Friday, February 10, 2012

I Witnessed a Robbery

I witnessed a real robbery yesterday while shopping at a department store (which shall remain nameless so that they won't come after me for telling on them). It happened right at the cash register! It wasn't the shoot-em-up-bang-bang kind of robbery; it was a verbal robbery, and it went like this:

A young lady who appeared to be about in her twenties had a good sized pile of clothes at the checkout counter. Funny. She didn't look happy at all about all that loot she was purchasing; in fact, she looked a bit uncomfortable. I wonder if she was having second thoughts about buying so much stuff?

Well, the cashier was one of these "Don't Worry, Be Happy" types who bounced to her own music in her head, and she zipped right into her prepared script: "Would you like to open a Dewey-Cheetum Charge card today? You'll save 15% off this purchase!"

The young woman hesitated, and then asked, "How do I pay it back? All at once?" (I cringed. The cashier grinned that "Gotcha" grin. This reminded me of those old National Geographic safari videos where the lion would chase down the slow animal and gobble him up.)

"Oh no, you don't have to pay it all back at once!" the cashier said with a wave of her hand. She continued her sales pitch with this startling statement: "I just charged $300 worth of clothes this week, 'cuz I went sort of crazy, but I'll only have to pay $25 a month until it's paid off. You'll build your credit by doing it that way."

Oh yeah. It's all good in the broke-hood. Ain't got no money but I sure look good.

I was fully engrossed in this unfolding drama by now, forgetting that I was standing there to pay (cash!) for my own purchase. My insides were screaming to the young lady: "Don't fall for it!" My outsides stayed out of it. After a  few more shuffles and seconds, she buckled and said, "Okay. How do I sign up for it?"

Robbed. Score another one for the credit card company, while another young victim goes rump-first down the stuff-filled slope into debtor's prison.

Parents of adult children, talk to your young people about the financial traps being set for them by an industry that only cares about itself. Warn your young adults that they will be preyed upon, flattered, cajoled and lied to in order to get them to give away their paychecks before they earn them. And if you're already on your own, I'm warning you: there are robbers out there, and they want to get into your "Purse National Bank" and clean you out!

Our next generation is going to be in worse shape than those who are living paycheck to paycheck: they're going to need three jobs just to cover the cost of their credit card bills!

I'm afraid we "ain't seen nothin' yet" when it comes to the financial crisis in America. With trained robbers dressed as cashiers behind cash registers in stores everywhere, we will all be bombarded with the tempting yet deceptive message of "buy now, pay later." Those of us who have made the bone-headed mistake of buying into this are still digging our way out of the narrow pit called unnecessary debt. Cash exists for a reason: it's the primary tool for paying for goods and services. Credit used to be reserved for buying a house or a car. Now it's used to buy soda at the gas station and pizza on Sundays after church (I feel our sons squirming over that pizza comment).

The young lady finished her transaction, took  her huge bag of merchandise and headed out of the store. The cashier then turned and looked at me. I only had one item, and it was a nightgown for $7.60. I found it on the clearance rack, marked down 80%. She never asked me if I wanted to save 15% by opening a Dewey-Cheetum charge. Maybe it was because I was holding cash in my hand?

"There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up." Prov. 21:20

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