html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: We were twitchy and jumpy by the end of that summer.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

We were twitchy and jumpy by the end of that summer.

My Dad always yells at me for not carrying cash. Then he acts grumpy and hands me $100 in twenties, so I can’t see how that is teaching me the right lesson. I have always resented that trying to do the right thing led to the Summer of Remarkably Bad Luck in 1998. I was working in the Sac Valley that summer, living in Willows, which is already bad news. Late Sunday night, on my way back from visiting my ex in Berkeley, I stopped at the ATM at University and San Pablo. In the forty seconds it took me to get cash money, someone stole my bike off the rack on my car. That was the start.

Sunday night: Bike stolen off my car.
Thursday: Ex gets into serious car crash. Not injured, but car is wrecked.
Saturday: Ex and I take his rental car around to local swap meets. When we get home, my car had been stolen out of his garage.

You got that so far? In six days, we had lost two cars and a bike. I don’t remember the timing of the rest of it as clearly, but in order:

My car was found with everything stolen out of it. According to the police report, the engine was fine, though, which was not still the case when I got to the impound lot three days later.
The impound lot bent me over and used me roughly; considering what they billed me, I think they could have afforded some lube.
My ex’s rental car was broken into and his jacket, boots, CDs stolen out of it.
Once my car was fixed, someone broke into the mechanic’s car lot and tried to steal it again, but instead just messed up the ignition.
My ex got his own car back. Within the week, it was broken into and his rims stolen.
The streak ended on his birthday. We stopped by the bike store to look at new bikes for me. I tried one, fell and broke my arm.

As far as I am concerned, all that happened because I was trying to do the right thing and have more than two cash dollars in my wallet that week. It speaks well of my friends that recently I have started carrying cash money again. I wouldn’t bother, except that I find that they will often reach for the bill real fast. If splitting the bill ‘causes more hassle than handing over a twenty, they’ll wave me off. I find that I have to carry cash to contribute fairly. It is a nice problem to have.

19 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We always just hand the server multiple credit/debit cards, and tell her how much to put on each. That's never been a problem.

Justin

2:14 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Maybe my friends are nicer than yours.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure which way to take that one. It could be

1) My friends aren't nice for not just offering to pick up the full check.

2) We're not nice for all of us paying with plastic.

Either way, sometimes someone will just pick up the full check to be nice. But, we go out a lot, so it doesn't happen every time.

And, I don't know if it's really more difficult for a sever to run multiple cards than it is for them to deal with a group trying to pay cash, and making change for everyone, and whatnot.

Justin

2:29 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

There wasn't a good way to take that; it was a dumb joke that my friends are nicer 'cause they offer to pay for me. If we went out a lot, I'm sure that would stop.

I've been trying to spread a technique I saw in Dallas, where someone writes the last four digits of each credit card and the amount to charge to each on the receipt. I think that must be much easier for the server than telling him or her out loud.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nope, too late for appologies now, my feelings are already hurt. I'm gonna have to hide under my desk until the red in my eyes goes away.

Justin

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've heard of groups that just randomly choose one person who then has to pay the entire bill. If people are "risk-neutral" then they should be indifferent between paying for their own meal and having a 1/N chance of having to pay for N meals, and the "one person pays all" method saves the transactions costs and so should be preferred. The result doesn't necessarily hold if people are risk-averse, but there is a result in economics that says that if people were meaningfully risk-averse over the amounts of money at stake in a restaraunt check, that would imply an implausible amount of risk-aversion for larger decisions (e.g., people would turn down a gamble where they have a 50% chance of losing $1000 and a 50% chance of gaining $1 billion, or something like that), so people should be regarded as effectively risk-neutral for this purpose. That said, I've never seen anyone actually use this method, even when the whole group is made up of economists.

David J. Balan

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's because not all dinners cost the same. It's not uncommon for 1 person to make up the majority of a dinner bill. And, you go to different restaurants with different people, and different restaurants have different costs, so you can't even just say in the long term it averages out. Some people just generally eat less than others, etc etc etc...

Justin

3:05 PM  
Blogger ScottM said...

It is a good problem to have. (Ours manifests primarily with family, but with friends pretty often too.)

I carry more cash now than in the past- mostly for impulse buys for my girl.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have two friends who are waitresses and they ask us to always tip in cash. When the tip is put on a credit card, it's documented and they have to pay taxes on it. Since I'm totally ignorant about how much waiters and waitresses make (I guess I should've asked them, huh?) I am not sure whether I agree with the cheating on taxes part. Can someone enlighten me? Thanks, you have my gratitude until 5:02PM PST. :)
-Mel

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does how much they make determine whether or not it's ok to cheat on taxes?

