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How people treat you when they think you're poor

One place you don't want to look rich: A car dealership.

By Karen Datko Sep 27, 2009 3:18AM

Shannon Christman isn't poor, but she is frugal, and sometimes other people confuse the two.

On occasion, salespeople have snubbed her -- and missed out on making a sale. Sometimes generous people offer help when it's not needed. Her thought-provoking post at Saving Advice should raise questions in any thinking person's mind about how quickly we make judgments about others. She also says, "The assumptions others make about my frugality -- usually that I have much less money than I actually do -- can be a benefit to me."

Her best anecdote is about picking a real estate agent. Shannon and her husband went with the agent who talked to them even though they looked too young to afford a house. She writes, "I sometimes wish that the Realtor in the neighboring booth, who dismissed our initial questions to talk with a wealthier-looking prospect, could have seen us signing closing papers on a mid-priced house shortly thereafter."

Another story she tells is about the couple who offered her family a kid's meal toy at a fast-food place, apparently because her family of four was sharing three menu items and one big soda. (They could have afforded more but it would have gone to waste.) Shannon wasn't offended. "After all, I can never be really sure that the motive was anything other than simple generosity," she says.

At times, there are benefits to looking poorer than you are, particularly when you're shopping for a car. Another is that other frugalists will identify with you. Shannon says, "Whether it's someone behind a counter who offers me a special deal that she knows a frugal person would appreciate, or a fellow shopper who is eager to pass on news of other bargains in the area, like-minded savers are good acquaintances to make."

Published May 30, 2008



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