Archive for Common Cents

Frugal crook

As thieves go, this guy was remarkably unambitious:

I got a call from my credit card provider. They were questioning certain transactions made in California last month: to wit, a charge for gas at a Shell station, and a purchase from In n Out Burger. The two together were less than $50.

At least he’s picking name brands. Still:

I’m struck by the modesty of their desires. Why not buy an expensive camera or a set of tires? (These are the items a thief bought on my credit card last time I was robbed.) Why would anyone risk getting a criminal record for a hamburger?

So if you’re planning to steal a credit-card account — skimmers were found at a Circle K in Edmond this week, so clearly somebody is — you may as well spend big; the jail looks the same regardless.

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You must be this flush to buy this car

Ford will apparently not sell its new GT to just anyone:

Ford estimates the price of the 2017 GT as being in the low- to mid-$400,000 range (USD), but money probably isn’t a huge consideration if you’re actually considering a GT purchase.

The cumbersome ordering process is meant to weed out the reputable buyers from the shifty hoi polloi, with special consideration given to buyers of the first-generation (2004-2007) GT.

“Ford is conducting this application process to identify from a host of deserving candidates those individuals who will be invited to discuss a potential Ford GT purchase,” the automaker states on its application webpage. “Completing an application does not guarantee that you will have the opportunity to purchase a Ford GT.”

Not that this is particularly unusual: makers of high-end Italian exotica, and of some other cars that compete in this price range, long ago let it be known that you had a better chance of getting to own one of their Special Editions if you’d already owned one or three or a dozen of their previous models.

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A small break

Last year, the bank declared that I somehow had way too little in escrow, and duly commanded me to fork over an extra $130 a month to bridge the gap — or send them a check for a rather large sum I didn’t happen to have at the time. I did some calculations, because that’s what I do, and after some third-grade arithmetic I determined that the escrow shortage would have been cleared with a mere $80 a month, but there’s no arguing with the bank on these matters. Perhaps, I figured, they will drop it next year after they’ve taken a few dives into the vault, à la Scrooge McDuck.

Comes the notification. Payment is dropping by $75 a month. In response, I spent rather a long time in Told You So mode, though it didn’t seem useful at the moment to tell them so.


From the “It could be worse” files

You think Oklahoma’s budget woes are terrible? Well, yes, they are, no question about it. But we got nothing on the Sportsman’s Paradise:

Before the special session began, Louisiana had a 4-cent state sales tax, which, when combined with about 5 cents of local sales taxes, gave Louisiana the country’s third-highest overall average sales tax rate at 9 percent. At the same time, 196 separate transactions were exempt from being charged the 4-cent state sales tax.

Needing to raise money quickly to close a record budget gap, legislators and Gov. John Bel Edwards turned to sales taxes during the 25-day special session that ended March 9.

Beginning April 1, Act 26 [pdf] raised the state sales tax by a penny — giving Louisiana the highest combined local and state sales tax rate in the country — and provided a bewildering list of exemptions to paying that extra penny.

Beginning April 1, Act 25 [pdf] eliminated numerous exemptions to the existing 4 cents of sales tax for three months and then only for 2 cents for the next two years, in another bewildering list of exemptions.

For both acts, sales tax exemptions drop off or come back at different times, adding to the confusion.

Soonerland residents will note that the Oklahoma state sales tax is 4.5 percent, and that various city and county levies bring it up to 8 to 10 percent. (Perhaps the worst is the section of Clinton that lies in Washita County: 4.5 state + 2.0 county + 4.5 city = 11 percent.) And yes, we have a bewildering list of exemptions.

(Via Fark.)

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One of the basic corollaries of economics — just downstream from the theories — is that insiders are never looking to recruit others: fewer pieces of the pie mean bigger pieces of the pie. This suggests that when you do get offers, you should be very suspicious. An example of how this works in real life:

[I]n the last 6 months I have started hearing radio commercials again urging folks to get into the house-flipping business and make their fortune. Whenever institutions start selling investments to you, the average Joe, rather than just investing themselves, that should be taken as a signal that we are approaching a top. About 12-18 months before oil prices tanked, I started getting flooded with spam calls at work trying to sell me various sorts of oil exploration investments.

