When I was in high school, a semester course in economics was required for graduation. I managed to convince the school to accept an advanced physics course instead, so I can't claim to know much economics. Yet being married to a guy who majored in that field in college helps, and in any case the following scenario not only makes no economic sense, it makes no sense at all.

Last time we took the Venture to our favorite mechanic, we asked about a slight shimmy, and were told that everything was okay, but if it got worse we should probably have a wheel alignment done. It has now reached the point where it is "worse" enough, so today we took it to a nearby tire store / garage and asked them to look at it. (Bllue Book doesn't do wheel alignments.)

When they called to tell us it needed two new tie rods, an alignment, and a new tire, I was floored and took the easy way out: I turned the phone over to Porter. He politely told them thank you but we couldn't have the work done today and would be in to retrieve the car. If the tire really needs replacing, we need to look into the warranty situation first, and any tie rod work we want to have done at Blue Book. Particularly since they had replaced a tie rod end last April, and had not that long ago given the car a clean bill of health. In any case, we think it calls for a second opinion.

But that's not my real quarrel with the local place; I'll reserve judgement until after we get that second opinion. What flabbergasted me was the reaction of the mechanic, who kept telling Porter, "But you don't have to pay anything now"! It reminded me of the time Janet was at an outpatient clinic, trying to decide whether or not to get an x-ray there. She tried many times to find out how much the procedure would cost, and I don't think she ever received an answer. She couldn't find anyone who would admit to knowing what the charge would be. Yet even that was less absurd than those who puzzled, "Why do you want to know? You don't have to pay anything now; we'll bill you and you can pay it later."

Pardon me, but—huh? The cost of something doesn't matter if you don't have to fork over the cash this instant? If economics classes are still required in high school, they're not doing much good. And—double huh? The only reason one might do or not do something, be it medical or automotive, is its dollar cost? Even economists, who are accustomed to measuring the strangest things in terms of their dollar value, would choke on that attitude. At least my economist did.

I think I've discovered another reason why our culture is in financial trouble.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 12, 2006 at 1:05 pm | Edit
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And to make matters worse, credit card companies thrive on college students who easily sign-up for cards in exchange for free food, clothing and more. I drive past FSU twice daily and often see signs up at local businesses advertising free products and services to students with FSU, TCC or FAMU identification cards. Hook. Once inside, the college-aged person with the free goodies expounds the greatness of credit cards; understood to mean "free money" by the students, of course. Line. When they do run up the bill and discover they cannot pay it, their credit is damaged for a long time and they become another debtor. Sinker. While students across the country become indebted to the credit card companies for life (considering if one made only the minimum payment continuously), they sit back and make record profits. Wow, I think I just talked myself into starting a credit card company!

Posted by David July on Friday, May 12, 2006 at 6:47 pm
As if college loans weren't enough to make life difficult for graduates. It's astonishing how much of what colleges call "financial aid" is really loans, and the student doesn't typically realize how much debt he's amassing. Then suddenly he graduates and reality strikes, just as with credit cards, albeit at a much lower interest rate.

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, May 12, 2006 at 8:21 pm
Update: Porter determined that what the mechanic called "a chunk out of the tire" was actually belt separation. We took the car to Sears for two new tires, putting the new on the front and rotating the front to the back. We also had them do an alignment. They said everything else looked fine. Cost? About $270, as opposed to the $790 the first place wanted to charge. We had been happy with that place before, but they are under new management and I guess we won't be going back any time soon. And the car? Driving is smooth as silk, better than it's been in a long time.

Posted by SursumCorda on Sunday, May 14, 2006 at 8:35 pm
It is interesting to read comments by people living in the U.S. I may come back to hear about "real life", as the sources I have typically used don't reflect what life is like for real people. I don't realize how differently I think than the folks I grew up with or went to college with. I rarely ask the cost of medical or auto procedures, knowing they will be soooo much less than a similar one in the U.S.

Posted by Melinda on Tuesday, May 16, 2006 at 12:43 am
Do come back, Melinda! We'd love to have another persepective represented here.

Posted by SursumCorda on Tuesday, May 16, 2006 at 6:05 am
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