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Consumer Education Department of the General Delivery University

Americans occupy their existence doing four primary things--seeking more money, seeking to make themselves more sexually attractive, sleeping, and spending money. Vast amounts of advice and counsel are currently available on "how to" get more money, get more sex, sleep better, and spend one's money wisely. But a serious gap in the information spectrum exists regarding how to waste money.

While most people utilize serious research, rumor, blind luck, and professional consumer guides to assist them in the purchase of food, clothing, entertainment, cars, home appliances, electronic equipment, real estate and travel, there is always the lurking feeling that we've failed to spend our money wisely. Eventually we all come to the realization professional consumer experts deduce rather quickly--that there is ultimately no way to avoid being had. Inevitably a great portion of what we spend will be frivolously or inefficiently squandered, and the goods we buy turns out to be just plain garbage.

Given that a great portion of our income will be effectively wasted, and also given that we secretly desire to be good and smart about what we do, it seems only appropriate that a guide be created to assist the consumer in assuring that we will not get the best value for our money, and be secure in the knowledge that we've deliberately wasted our money.

Therefore, weeks of research have been dedicated to the preparation of this "how to" guide to assist the American consumer in throwing away his or her money. We can absolutely guarantee that if you utilize this guide to assist you in purchasing goods or services, you will be had. But, unlike your fellow consumers, you will waste your money with your eyes (and your pocketbooks) open.

You will be comforted with knowledge in some detail as to how and why you have wasted your money. We do not, however, offer you a money-back guarantee.


BUYING A NEW CAR: The surest way to waste money is to purchase a new car and pay the full sticker price on the window. If there is no sticker price, demand that the dealer create one and be sure to ask him to include charges for dealer's preparation, undercoating, destination costs, and 1% of his advertising budget. Often the car dealer will confront you with the choice of an extremely low and attractive interest rate or a very high and outrageous interest rate together with a sizeable cash rebate or a free trip to Disneyland. In order to eliminate any confusion, ask the dealer to compute which alternative will cost you the most money at the bottom line. A very reliable way to waste money buying a new car is to purchase it in a parking lot at night. With a high degree of probability the car will turn out to be stolen and you will lose the car, all the money you spent, and have to hire a lawyer to keep you from going to jail for buying stolen property. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. But such a deal has a virtual certainty of being an enormous waste of money.


BUYING A USED CAR: The act of purchasing a used car is one of the most refreshing and above-board transaction anyone can participate in if they are seeking to waste their money. It is exceptionally rare for anyone to purchase a used car and not discover they've been taken to the cleaners. The purchase of a used car is often one's first venture into the world of wasting money, accomplished by most while still in high school. It is not uncommon for one to lose their virginity as a smart consumer this way years before analogous transactions. Rarely does one come away from the experience of buying their first used car without feeling unclean, used, and foolish. These are sure signs of a potential expert in the throwing away of money as a lifetime avocation.

To insure your humiliation and a loss of self (and net) worth is maximized while buying a used car always buy your car from a man who speaks with a Southern accent and who wears a white belt and white shoes. You can never go wrong in throwing away your money when dealing with such an individual. Always compare the mileage of the car with its condition. The more of a discrepancy between the mileage and the condition the better. Thus a car showing less than 20,000 miles on its odometer with all the rubber worn off its gas pedal, dents everywhere, worn seat covers and inspection stickers from at least 10 states on its windows is a sure buy. This car probably has more mileage on it than a round-trip to the moon. But you'll pay a premium price for the claim of low miles, then face enormous repair bills from the moment you drive it off the lot until it meets its final reward in a junkyard (sometimes as quickly as before the ink dries on the title transfer form).

If you cannot find a low mileage opportunity, look for a car with different color paint showing from beneath its scratches. These are fantastic buys, especially if the true color of the car was red or yellow and there are faint outlines where the words "taxi" or "fire department" used to be.

