Unix-Jedi sent me this article: The Poverty Business: Inside U.S. companies' audacious drive to extract more profits from the nation's working poor. In reading it I was reminded of a guy I worked with while I was in college. I'll call him Dan.
I was 21 and working in a flower shop while I was going to a major university to get a degree in Horticulture. (I have a bachelor's degree in Horticulture, too.) One slow Saturday those of us working were talking about movies. Dan starting talking about the new VCR he had just gotten from a Rent-to-Own store. Yes, I said VCR, I'm old.
"Why would you rent-to-own a VCR?"
"Well, my wife is home all day with the baby and she wanted something to do, and we can't afford to buy a VCR. So I went to the place where we are renting all our furniture and got one."
"So, how much are you paying for the VCR?"
"Oh, only $7 a week."
"For how long?"
"Only a year."
"So, at the end of a year you will have paid $364 for a $100 VCR. Why don't you just save the $7 a week for 3 and a half months and go to Wallyworld and buy a VCR?"
"Well, we need one now. Plus, if my wife finds out I'm saving money she'll spend it."
Another conversation later that day:
"Did you get the phone turned back on at your house?"
"No, I decided not to have it turned back on because if I do the wife just talks to her mom all day long distance and then I can't afford to pay the bill."
"Have you explained to her that she can only use the phone for local calls and the occasional call to her mom?"
"Yes, but if the phone is on she'll just call her mom anyway."
"So, your wife and kid are at home all day in a house without a way to call 911 if there is an emergency because your wife can't understand that she can't call long distance and run the bill up?"
I just shook my head and went back to work.
These people aren't poor because companies are taking advantage of them. They are poor because they have a need for instant gratification, consequences be damned.