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Last week and this week, I am filling in at my job working in store helping customers instead of going out on the road and meeting customers. This means that I am going to be taking monthly bill payments for people’s cell phone bills. I usually try to strike up a conversation with people while they are in when I am processing their payment to make the transaction a good experience.
Some things I noticed, particularly on Friday was that a number of them seemed like they didn’t have money management skills or just plain didn’t care about their finances and how they were used. They didn’t realize that they were hurting their future selves by the way they were acting.
The “I’ll think about that tomorrow” customer
One customer came in and said he only wanted to pay so much on his bill. When I explained to him that his bill was more than that and would result in a late charge, they tried to assure me that they knew “how much was due”. I told them that there would most likely be another $25 late fee on their next bill if they didn’t get it paid up by their due date. Then, they wanted to know why it was higher than normal, and they already had a late charge from the previous month!
They were going in this viscious cycle of paying their bill, but because they weren’t paying enough, they were getting an additional $25 tacked on to their bill each month. And, on top of that, they were probably getting calls from our collections department since they wasn’t fully paid up, and they were probably threatening to shut service off. I can’t imagine the stress that must cause going through that month in and month out, probably with multiple services. All because of no budget telling money where to go. All because of failure to have a plan.
The weekend partyier or “YOLO” customer
YOLO = You Only Live Once
Another customer came in and was paying their bill. They were grumbling about the bill and didn’t want to get fully caught up because if they paid extra, “you never know what’s going to happen on the weekend”. They made it sound like a bunch of partying would be in order and they needed to make sure they had extra money for in case they “needed” to have partying money. I found this one particularly funny, because I mentioned that was exactly what a budget was for. But this customer was too worried that by keeping a budget, it would constrict them of their partying.
I can’t imagine being in this customer’s shoes and waking up on Monday, only to have to go to a job and work extremely hard for another long 40+ hours a week and have nothing to show for my money except the partying I did over the weekend. I know my “future” self would not be too happy. I am all about having fun, but, I also would like to make sure that I’m ahead of the curve when it comes to saving for the future, making sure all my bills are paid, and making sure that I have enough left over to cover emergencies that come up first. Priorities are key!
The income crisis, emergency mode customer
I had another customer calling in trying to get help because they were on disability. I could sense the growing desperation and frustration growing in them as the conversation went on. Unfortunately for them, they had signed up for payments and were held to them. Because of the purchase they had made, in this case a cell phone, they felt trapped in the situation. I did what I could to help, but, they had signed up for this, and the penalty for getting out, is never favorable for the most part. In the situation that this customer was in, they were really reaping bad decisions and because of those decisions, they were losing options in how they could control their finances.
It’s funny in this world we live in, that it’s actually rare for people to actually have the money for consumer goods they are purchasing, and we have to finance or lose options when we are buying toys. Yes, I do believe a cell phone is a toy. I think you can get by with much less than we use day to day with smart phones and tablets and everything else. I’m not saying they are useless, but if you can’t afford to buy it, maybe you should delay the purchase. I put buying off my iPad Air for almost 3 years and finally decided to buy when I could buy and also when a newer model came out and my model was cheaper.
The no credit, just starting out customer
The last example that I have is about a customer that I thought was going about things in a better way, but our company wasn’t willing to take a risk on them quite yet. The person came in and had just turned 18 and had just started part time 3 weeks prior in their first job. However, in talking with this person, they had no credit history and didn’t want to get into a credit card, but wanted to start building some payment history.
We went through the motions of trying to get them set up, but in the end, we weren’t willing to take a risk on them. I felt bad for them since they were trying to get started on the right foot, but hadn’t found the right options just yet. I remember when I was just getting started and I actually opened a preloaded credit card where I had to send the company $500 and then would have a credit line. I hope this young person is able to get through this tough phase in life without the need to use a credit card and can get over a decade ahead by building wealth from a young age.
Working in a customer facing environment where you are taking people’s money while conversing with them, you get to meet all kinds of people. This past week has really opened my eyes to all the different people out there that are really having some struggles, whether self inflicted or just going through a rough patch, or just starting out. There are so many people that I would love to figure out how to reach but just don’t know how at this point. Some of these people know they need to make a change, but don’t know how. Some want to make a change, but don’t want to make the lifestyle choices that come along with it. Some people don’t want to make it a priority at this time because they haven’t hit rock bottom yet too. I will say, I am going to keep creating content to hopefully get people interested in bettering their finances, as we all are traveling on a journey. If you know anyone that would benefit from any of my articles, please share with them. If you want to chat or need help, please contact me and I would be happy to help!
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