Always purchase your used car with cash, and never buy a used car unless it is guaranteed to be "as is" with no warranties expressed or implied. This is the only warranty a wasteful consumer should be concerned with. If you feel compelled to purchase a warranty, only pay extra for the warranty if the car dealer's offices are in a trailer which still has its wheels on, and whose business sign is hand-painted on cardboard.

Finally, if you cannot afford to buy your used car with cash, look for a dealer who carries his own financing. This assures that you will pay what used to be a usurious rate of interest for your car loan. This sort of financing always has the condition that if you are a few minutes late on your weekly car payments, they will instantly repossess the vehicle and sell it again. And again. And again.


REPAIRING YOUR CAR: It is very difficult to have your car repaired and not spend at least 40% more than you really needed to. Thus it is difficult to exceed the average amount of money wasted by consumers in car repairs. But there are a number of proven methods to up your percentage of wasted money over the national norm. First, insist the mechanic not call you to tell you what he's found wrong with your car before proceeding to fix it. Second, give the repair shop blanket authority to "fix whatever is broke" on the car. Third, tell the mechanic "money is no object" in making your car safe to drive. Fourth, be as vague as you can about what you think is wrong with the car. Telling the mechanic "it makes a funny sound" or "it just doesn't feel right" gives the mechanic broad latitude to run up several hundred dollars worth of charges just locating what is broken.

One popular way to waste money on car repairs is to patronize a repair shop where the owners and employees don't speak your language. Another sure bet is to have your car repaired only at gas stations located along major freeways and interstate highways, especially if you are out of state.


CHARGE IT: A universally accepted way to waste money is to purchase everything you need or desire on a credit card, then only pay the minimum monthly amount required by the charge card company. Most major credit cars charge between 15% to 30% interest on the unpaid balance you have charged, and you can end up paying an astounding amount of interest over a year for very modest purchases--sometimes with the interest costs exceeding the original amount of the purchase. A true spendthrift will use credit cards to buy quickly consumed items such as food, drink and magazines, and end up paying $3.00 of interest for every $1.00 of actual purchase made.

Running out of charging limits is no problem thanks to bank deregulation. Always make your monthly minimum payment that is due on time, and not only will that company constantly increase your credit line, but it will sell your name to other companies who will send you unsolicited new credit cards with new credit lines to charge against.


BRAND NAME VS GENERIC: Always buy brand name goods as opposed to generic if you are serious about wasting money. Frequently the only differences between a brand name item and the cheaper generic product are the packages they come in and the size of their advertising budget.

When you buy brand name you are telling the company you like the artwork, quality of printing, the color, and the type of container the product comes in, and you love their snappy television and magazine commercials. This will insure the brand name company will continue to strive to make their packages even more attractive, and continue to increase their advertising budget.

Consider what America would be without advertising? A bleak, dull, sterile landscape of woods and plains without billboards. Freedom of the press would cease because there would be no advertising to support our magazines and newspapers. Network television would go off the air. Radio would be silent. Millions would be unemployed. Keep American strong and prosperous and buy brand name. You aren't buying the product. You are buying a piece of the American dream itself. Buying brand name products is the patriot's way to waste money.

BUY BY MAIL: Many consumers opt to purchase goods by mail, and with the advent of consumer protection laws, it is increasingly difficult to guarantee a waste of money in this activity without serious effort. However, a sufficient number of mail order opportunities are still outright frauds, if you can but find them. One reliable way to waste money in mail order purchasing is to buy a college diploma. General Delivery University is widely reputed for its "fill-in-the-blank" college degrees it sells for $19.95 by mail. Another approach to mail order buying is to overcome your resistance to television ads that are common on independent stations and cable channels. You should keep pen an paper next to your television set so whenever a chance to buy a once in a lifetime collection of the greatest hits of the Botswana Symphony Orchestra or a new kitchen knife that cuts through redwood trees is offered, you can get the toll free number to call and order the item. Also have your credit cards handy so you can give the company your card number, as well.


