January 7, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 10:07 pm

deadbeats.jpgI stopped my morning groundpound the other day to take this picture with my cell phone.

It is the front door of an establishment in town, which had been a mom and pop luncheonette. It was “X’s and Y’s Luncheonette.” (For the sake of discussion, let X = George and Y = Irene.) What you cannot see in the photo is the Eviction Notice that was taped to the door.

For more than three decades, George and Irene had done a brisk business serving only breakfasts and lunches. Nothing fancy, but the place was comfortable, and the food was good. You’d sit in one of the booths along the wall, and your order would be taken by the waitress (Jersey waitresses are in a class by themselves. “Haya doin’, Hon. What ken I getcha?) and handed it to the guy behind the counter working his magic at the grill. Jersey’s version of Southern hospitality.

Anyway, a few months ago, “George and Irene” sold the place. I don’t know why. Perhaps business fell off. Perhaps they wanted to retire. I just don’t know.

Shortly thereafter, the new owners posted a small sign in the window stating that the place was under new management, and that it would be closed for renovations, scheduled to open as the something or other “Café.” A week or two later, a fancy-schmancy sign appeared over the door for the something or other “Cafe.”

Despite the fancy, new signage, apparently it didn’t work out for the something or other “Café.” It never opened. I have no idea why. Maybe the new owners underestimated the money needed to open the place? Maybe they had a serious dispute with the landlord? Maybe anticipated investment money didn’t appear? Hell, maybe the New Jersey Department of Regulating Every Goddamned Thing made it impossible for them to open? Who knows?

What struck me was not why the new venture cratered before it was ever launched, but rather the reaction of the owners once things went bad. As the above photo shows, it appears that they simply locked the door and walked away from everything.

That attitude and behavior bothers me. A lot.

I figure that most of the envelopes you see on the floor in the photo are from people or entities that extended credit to the new owners and now it appears that they will all get it in the neck. Why? Because the outstanding balances of the various creditors are probably not large enough to warrant the hassle and expense of filing suit to recover, even assuming one could collect on a judgment.

As such, from a purely economic perspective, it appears that the Getting Outta Dodge Option is a smart choice, and maybe it is, but it’s a chickenshit choice in my opinion. Having been granted loans or goods and services based solely on your promises to pay, and simply running away from those promises is symptomatic of what is wrong with much of America today.

Sure, you could say, “Well, my creditors took a calculated risk. They could have demanded collateral, or they could have decided not to extend me credit in the first place.” Oh, so it’s the creditors’ fault for believing you when you promised to pay? Baloney. If, for one reason or another (sometimes very good reasons), you can’t pay, then try to work something out with your creditors, and, if that can’t happen, then take your lumps. Simply running away is chickenshit, and, what’s more, the rest of us will ultimately pay for your bad debt when your creditors raise their prices or interest rates to recoup the losses they incurred for taking you at your word that you would pay your debts.

Chickenshit is what it is.

Note: I have no relationship, professional or personal, with the original owners of the establishment in question, the new owners of the establishment, or any entity that may be a creditor. I just have a thing about deadbeats is all.


  1. Actually, they’re not deadbeats — they saw that Hillary’s feelings had been hurt so they dropped everything to go support her in New Hampshire.

    Check again tomorrow…

    Of course, now that I let it slip that they are Shrillary supporters, you may not be interested in continuing your patronage there. So sorry!

    Comment by Mike R. — January 7, 2008 @ 10:14 pm

  2. I doubt that Hitlery had much to do with it. They may have found that there is more to a restaurant than being able to cook. It is the most failed venture. Often they find that credit isn’t initially extended and some cash is needed up front for vendors and deposits are required by utility companies. I would be shocked is a good skip tracer couldn’t find the rock they hid under.

    Comment by Ol' BC — January 7, 2008 @ 10:22 pm

  3. After my husband committed suicide, I found over $22,000 in credit card bills and the mortgage was on the verge of foreclosure. Many tried to convince me to file for bankruptcy, etc. We did that once, many years before, and I swore I’d never do it again.
    It hurt my credit for a long time because my payments were ‘slow’…but after 7 years all the debts were paid in full. By me. By myself.
    I could not just walk away from his/our debt.
    I refinanced the mortgage (sweet deal) and my credit is now A-1. Hard work, but it can be done.

    Comment by Jean — January 7, 2008 @ 10:37 pm

  4. Yep when things start to go south get the hell out of dodge quietly in the dark of night.

    I extended credit to people who I thought were friends and instead of calling me when they couldn’t pay, they changed numbers and ran off. I took the hit and I figure they are suffering more than I am because they are always looking over their shoulder and I’m not.

    Comment by hammer — January 7, 2008 @ 11:22 pm

  5. They probably didn’t take out a large enough loan to pay off the local politicians… it IS Jersey after all.

    I am so with you on the rest though. That sort of thing makes me want to hunt them down and do very bad things to them. (oddly enough they’d be very very pissed if they did open a restaurant and a customer waltzed in, ate, and left without paying)

    Comment by Teresa — January 8, 2008 @ 12:10 am

  6. ” . . . running away from [promises] is symptomatic of what is wrong with much of America today.”

    That’s it, exactly.

    Comment by dogette — January 8, 2008 @ 9:13 am

  7. Multiply that across fifty states with the current housing market and we are in for dead beat disaster. Last week an appraiser was at our house who believes it is the fault of lenders and that they should be prosecuted like Eron (due to predatory loans)! Loans that grown-ups signed in agreement with. He said they are better off walking away from property that’s depreciated with current conditions because they are just whipping a dead horse. Oh, the poor consumer. THAT, is what is hurting this market today.

    Comment by Joyce — January 8, 2008 @ 12:30 pm

  8. A bit of advice:

    Walking away from a house on which an institution holds the mortgage is a bad idea. The purpose of the mortgage is to secure payment of the NOTE, which the buyer’s executed to buy the property and which constitutes the borrower’s promise to pay. The lending institution will foreclose on the mortgage and easily obtain a judgment against the borrowers for the shortfall between what was owed on the NOTE and what was realized as a result of the foreclosure. I am quite sure that most notes also provide for the borrower to pay the lending instutution’s legal fees for the cost of collection.

    The bottom line is that walking away does not end the game.

    Comment by Jim — January 8, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

  9. You’re right. What kind of appraiser suggests something like this to his young clients in debt to their eyeballs? We believe it’s one with an ax to grind. We are on house number five due husband’s career moves and have excellent credit. But. It is a HUGE problem here in CA and I honestly wonder how people continue in this American “credit” economy when they do walk away?? Plus, it is KILLING market values for honest homeowners.

    Comment by Joyce — January 8, 2008 @ 11:50 pm

  10. Down a major corridor in a neighboring town, new buildings went up, shops, restaurants… it was suddenly hot and went nuts. A ‘high end’ Italian restaurant went in. We all shook our heads. Folks typically aren’t going to spend the big bucks on pasta. It was supposed to be good, but was struggling.

    One morning, the staff came to work to open up and it was locked up. The owners vanished in the middle of the night, taking stuff from inside with them… just gone. Place closed up… and I have no idea what happened next. I hope bad things. Not only the creditors were left holding the bag, but employees were due paychecks and suddenly didn’t have jobs, with no notice.

    Comment by Bou — January 10, 2008 @ 10:07 pm

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