To explain the dynamic at work:

In 2010, when house prices were low and some were going for a song in foreclosure, there were no house flipping commercials on radio. That is because Blackstone and other major institutions were too busy buying them up. Now that these companies see less value, you are hearing house flipping commercials. You know that guy who has a book with his fool-proof method for making a fortune? So why is he wasting his time selling books for $2 a copy in royalties rather than following his method?

Unless, of course, his method involves extracting dollars from rubes in two-dollar increments.


Enjoyably broke

So saith The New York Times:

Whatever problems are associated with having too much money, a vast majority of New Yorkers do not have them: 87 percent of the city’s households reported wages under $100,000 in 2013, according to tax data released on Tuesday [pdf] by the city’s Independent Budget Office.

The average household had wage income of $51,876. Half the city’s 3.6 million households reported wages at or under the city median of $24,239.

Well, yeah, that’s what “median” means: half over, half under. Maybe the tricky word here is “wages,” because out here in the middle of Soonerland, where the living is breezy and housing can be afforded by mere mortals, the median household income [2014] is $47,004.

Disclosure: I am a mere mortal.

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Down in the boondocks

“People put me down,” sang Billy Joe Royal, “’cause that’s the side of town I was born in.” And maybe that’s good for his existing romantic relationship, given the problematic nature of relationships with wealthy guys:

Turns out, if you give a man some money, he’ll think his partner is less attractive.

Researchers based out of Beijing Normal University in China invited 182 heterosexual college students (121 women, 61 men) in committed relationships into the lab and primed them to feel either rich or poor using two different forms of a questionnaire about financial status. Afterwards, participants rated their satisfaction with their romantic partners across various attributes, including job prospects, family background, and physical attractiveness. The ratings were completed on a 1 to 9 scale (1 = does not match my ideal at all, 9 = completely matches my ideal). Subjects also answered demographic questions about gender, age, and monthly income.

When the researchers examined the subjects’ answers, they found that men primed to feel wealthy were less satisfied with their partners’ physical attractiveness than men primed to feel poor. The difference was highly significant, a full point on the 9-point scale.

The women? They displayed no differences. None.

The only explanation I can think of for this is Miss Cellania’s: “With a few more bucks, they think they can do better.”

Source: Li YM, Li J, Chan DK-S and Zhang B (2016) When Love Meets Money: Priming the Possession of Money Influences Mating Strategies. Front. Psychol. 7:387. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00387


Plastic victorious

Cash is king, and regicide is on some people’s minds:

My kids don’t carry cash, they use debit cards for everything. I use cash for most small stuff, stuff that is going to get consumed. Does the government / big business really need to know about the box of donuts I bought this morning? Also, I don’t want to have to keep track of all my purchases, you know, save the receipts, mark them off against the monthly statement, which is what you are supposed to do, or at least that used to be what you were supposed to do.

But does it do any good? After years of struggling to keep track of my expenses I find it is more likely that I would lose a receipt than the bank would post a bogus charge against my account. And how would you know if they did? You aren’t going to have a receipt for a charge you didn’t make, and if it’s something ordinary, like gasoline or a cheeseburger, how sure are you going to be that you didn’t make that charge?

So maybe cards are the way to go. Cash is kind of a nuisance, especially change. I stopped in a 7-11 the other day and the penny tray by the cash register was overflowing. Admittedly it was a small tray so there was only about 25 cents in there, but still. Pennies are absolutely more trouble than they are worth. We could probably dispense with coins entirely. Okay, maybe we’d want to hang onto quarters. Four of those can still get you a cup of coffee. Some places. I think.

About six hundred pennies pile up here in half a decade.

