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.

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