Sunday, March 30, 2008

I have a lot of very smart friends. Indeed, for all practical purposes, I have a panel of advisers.

When I have a psychology question, I call my smart friend Pam, who is a psychologist. Katy-the-Wise gets lots of my personal problems and religion questions, though other people have been known to handle the overflow as I have lots of both. Smiley-Dave the structural engineer told us how to fix a sagging wall in our garage and told us where to put our bookcases.

Obviously, LinguistFriend gets the language questions.

TheCSO and I kind of share a brain on a lot of things.

My question is: Do other people not do this? If not, why the hell not?

I went over to my parents' house this evening to help them jumpstart my mother's truck. When she and my father and brother went off to drive it around to get it charged up, I sat on the couch brushing the dog. Eventually, I started looking through the papers on the coffee table for a magazine.

I found notes in my mother's handwriting. Suspicious notes.

When my family got back, I held the paper aloft.

"Um, Ma? Is this a get rich quick scheme?"

"Well..." My mother said.

"She lost a lot of money. I wasn't supposed to tell you." My brother Jason filled in cheerfully.

"It was my fault. I didn't spend enough time on it," My mother said.

"Oh, come on, Mom. That's what they always tell you."

"It is?"

"Yes," I said, exasperated. "They convince you it's your fault for not working hard enough. It keeps you from suing and to make you easier to convince next time. Amway has been doing that forever."

This went on for awhile. I never did find out exactly what sort of scam it was, though I'm gathering it had something to do with real estate. They lost more money than I would want to lose, but not so much as to create a serious problem.

But still...

I really tried not to be a sanctimonious pain-in-the-ass about it. At the same time, I was shocked. I thought about the Psychiatrist in California who lost 1.3 million to the Nigerian scam and what his kids must have gone through.

And I thought about how naturally I ask people for advice and rely on the knowledge of others. If I were going into the real estate business and I had a daughter who was a law student, a son-in-law who was good with finances and did my taxes, I might ask the daughter to research the company and/or the son-in-law to look over the paperwork.


My mom isn't what you would call book smart, but she's no fool either. I almost think on some level she knew it was a scam. Maybe she wanted the dream of easy money more than she wanted the money she spent getting into it.

If that's the case, I hope she just buys a lottery ticket next time.



PG said...

I think it's good to ask for advice from a large range of people for things that might have right and wrong answers, like what's the best way to roast a chicken or reinforce your wall, or whether a particular company is a good one to use. For stuff that verges closer to matters of taste, however, I get exasperated by people who need panels before making a decision, or worse, change decisions around based on a post-decision panel discussion.

(Or to put it more briefly, my mother's reliance on her friends to decide stuff for my wedding is making me crazy.)

ogre said...

We want to believe. We particularly want to believe people who seem nice and sincere.

Right now I'm looking at major house work that needs to be done.

I got a quote--from someone who came with some recommendation--for close to $90k. To say that I choked would be an understatement. I squeaked about it after giving it a few days to think on it... and got a modified estimate for jsut over $70k.

In the meantime I got someone else to give me an estimate. Now, I don't think that the two are exactly identical, but--well... that one's for $28k. Even assuming that some of the stuff that we want/need done is going to add several thousand more--maybe $10k more...

I'm left wondering what that extra $30-40k is.

Oh, and the second estimate's from someone else that came recommended.

Trust. Sure.

Trust AND Verify. (To quote the Russian aphorism that Reagan adopted...)

RandomRanter said...

I think there's also a generational thing in play, where parents hate asking kids about stuff. Or at least that's what I'm told when I ask why my mother completely ignored my advice about life insurance because someone else gave her a different reason (that she doesn't remember except to remember that it sounded good). Even though I work in benefits.

hafidha sofia said...

Sometimes people don't ask because they're afraid the answer isn't going to be what they want to hear. My mom had a friend who wanted my dad to meet her fiance - she said my dad was a good judge of character and she wanted to run this dude by him because she admitted she might be blinded by her feelings. My dad had dinner with the guy, and his advice was: don't marry this man; there is something wrong with him. My mom's friend was very displeased with this information, and married him anyway. Three days after their wedding she called my parents, asking them to come pick her up because her new husband had beaten her up.

After all these years, my dad still doesn't understand why she asked him for his advice if she was just going to do what she wanted regardless of it. Maybe some people would rather avoid hearing the words, "I told you so."