As a general rule, if it’s under $20 — used to be $15 — I pay cash. My usual supermarket requires, for some arcane reason, that hot foods purchased in the deli section must be paid for in the deli section; most weeks I spend about $10 there, and swipe the card for the rest of the cart. And efforts at hair control are cash only: my barber charges $18, I pay him $22.

And I do save receipts for four or five weeks, because I’m just that way.

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Canned coins

The classic Tootsie Roll bank can still be had, though the most recent version is only four inches tall, exemplifying what Consumerist calls the Grocery Shrink Ray. My own version, once possessed by a sibling, is around forty years old and stands a full seven inches tall. As an experiment, I’ve been feeding it nothing but pennies for the last few years, and at some point last week, it would accept no more.

There once was a time when I’d wrap all those coins. This is no longer that time. Saturday morning I hauled the little tube off to the bank, eliciting a grin from the teller, who apparently was familiar with the breed. We dumped the contents into a proper bank bag, I tagged it with one of my deposit slips, and I was advised that it would be a day or two before the cash vault downtown was able to credit it. Not a problem, said I; it’s not like I’m utterly dependent on this, oh, five-fifty or so.

Apparently the cash vault got to it late on Tuesday; Wednesday I observed that a credit was posted to the tune of $5.87. Not a bad guess, if I say so myself. I duly moved it to passbook savings, along with fifty bucks I’d somehow managed not to spend in February.

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Like Lazarus, but with department stores

Consumerist follows up on a chap we’ve mentioned before, named Ellia Kassoff:

[Kassoff has] been battling Macy’s for several years over a slew of trademarks for stores Macy’s acquired and shut down. Today, Kassoff says he’s reached a deal with the department store giant that will allow him to try to breathe new life into several long-dead retail brands.

Kassoff has a knack for researching defunct brands and taking a risk on claiming trademarks that he believes are up for grabs because the most recent owners of those marks have not used them.

One of those is Foley’s, a Houston-based department-store chain founded in 1900, which Macy’s absorbed in 2006; there were four Foley’s stores (formerly Sanger Harris) in Oklahoma.

“After over five hours of negotiating with Macy’s, we finally hammered out a deal that we’re really happy with,” says Kassoff, who hopes to bring these stores back to the markets where they are remembered fondly.

“Consumers noted the current shopping experience is quite drab, as there is no localized marketing or buying for the regional stores anymore,” he says of his research into retail habits. “People want to go back to the days when shopping was a real experience at their local department store. They really miss that.”

It may take a while; one of Kassoff’s other ventures, the return of Hydrox cookies, is so far limited to a few of the major grocery chains.

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As prices continue to rise

You want to see a serious Consumer Price Index, as opposed to the fudge-factory product of the US?

Or we can go even farther back:

If there’s a lesson here, it’s got to be “Don’t go to war with Napoleon.”


Not your father’s retail

Received in email, a letter from a mediocre CEO.

No, wait. Received in email, a letter from Mediocre CEO Matt Rutledge, on behalf of Mediocre Laboratories, which operates Money quote:

THE RULES: Sell one thing a day. Repeat.

Not terribly complex. But the Meh project is the heart of what we are building at Mediocre. As wholesalers by trade, we shun the traditional retailer role. Success for us here is to grow an intelligent, informed community that eschews superfluous services in favor of making shit cheaper. You could call it “anti-retail”: an experiment in selling without marketing hype or bias. But maybe the term “anti-retail” is itself marketing hype.

Which may even be true, given how many people today have antiheroes for their heroes.


Change and hope

Most American coins, I can recycle into the vending machines at the shop. Pennies, though, pile up in a cardboard tube that used to be a collection jar for a charity forty years ago. And right about now, it’s getting full, so it’s time to go through this process:

[C]hange is just the drippings from money already spent; the sawdust from your logs of liquidity. Few would be willing to separate the coins and pack them into tubes as was the case in the Ancient of Days. Fewer still maintain their own change counting machines. It’s just not worth it since the dollar became the new quarter sometime between 2008 and now.

