Are People’s Priorities Distorted? Do I Judge too Quickly?

This past weekend I was visiting the in-laws when their DVR suddenly stopped working.  While I was naturally the guy to blame since I played with the system to try and get it back up, it was actually probably my son who “may” have spilled OJ on the grates that allow liquid to drop right in to the guts of the machine.  Notwithstanding the fact that I jumped on that theory, essentially throwing my son under the bus, I volunteered to go with The Wife and get them a new DVR box.

While we were waiting on our new box The Wife and I overheard the customer next to us.  She was a woman maybe in her 40s with a 7 to 9 year old daughter.  She had walked in with us in a terrible downpour.  Her question cut both The Wife and I,

What is the minimum I can pay to keep my service on?

We didn’t say anything to each other but once we got to the car it was evident that we both heard the comment.  She was driving a relatively in good shape Nissan Xtera, didn’t seem all that disheveled, although she was at the Cable place at 1pm on a Monday meaning she wasn’t at work.  Whatever the reasoning she literally couldn’t pay her entire cable bill which caused me to think:

If things are things are bad what the fuck do you care about cable?

Again, I know nothing about her situation and maybe I am jumping too quickly to interject my opinion but if things are bad financially what are you doing spending any money on cable tv?  Most people don’t have a contract with the cable company so why bother keeping it on? Is it because you have a daughter and this is a cheap way to provide normalcy? Is it because you work form home and need the internet?

Alternatively, maybe I am too quick to judge a person’s financial situation.  Maybe she does that for what could be essentially a free loan from the cable company? Maybe she does that because she just had a particularly bad week at work or with expenses and this was a one time thing?

The two ideas/questions aren’t mutually exclusive insofar as maybe I can judge too quickly and maybe her priorities are just F’ed up but nonetheless they both bother me still.

11 Responses to Are People’s Priorities Distorted? Do I Judge too Quickly?

  1. I think it’s important to judge. It helps us make decisions about our environment and the people we choose to include in our lives. That’s useful judging. Regarding the woman in the cable store, you really don’t have enough data to warrant a judgment, and it’s really a waste of your time and brainpower. She’s irrelevant to your day to day life. Judging her is a lot like gossiping. It’s just babbling (in your brain) about shit you know nothing about and should stay out of. There, you feeling judged yet? :-)

  2. I don’t think you have enough information to make a judgment really. She could be unemployed and needs the internet to find a job, or could be self-employed/working from home and needs it. Maybe she’s got kids at home and it’s the only way to keep her sanity. :)

    I know when I was first starting my business and cash flow was iffy at best, there were months that I just paid the bare minimum to keep things going. It wasn’t a long term strategy, but it at least kept me in business w/out having to drive down to a Starbucks and spend the afternoon trying to upload 3GB worth of photos on a public connection. :)

    • Naaahhh…. Judgemental away, I say. She can get an Internet connection for a LOT less if she dumps the cable TV. I have no cable TV service, and my DSL connection alone is a fraction of what it would cost if I were paying for the privilege of falling asleep in front of the idiot box.

  3. I’m guilty of judging too…I used to work with people who had trouble paying their rent and were facing eviction, yet they had a nicer phone than me, jewelry, brand name clothes, and fancy cars. One person needed to postpone a court date because they were going on a cruise. Really??

  4. I think you might be judging too quickly. A Nissan Xtera is about $28,000 brand new. Using the 1/10th rule of car buying as a benchmark, I would assume she makes about $280,000 a year or so. Hence, I think she’s fine and being frugal.

    More wealth out there than we know!

  5. I think there are too many possibilities there to make any kind of judgment. I had to pay an electric bill for my cousin a few months ago when he was between jobs, and you can bet I asked for the smallest amount I could pay without his service being cut off!

    Maybe she had surgery and just got a bill for $10k, or maybe a family member died and she needed to pay for airfare to attend the funeral. I can think of a million reasons why someone may be behind on a bill or need some extra time to come up with the money. Sure, there are plenty of people out there with messed up priorities, but until they’re asking you for the money, it’s not worth the energy to worry about it either way.

  6. Hey Nelson… ooops I mean Evan :)

    Nice post. It’s a tough call. When your careful with your money and you watch others around you possibly making little mistakes, it maybe sets off your own alarm bells. Maybe that’s why we jump to a wrong conclusion and possibly embarrass ourselves.

    FS : I can afford a brand new Corvette but choose to drive a older nice sedan with a cool 430,000kms on it. It cost me $3000.00 5 years ago. That type of choice has allowed me to have other opportunities that could be lost on someone financing a $30,0000. car. Not everyone has the vision to see how one choice now, affects your future opportunities.

    you “hater” :)

  7. I thought you just posted that you were going to care less about the financial stupidity of others?

    I think a lot of people consider cable a need. People work at crappy jobs, come home to a bunch of crappy problems, and just turn on the TV and zone out.

  8. Judging is not a bad thing, in fact it is necessary. Look, this lady is asking a question from which one one can extrapolate the following: 1) she missed at least one payment and is behind in what she owes; 2)she cannot resolve this by mail or internet; 3) she is going to pay interest on the unpaid balance, and has obligations she considers more important than paying 20% interest on a few hundred dollars; 4) she has a child that she cannot provide for with any comfortable financial margin, in fact she must be within several hundred dollars of ‘zero’.

    I wonder if you are feeling bad for her situation, and think the bad feeling is coming from ‘judging’? You and your wife have ‘empathy’, which is a very good thing; it means you are not sociopaths.:-) But awareness and caring about others sometimes results in discomfort or helplessness; if you decide that ‘judgment’ is the problem, then you no longer have to feel that discomfort. In any event, both of you made a similar judgment on this woman’s situation. I’m making one, too, and don’t think you are mistaken in your judgment. Just my two cents.

  9. I’m not sure why these posts come up all the time from pf bloggers. Yeah, I know we all worry about our own finances but why do we feel the need to worry about others? Your family and friends? Okay. Some stranger in a store? Who cares. Spend more time worrying about your own situation.

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