TELEPHONE SALES: Those in the know say telephone sales are an excellent opportunity to waste money. All you have to do is say "yes" over and over again, and vast qualities of your wealth will vanish into dancing lessons, solar collection devices, life insurance, exercise equipment, and real estate in resort areas such as Manitoba.


BUY ONLY IN STORES WITH CARPET ON THE FLOOR: The same watch will cost twice as much if bought in a jewelry store with carpet on the floor as opposed to the watch bought in a store with linoleum tile on the floor. The more plush the surroundings in the store, the more its goods will cost. The same holds true for fancy addresses. A Park Avenue, Fifth Avenue, or Rodeo Drive address insures the maximum prices on the planet.


NEVER READ A CONTRACT: Frequently a contract must be signed before your purchase is completed. You will be handed a multi-paged document with tiny little print on it and asked if you'd like to read it. You have two minutes to read 250,000 words of legalese drafted by an expensive Wall Street law firm. Don't bother. Just sign it. Of course, if you decide you want to get out of the contract you won't be able to because the courts will assume that you knew what you were doing when you signed the contract, no matter what you claim to the contrary. If you want to find out whether or not it does any good to read a contract, pretend you've read it, then demand paragraph 16 be deleted. No company will ever agree to change one letter of their contract, let alone delete an entire paragraph from their printed form. You either accept the contract as is, or you don't buy. Period. Lawyers have a term for this type of document-- "adhesion contracts"--because they are the means to stick it to you.

LONG DISTANCE TELEPHONE SERVICE: The deregulation of the nation's telephone system has created a bewildering array of opportunities to waste money. The first step in wasting your money is to obtain your long distance calling service from a competitor of AT&T. This will, in combination with similar decisions by many other consumers, drive your local telephone utility into bankruptcy and prompt vastly higher residential phone rates--for which you have no competitive choices. Then use your new long distance service. Most such services start charging you the instant the phone starts ringing at the other end. Typically the phone will be answered and you will instantly be put on hold, and if you're lucky, you'll get to listen to some music. Then you'll get to ask if Jones is in, get put back on hold, get Jones' secretary, get put back on hold, then finally told Jones is out of town--all of this taking 5 minutes. Many times the phone will ring for what seems like hours, because the people you are calling are busy. In theory you pay less per increment of time but in practice the billable length of the call is longer.


SALES: Sales are opportunities to save money, and thus should be avoided, with a few possible exceptions. A store with a perpetual sale in process is in reality probably marking up their goods astronomically, then "discounting" the inflated price to about 110% of true retail. A sale which alleges a "$89 value" for only $69 is a possibility because the use of the word "value" means the product might be worth that amount, but isn't necessarily ever sold for that price. It just seems like a bargain when in fact the product may routinely be sold for $59 in the same community. Some stores with otherwise good names and high prices often have sales, which would lead the consumer to believe the usual high quality products in the store are being discounted. Not necessarily so. Some stores make special purchases of cheaply made stuff from Taiwan to put on "sale" amidst their otherwise fine merchandise.

FLY FIRST CLASS: Once upon a time flying first class on a domestic airline was a singularly pleasurable experience, and well worth the substantial extra cost for the flight. But, with the advent of airline deregulation, and plummeting airline company profits (which is quickly followed by plummeting airline companies flying into bankruptcy or the ground) the value received for a first class ticket has become indistinguishable from flying coach. But since first class seats still cost at least 20% more than a seat a few feet further back in the cabin, flying first class has become a reliable way to waste money.


GENERAL RULE: Any enterprise that has been deregulated from government control is a good bet to be a potential opportunity to waste money. In the name of protecting consumers, government has thrown consumers to the wolves, stripping them of quality protection and price regulation benefits in order to cut the cost of government and allow those saved tax revenues to be spent on toilet seats for aircraft carriers.


Copyright 1997-2008 by Hugh A. Holub