Coinstar is the answer. For a mere 10.9% of your money it will convert your change into a strip of paper which can be redeemed for groceries and real currency at the cash register. Coinstar is also a very entertaining store machine, one of the few that gives you back something for your effort. It’s a kind of reverse slot machine (with similar sound effects) in which you win every time, minus 10.9%. In addition it shows its work on the screen. You tilt up the slide and let the coins shuffle in to a satisfying series of clinks, clunks, and clacks, interrupted every so often with a clunk as the Coinstar spits out an item it cannot accept. In front of you the screen shows the actual ascending numbers of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half-dollars (rare), and silver dollars (hunted to extinction). Then you get your voucher and off you go to shop with … “FREE MONEY!”

I have long believed that the only reason the half dollar continues to exist is to back up an entry on the Hail Size Table.

My little cardboard tube holds a bit over $6 in pennies. I suspect it’s holding about $5.99 for now.

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Needful markup

J. Random Dullard, whom you’ve seen all over the Interwebs complaining about huge — nay, yuge — corporate profits, is of course full of it:

When a random sample of American adults were asked the question “Just a rough guess, what percent profit on each dollar of sales do you think the average company makes after taxes?” for the Reason-Rupe poll in May 2013, the average response was 36%! That response was very close to historical results from the polling organization ORC’s polls for a slightly different, but related question: What percent profit on each dollar of sales do you think the average manufacturer makes after taxes? Responses to that question in 9 different polls between 1971 and 1987 ranged from 28% to 37% and averaged 31.6%.

How do the public’s estimates of corporate profit margins compare to reality? Not surprisingly they are off by a huge margin. According to this Yahoo! Finance database for 212 different industries, the average profit margin for the most recent quarter was 7.5% and the median profit margin was 6.5% (see chart above). Interestingly, there wasn’t a single industry out of 212 that had a profit margin as high as 36% in the most recent quarter.

Nor can you assume that Dullard is a left-leaning, gun-fearing Pajama Boy, either:

The seller had a wildly optimistic $485 on the tag but allowed as how he’d let it go for $425 out the door. Considering a brand new one retails at our shop for $499.95, Glock’s minimum advertised price, that was a less than attractive deal.

I did look around for a new one at the show, because retail profit margins on new base model Gen 3 Glocks are so razor thin that even my employee discount only saves me ten bucks or so, which would have been outweighed by instant gratification.

Most people have no idea how thin the margin on new guns is. I’m not aware of any similarly-priced consumer good that sells at retail for so little markup.

Truth be told, I wasn’t aware of the margin on new guns, though if you’d asked me cold a couple of days ago I’d probably have said “Maybe 10 to 15 percent.” Certainly nowhere in the 30s.

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Unearned earnings

Believe it or not, there are those who will simply not accept such things:

I expect some readers to have to tweak their Suspension of Disbelief glands to be able to grasp all this.


Competition intensifies

In the summer of ’14, the New York Post mocked the rival Daily News for increasing its newsstand price to $1.25; the Post was holding at $1.00.

This week, the Daily News struck back:

The weekday print edition of the Daily News will drop from $1.25 to $1 in all five boroughs of New York City beginning Monday.

New York’s hometown paper will roll back its cover price while maintaining the city’s best coverage of national and local news, sports and entertainment.

“As New York’s hometown paper, we look for every opportunity to bring our loyal readers the news they need at a lower price point,” Daily News CEO William Holiber said in a statement.

The key here is “weekday”: Saturday and Sunday editions will remain at a buck and a quarter.


Metered perplexity

I opened up the water bill, and there, for the first time ever, was a reported usage of 4,000 gallons; I’d never before used more than 3,000 in a month. The details revealed the most likely reason why: the readings, usually 30 days apart, were this time 36 days apart.

