Sunday, May 17, 2009

'Smart money'

Greetings good citizen,

Every once in a while you come across a ‘human interest story’ like the one below.

Naturally, what follows is a ‘cautionary tale’ that emphasizes the age-old axiom of ‘know your limits’, but, bizarrely enough, the focus of this article is not ‘know your limits’ it’s ‘hire a pro’ before it costs you twice as much…

If you know what you’re doing, there is no reason you can’t ‘do it yourself’…the common thread behind all of the stories below is that the, um, victim obviously had no clue.

Even if You Want to Save Cash, Don’t Try This Stuff at Home

Published: May 16, 2009

CHICAGO — Saving money never cost quite so much.

When the toilet in Carol Taddei’s master bathroom began to break down a few months ago, she decided it would be cheaper to buy a new one than pay for repairs. Ever frugal in this dismal economy, Ms. Taddei, a retired paralegal, then took her economizing a step further, figuring she could save even more by installing the new toilet herself. [Um, does anyone see an obvious problem right at the get go? It is the ‘conceit’ of the ‘college educated’. They went to college so they (erroneously) think they are capable of figuring ‘anything’ out…since these people aren’t paid nearly as much as she is, it must be ‘easy’!]

Initially, things looked good with the flushing and the swishing. That is, until the ceiling collapsed in the room below the new (leaky) toilet. Rushing to get supplies for a repair, Ms. Taddei clipped a pole in her garage. It ripped the bumper off her car, and later, several shelves that had been holding flower pots and garden tools collapsed over her head. [IQ test here good citizen…do YOU know where she screwed up? ( put your answer in the comments.)]

“It just kept getting worse,” Ms. Taddei said, ruefully describing what came out to be a $3,000, three-day renovation at her suburban Minneapolis home, finished by a professional from Mr. Handyman, a home repair service that takes emergency calls.

With the sour economy has come a class of ambitious do-it-yourselfers who are tackling things that, before the days of rampant penny-pinching, might have been left to paid professionals. An unlucky few like Ms. Taddei have learned that being thrifty sometimes comes at a high price and can bring along with it a new scourge of the times: saver’s remorse.

“Oh, tell me about it,” Ms. Taddei said. “Sometimes it’s better just to bite the bullet.”

Certain things are almost always true when times are tough, experts say, and they are not all bad. People drive less to save on gas, so there are fewer car crashes. People smoke less because cigarettes are expensive. Diets simplify and, sometimes as a result, become more healthful. Stress levels, on the other hand, tend to increase.

And while there is no national database that tracks do-it-yourself home injuries in recessions, experts say that there does seem to be an increase in the kind of accidents and mishaps that come with spending more time at home, based mostly on anecdotal evidence. [What’s most amusing is the victims are most often ‘well-compensated, highly educated’ people. These kind of incidents almost never happen to people that don’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of…these are people that KNOW how to ‘do it themselves’ because they can’t afford to pay someone to do ‘basic repairs’.]

“We are seeing an increase in minor injuries, sprains and contusions,” said Dr. Peter Lamelas, who operates four urgent care centers around Palm Beach County, Fla.

The centers are seeing an increase in-patients in general, perhaps because urgent care centers are a less expensive alternative to hospital emergency rooms. Based on figures for this year so far, Dr. Lamelas is expecting to have 20,000 more visits from patients than last year.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of musculoskeletal problems from people lifting heavy things, maybe moving or doing things they’re not accustomed to,” Dr. Lamelas said. “A lot of back injuries, shoulder injuries. Lacerations all the time.”

Ramon Estrada has saver’s remorse, foodie-style. Hoping to save on groceries and avoid costly restaurant meals about three months ago, he accepted almost two dozen steak and fish filets from someone who offered his family their uncooked party leftovers. Being a culinary student, Mr. Estrada jumped at the chance to spend an evening chopping and seasoning and grilling, then cooling and repackaging the bounty of free food for dinners and lunches during the week.

The family ate some of the surf-and-turf on the spot. It tasted delicious, but about four hours later, “I’m completely feeling horrible,” said Mr. Estrada, 27. “Cramping stomach, the most horrible thing ever.”

Mr. Estrada’s brother had to be rushed to the emergency room. Mr. Estrada became so dehydrated that he also had to see a doctor a few days later, at the cost of at least $400 for drugs and treatment and four days of missed work.

“We learned something,” he said. “Saving money wasn’t worth all of that.” [We can only wonder if ‘stupid’ learned the basics of food handling safety?]

Hair stylists and auto mechanics are often among those called to the rescue when things go wrong for money-savers.

“One of my clients decided to bleach her hair all over instead of coming in to get a full head of highlights,” said Sunny Brewer, a stylist in St. Clair, Mich. “She put bleach on her scalp and pulled it through to the ends and left it on for an hour. She had hair down past the middle of her back and now she’s sporting a chin-length bob because her hair broke off.” [Millions of women ‘do’ their own hair and this woman has probably do it in the past…the screw up here was leaving the bleach in too long. This same incident could have just as easily in any busy salon.]

The client, somewhat mortified, did not want to be mentioned by name in this article. But she did allow Ms. Brewer to tell her story as a cautionary measure.

