and eat someone’s face for lunch if the mood strikes me.

Being assessed $27 in late fees on a $28 bill that was delivered by a someone who had to stop to take a leak on the way to the mailroom at 4:59 pm on that January day brings on just such a mood. Oh, I have no trouble “negotiating” such circumstances to a resolution that suits my point of view, but I’m retired and I’d rather spend the time contemplating my navel or counting liver spots than dealing with that crap.

Now that I think about it, charging some doo-dad that only cost $28 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the first place. I think I going to have to issue a late Resolution. Back in January, I told my wife and a neighbor that I really was going to eliminate the “F” bomb in 2012. I think I need to add “use cash, not credit” to that as-yet unfulfilled oath.

In fact, living up to the second may very well enhance my prospects of succeeding on the first.


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