Okay, fine, no big deal. Then I look at the actual return slip, and the bill is about half what it usually is. I comb through the details again, and here are two adjacent lines:

REFUSE W/90 GA — $20.42

They’re refunding two months’ worth of trash pickup? Why? Is this some form of atonement for still not having picked up the late-November storm debris?

Very late addendum: I had tweeted this mystery earlier today, and right before hitting the Publish button, I went back to check the feed. Lo and behold:

Well, I’ll be durned.

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Fashion that conceals

I will never quite understand why InStyle handles its subscriptions this way. From the renewal form:

Please send me another year of InStyle (13 issues) at the insider’s per issue rate of ONLY $2.29 plus $0.30 postage and handling. That’s a savings of 48% off the $4.99 newsstand price.

I mean, why is it necessary to break out postage and handling separately? The only other Time Inc. magazine I buy — Entertainment Weekly — doesn’t do that. And 30 cents can’t possibly be a realistic figure: even the smallest issues of InStyle run close to 200 pages, and the Big Fashion Issues (March and September) are well over 500 pages.

Or maybe it’s the thought that nobody will bother to calculate the total ($33.67) to put on the check: instead, they’ll do it online, where they can get your credit-card number and then just automagically renew you every year whether you like it or not.

(Yes, I wrote them a check. Because.)


How now, Dow Pont?

Dave Schuler doesn’t think much of the Dow Chemical/DuPont merger:

How do two poorly run companies justify their CEOs’ eight figure compensation plans?

Step 1: Merge

Step 2: Make the combined company look better on paper by firing a lot of people.

Step 3: Divvy the company into three components: the stable, profitable agricultural business (see here), the doomed commodity chemicals business, and the highly competitive “specialty chemicals” business

Step 4: Profit!

Not as efficient as the Underpants Gnomes, who might have been able to pull this off in three steps.

That plan is clearly trolling for speculators’ dollars. The WSJ calls it “a merger made in Washington”. I think it’s a B-school grad’s fantasy. My alternative plan would be no merger, divest some brands, cut top management’s compensation commensurate with performance, hire some researchers, and actually grow the companies the old-fashioned way. In the history of the world no company has ever cost-controlled its way to greatness.

(Emphasis added.)

And doesn’t this sound a lot like The Company Formerly Known As Hewlett-Packard?

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Manny, Moe, Jack and Carl

Feared investor Carl Icahn has offered $863 million for the Pep Boys auto-parts chain:

Icahn’s offer Tuesday of $15.50 per share is higher than Bridgestone’s offer of $15 per share in October for the chain of 800 stores. The Japanese tire giant offered to buy the chain to add to its 2,200 stores including Tires Plus, Firestone Complete Auto Care, Hibdon Tires Plus and Wheel Works to make one of the largest parts, tire and service chains in the U.S.

Before placing his bid, Icahn had acquired a 12-percent stake in Pep Boys. This is his second try at the whole ball of wax; he’d previously offered $13.50 a share.

Pep Boys has given Bridgestone until 5 pm Eastern on Friday to top this bid, or Icahn prevails.

(Title swiped from Fark.)

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Beyond spent

Bank error in your favor of $200: Community Chest card. Bank error in your favor of $12,000: giggle and ignore it. Bank error not in your favor of $1.4 trillion is seriously weird:

Longtime Honolulu resident Angela Kwong swears she’s not a serial shopper.

So imagine her surprise when she logged into her bank account statement Tuesday morning only to find an outstanding balance of more than $1.4 trillion.

Nor was she the only one affected, it turns out.

Points out the Friar:

Your federal government is also surprised it’s several trillion dollars overdrawn. It was caused by a voting glitch.

I don’t think they’re surprised at all: I think this spending was committed with malice aforethought.

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Actual perceived paper savings

I ran a few errands yesterday, culminating in a trip to Sprouts Farmers Market, which carries a supplement I like at a price that doesn’t make my nose bleed. They checked out my four items, and handed me the shortest piece of register tape I’d seen since I’d worked at Mickey D’s forty-five years ago.