I'm all for people cheating on their taxes any chance they get, taxes are far too high, across the board.

Justin

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if they make a LOT of money in tips, then is it fair that they don't pay taxes and I do? No!
But really, I don't think they typically make that much, I was looking for verification on how much they actually make. :) If you don't make much and they want to tax you on the little you do make, I'm all for cutting corners.
-Mel

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Justin,

You're right that if not everybody costs the same, and if the cheap eaters don't want to subsidize the expensive ones, then everybody has to pay their share. But if people are just splitting the check, then the method I described has a lot going for it. The fact that almost no one ever does it says something about irrational attitudes towrads risk. It's similar to the issue of why people buy insurance against small risks, which standard economics says nobody should.

David J. Balan

7:19 PM  
Blogger Bob V said...

David Balan,
You're hitting at yet another reason I'm not in the school of economics! A regular old model of risk aversion is not sufficient to describe the actual behavior.

The reason your scheme does not usually take place is not (always) risk aversion. It is because even if someone gets hit with the bill by the luck of the draw, the others still get the feeling that the guy is paying for their dinner. If one person were to pay for two consecutive meals in a group, this would cause discomfort even among risk-neutral millionaires.

How do I know this? In part it is because I am usually risk neutral for any calculable problem, and I would still not want to take that gamble for the reason I provide. There is something about someone taking out his wallet and paying for your meal that is not diminished by the fact that the a priori probability of either one of you paying was the same.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

David, Bob V -
Your scheme takes place all summer long among smokejumpers. I can't remember the rules, but you flip quarters head-to-head. I've only done it once and gotten down to the final three to buy 12 meals in Reno. But, that's nothing, in Fairbanks they "flip" at the parachute loft with as much as 50 people, I'd guess. You can hear the cheers all the way across the airport. How'd you like that bill? (Chow hall meal=$7)

2:22 AM  
Blogger Bob V said...

Jason, great point! Among risk-seekers it might be something else entirely.

By the way, the explanation I gave would be influenced by factors like the number of people involved and how often the group meets.

Oh, and I imagine economists and poker players might not follow the behavior I predict.

4:57 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey said...

"That said, I've never seen anyone actually use this method, even when the whole group is made up of economists."

My ex-boyfriend and his poker friends used this method every time, they called it "credit card roulette". They would put cards under an opaque napkin and have someone who doesn't know the feel of the cards draw them out one at a time until only one was left, and the one that was left was the one used to pay for the meal.

4:23 PM  
Anonymous shannon said...

Mel- I know when I was a server my credit card tips usually represented a percent of sales substantially greater than my cash to sales percentage. The IRS looks at the percent of credit card tips and assumes this was the percent tips received on all sales because it is the one they can undoubtedly prove. So if my credit card tips were 30% of CC sales, then it is assumed that my tip percentage of all sales was 30%, meaning I might have to pay taxes on tips I didn't earn if my overall tip percent was less than 30. So as a server you either end up paying taxes on tips you didn't earn or walking out with less tips. Depending on the ratio of cash to credit tabs paid, it is often beneficial to take the smaller cash tip and pay less tax than to have a greater tip on the CC. And there's also the not paying taxes on 100% of your tips thing, but that's not complete reason.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Filmo said...

With regards to carrying a little cash.

Over the years, I've found that having an 'emergency' $100 bill on me has saved my ass in more than a couple situations.

I keep one folded up and tucked into the wallet behind the credit cards so the I don't accidentally spend it during the course of normal activities.

For example, I've been in minor fender benders. You know, the kind where you tap the back of somebodies car and leave a little ding. (not major damage.) Most people will take $100 in cash in since they're not really going to deal with the insurance hassle. Ends up saving me $1000s in insurance premiums in the long run. (I'm not saying I go around looking to get in accidents, only that often times, $100 bucks can really get out of some otherwise expensive or dangerous situations.)

I've done a bunch of scummy punk-rock tours. $100 bucks will usually get you a bus ticket out of some back water if you're stuck somewhere.

In third world countries, $100 is more than enough to get you out of some very tricky situations.

Highly recommend it.

6:54 PM  
Blogger Bob V said...

filmo, I also carry a $100 bill or two.

When I travel to other countries, I try to split my money into different stashes in different places on my person. If you are negotiating with someone, it is nice if you don't have to pull out all of your money, but a rather a portion of it. Also, if you get mugged, you don't lose everything.

Actually, even here in the US, I have money hidden in my car. I keep another $200 in my toiletry bag. And I have more money hidden in different non-obvious parts of my place. Every once in a while I'll find money that I forgot I had hidden.

Damn. I'm a paranoid freak.

6:54 AM  

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