“We had to go in and do corrective color,” Ms. Brewer continued. “I charge by the hour, and I worked on her for four hours. So by the time it was over, she ended up spending close to $1,000 to have her hair corrected when it could have been $175.” [Left unsaid is how Ms. Brewer could just as well have done the job for free if one of her stylists ‘screwed up’.]

Don Tommasone, the owner of Village Automotive, a car care center in a Chicago suburb, says he spends a lot of his time these days doing corrections, too.

“We open the hood and can tell the guy tried to do it himself with cheap parts,” Mr. Tommasone said. “We see at least one a day like that. At least. The No. 1 part replaced: the battery.” [Sadly, we once again see the ‘ignorance’ of the well-compensated on display. Only a hyper educated moron could screw up installing a battery…and they have a fifty-fifty chance of getting right…it’s only two stinkin’ wires!]

Sasha Bernstein is among those who decided to skip out on the salon. About six months ago, Ms. Bernstein, 26, decided she would save $60 a month by buying an at-home kit and waxing her own bikini line. All she can say is that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Often, though, the wounds are only to one’s pride.

Tony Contreras, who works at a nonprofit legal service clinic in San Francisco, saves money on his daughter’s haircut by trimming it himself. His wife, Sierra Filucci, called the latest style “a horribly uneven mess.” [Hair grows back, this is hardly the ‘end of the world’.]

But both parents keep telling Lola, 4, how cute she looks, even though they said they cringe anytime people mention their daughter’s creative hairdo.

In suburban Baltimore, Lynne Sherman was the temporary fix when her husband’s attempt to hang molding ended up puncturing a pipe, which sent water spouting into their daughter’s bedroom. Ms. Sherman plugged the hole with her finger until a carpenter arrived. [Hmmn…this is bizarre by itself, you don’t call carpenters when you crack a pipe, you call a plumber…although the carpenter would know how to repair such a, um, stroke of misfortune’…which is not to say that most carpenters wouldn’t have committed the same ‘faux pas’.]

“My husband said, ‘I took woodworking and shop in high school, so when we’re ready to do it, I’ll do it,’ ” Ms. Sherman, 50, said of the project gone awry, which cost $250 to fix, and about which her husband swore her to secrecy. “You can’t print what his reaction was, and I started that nervous laughter, ‘Oh, god what do we do?’ Now I have to say, we don’t do things ourselves anymore.”

This last ‘example’ looks like a typical case of a fellow that hasn’t swung a hammer much recently…like ‘since High school’.

Without a blue print of your house it is easy to drive a nail into either your wiring or your plumbing. Worse, ‘as drawn’ is no guarantee that it is how the work was performed. Often the plumbers and electricians are in a house simultaneously and sometimes obstructions caused by one or the other causes pipes or wires to be ‘re-routed’ for expediency’s sake.

But that’s not the underlying topic this article raises. Besides being a shallowly disguised advertisement to hire your local craftsman, it says something else about supposedly ‘smart’ people.

A genuinely smart individual knows when they’re ‘out of their depth’ and research how to do the job right…people that think they’re smart assume it must be easy because the ‘pros’ are paid less than they are.

This, naturally, is the ‘fallacy’ of believing ‘brains equal money’ and vice versa.

I personally witnessed a GE plant manager walk up to a Bridgeport and remark ‘fine looking drill press you’ve got there’. No one dared to correct him just as we all knew he was incapable of turning the machine on (or off) even if his life depended on it.

Naturally, he didn’t need to know; it wasn’t his job. Ironically, if we were to flip that rock over, there would be few of us that could turn the Bridgeport off and on that couldn’t do his job.

We all make decisions; we all do it day in and day out…so we are left to contemplate what’s so special about a decision-maker that they deserve their often prodigious salaries?

Do you know what I’m going to say?
Yes you do! I’m going to assert that there is nothing special about these ignorant, over-educated morons! Why do they get the big bucks instead of you? Because they are part of the ‘chain of command’ and you are not, end of story.

Given the identical body of information, you are just as capable of making a decision as they are, no ’magic’ necessary.

Let’s take this a step further because that failure of these individuals to recognize they were out of their depth is what has led our economy off a cliff.

These decision-makers didn’t realize the consequences of their actions, thus they made poor decisions. Since none of them admit to seeing the crisis coming, it’s safe to say they also didn’t realize (weren’t smart enough to know) they were out of their depth.

Understand good citizen, the intellectually vacuous ‘money equals brains’ phenomenon escalates the higher up the pay scale you go.

Theory has it that the highest paid individuals are naturally the ‘smartest’, despite strong evidence to the contrary.

No longer able to blind people with their brilliance, they are attempting to baffle them with bullshit instead.

Since neither Mr. Bernanke nor Mr. Giethner can explain what they are doing or why they’re doing it, it only stands to reason that they are following orders rather than formulating policy.

Perhaps more disturbing is Mr. Obama’s failure to rein in these two appointees, which leads us to the same conclusion…that instead of being in charge, he is merely carrying water for whoever is.

If the people we elect to public office can’t be held accountable then the nation is lost to us. It no longer serves the people who founded the nation, it only responds to the people that bought the highest offices in the land.

As the above article points out, money doesn’t make anyone a genius…

Thanks for letting me inside your head,


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