I didn’t notice until I unbagged my stuff — five cents discount for bringing my own bag — but they’d actually used both sides of the tape. No random advertising, no enormous length of paper to stuff in my desk until the statement shows up. About the only downside, and it may be specific to purchases of this size, is that the two sales-tax statements (“Tax 1” is state tax, “Tax 2” is local) ended up on opposite sides of the tape. I have no idea what it cost them to buy printers that would do this, but I’m grateful for having that much less junk to send to the shredder.

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Excessive generosity

The Feds do not approve:

I was making a large order of Amazon gift cards for a Christmas bonus for employees when I got this email from Amazon:

We’re contacting you regarding your recent order xxxxxxxxx, which included one or more gift cards. To comply with the U.S. federal regulations, purchases of gift cards from and its affiliated websites are limited to up to $10,000 for any customer in a single day. Because this order contained gift card purchases in excess of this limit, it has been cancelled and you won’t be charged for any items in this order.

You know, Feds, you wouldn’t have this problem if (1) you weren’t so desperate to look tough on drugs and (2) you hadn’t been steadily devaluing the freaking currency for the last hundred years.

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Before anyone notices

I’m sure you’ve seen this before:

Community Chest card: Bank Error In Your Favor Collect $200

As I grew older and marginally less unwise, I came to see ethical issues with accepting that sum, although my objections were actually more along the lines of “They’ll find it eventually, and then what?” Besides, $200 was a hell of a lot of money in an environment where some properties were worth half that or less.

And I didn’t think of it again outside the context of Monopoly® until this showed up on my bank’s shiny new app:

No way in hell do I have this kind of money

So far as I knew, my balance in that account on that date was a shade over $4,000. (It is, um, less now; a second account was similarly skewed.) So the line was truthful, up to the point where it wasn’t. I duly pulled up the transaction list, saw nothing out of the ordinary, and concluded that this was just some inexplicable glitch. Then again, maybe I’d landed on Free Parking and didn’t know it.

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Quote of the week has something to sell you, because they always do, and something to tell you, because it’s That Day Again:

Black Friday is the worst. Take the worst spoiled milk you’ve ever smelled, spread its rancid curds over an entire continent for an entire day, blast its fumes through the tubes of the Internet, punch yourself in the throat eight times, and max out all your credit cards. That’s Black Friday. Black Friday is spiritual ebola. Don’t thank God for this Friday. Blame Satan.

Look at what Black Friday does to people. It’s not just the tramplings and the shootings. It’s the whining and the grasping and the disappointment, so much aggro and angst over such meager rewards. It’s like one of those diabolically constructed Stanford psych lab experiment from the ’60s that proves that people are, at heart, sociopathic fascist gorillas.

Look at what Black Friday does to us. We can’t just do what we do every day: sell stuff for less than anybody else. On this one day, that’s not good enough. We have to compete with unrealistic expectations that no discount, anywhere, could possibly meet. Because it’s not about the discount. It’s about filling some void in people’s souls, some ecstatic experience that’s always one more click, one more coupon code, one more turn of the sale paper away.

[After 11 pm Central, when the next item goes up, that link will no longer lead to this text.]

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Clear that lot

Because you can’t spell “sales gimmick” without GMC:

GMC Sierra sale ad from mid-November 2015

I like that. A deal on models “in stock the longest,” although it’s limited to the oldest 10% on the lot. Still, that could be a hell of a lot of trucks in pickup-crazed areas like, well, the United States of America, with the notable exception of San Francisco, which has no GMC dealers.

This ad, incidentally, was found on Equestria Daily. Ponyville, I’m sure, has no GMC dealers.

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There is no shortage of terrible credit-card offers out there, and if you were reading this site way back in 2002, you may have seen a reference to a deal offered by First Premier Bank of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which struck me as something less than wonderful. Said I at the time:

The terms for this card range from not too bad (18.9 percent APR, 25-day grace period on new purchases) to stiff ($50 annual fee) to preposterous ($119 “acceptance fee”, $72 annual “participation fee” over and above the $50).

As it happens, they’ve sent me their latest offer, and it has improved in one regard: the grace period on new purchases is now 27 days. However, the annual fee has gone to $175 for the first year, $49 thereafter, and there’s a “monthly servicing fee” of $14.50, which, they are careful to spell out, is $174 a year. And the APR? Thirty-six percent.

I’ll give them this much: none of this is in Extremely Tiny Print, and everything I’ve mentioned is explained when necessary. Still, nothing moves me to accept this “pre-approved” account.

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Embrace the brokeness

You want to know what’s really killing the blog? The lure of micropayments:

[I]t’s essentially impossible to have any discussion about blogging without that discussion turning toward, not blogging, but rewards for blogging — readership and pagerank and ads and Adsense clicks, and all of those numeric metrics that can add up to making more money from ads or selling products or selling the blog itself.

Many bloggers chase that reward, focusing the entire blogging effort on increasing their Adsense payments from enough money to buy a burger a month, to enough money to buy a burger a week. The entire value of what should be a joyous creative-effort is reduced, in perception, to a few dollars. And if the reward stays at a few dollars, or in fact never goes above a few pennies, they feel stupid, like they’re suckers.

Even when a blogger doesn’t actually care about money, the measure of a blog is still often based on the measures that produce money — readers, page views, pagerank.

Yeah, I watch those measures myself. But I assure you, they don’t make me a dime. In fact, my current stat service costs me $100 a year, more than the cost of actually running the site after I cash in my various referrals and kickbacks. Still, in an average month, I will churn out 15,000 words and lose about a tenth of a cent on each and every one of them. Since I’ve been doing this for almost twenty years — well, I must be making it up in volume, right?

If I were going to monetize (Jeebus, I hate that word) this stuff, I’d do it the hard way: bind it into a book or three. For the moment, though, while it’s certainly time-consuming, it’s not what I’d call budget-depleting. And if push comes to shove, I can always borrow the five most important words in the English language: “Hit the freaking tip jar!”

Oh, wait. I don’t have one of those, either.

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Worth less than nothing

Some people may sympathize with these folks, but I don’t:

I read that banks collected $30 billion in overdraft fees last year. That’s like $100 from every person in the country. I can imagine that there are a few flakes who have so much money they can be careless with it, and if they run up a thousand dollars in overdraft fees a month it’s no big deal. But there aren’t very many of those folks. I’ve had a couple or three overdraft charges in my life, and I life to think that I am not out of the ordinary. To make up for all the people who keep track of their money and for all the ones who don’t even have a bank account, there must be a bunch of people incurring $1000 worth of charges a year, like one person out of ten. I just don’t get it. Doesn’t $1,000 mean anything anymore?

It’s worse than you might think. With the general decline in check usage and a concomitant increase in payment-card usage — at 42nd and Treadmill, our business is now about 70 percent plastic — about the only people actually paying these fees are the few remaining check writers with no money and the people who get charged for using their overdraft protection. Deadbeats without overdraft protection have their debit cards declined, and we see about fifty of them a week. For one of the nichiest of niche markets, that’s a hell of a lot of people who are, to borrow a Briticism, totally skint. This wouldn’t bother me so much if they’d take that first decline as a warning, but they don’t: I’ve seen people present the same bad card — or worse, a whole portfolio of bad cards — week after week. Once is a mistake, maybe; twice is stupidity; three times is fraud.

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On average, we’re broke

Like you need a headline that tells you that:

The average American took in $44,569.20 last year, according to data released Tuesday by the Social Security Administration. It marks an increase of 3.5 percent from 2013.

Still, 67 percent of wage earners made less than or equal to the average. Median compensation came in at $28,851.21 for the year, up from $28,031.02 in 2013.

I can remember when twenty-eight K seemed like a fairly tidy sum.

(Via Fark.)

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