How the rich treat the poor

The blogger Tbogg, in his inimitable style, exposes the myth, propagated by some of the oligarchy’s media lackeys as part of their attempt to stave off the coming pitchfork revolt, that working class people admire the rich. They regale us with stories of how their own parents, though poor, were inspired by seeing ostentatious displays of wealth such as huge homes and multiple expensive cars.

All this, of course, is part of the propaganda effort to persuade us the funneling even more money to the wealthy is good economic policy.

Tbogg describes his own father’s disagreeable personal experiences with rich people who were so cheap that they would try to cheat a working man out of his money.

When I was a kid, my dad and his brothers had a dry cleaning business and, back in those days, they actually used to deliver dry cleaning to their customers homes. It sounds weird now but it’s true. My dad, being the youngest, used to make most of the deliveries (in fact, we were so poor that the delivery panel truck was also the family car) and he used to tell us how, when he went to deliver dry cleaning to the swells up the hill in La Jolla, often people would leave a note on the door or the gate asking him to leave their clothes because they wouldn’t be home. In those days most people would pay upon delivery, so my dad would knock on the door or ring the house anyway in an attempt to get paid which, at the time, was probably a couple of bucks tops back in those golden days when dimes and nickels weren’t just useless pocket weight. After getting no answer, my dad would leave the clothes to avoid a call to the shop wondering why they hadn’t been delivered which could only mean yet another trip back up the hill. More than a few times, after getting back in the truck, he would look back at the house only to see the curtains move because the occupants were checking to see if he had gone and whether it was safe to come out and collect their belongings.

All of this, of course, to get out of paying a $1.50 for services rendered which, by the way, the customer would invariably dispute the next time they dropped their clothes off if they weren’t outright trying get out of paying because of too much starch or maybe a missing button.

He used to tell us all about it over dinner.

But what my dad didn’t tell us was that those rich people who lived in those nice houses were the real hard workers in the world (unlike himself and his brothers) and if we worked as hard as those wealthy folks we could be just like them and live in a nice house, and not a $35 a month apartment, and we could drive a big car that we actually owned and maybe even someday have a color TV. Because, even at a very young age and before we had the appropriate words to describe them, he didn’t need to tell us what we instinctively knew about these people and how they got where they were.

They were assholes.

The kind of assholes who would try to screw some guy out of a couple of bucks because he was just a common working man with a family and he didn’t make his money the old fashioned way.

By inheriting it.

Of course, this is a generalization and I’m sure that there are some rich people who are not like this. But my own experience suggests that Tbogg’s story will strike a chord with many poor people whose lives have intersected those of the rich.


  1. says

    I used to work with a lot of venture capitalists in the late 90s and my usual way of getting through the meetings was to picture them in a tumbril, heading for the Place De La Concorde and the tricoteuses. It sure keeps me upbeat! It came in especially handy the time when this one asshole was trying to put me in my place by pulling out his cell phone at lunch and calling Michael Bloomberg, loudly, while I sat there watching everyone stare at him. I’m sure if I had explained to all the other nearby diners at the restaurant why I was smiling they’d have all gotten a lift out of it, too.

    I can’t imagine how galling it is to be the guy who maintains the lawn, or whatever. “Be invisible” because, you know, the help isn’t even worth registering on the radar screen.

  2. Brownian says

    I used to work in fundraising, which involves a lot of hobnobbing with wealthy doctors, lawyers, and business owners, many of whom make up a board of directors. While a few of them were, personally, outstanding individuals by any number of metrics, on the whole I’d never met such a collection of moochers with their hands out.

    We used to say that you don’t get to be rich by spending your own money.

  3. Brownian says

    Oh, I know that scenario, Marcus.

    We had one board member, a real estate agent, who’d proudly show off the watch he’d gotten from a locally renowned conservative politician while decrying the welfare moms and bums that were bringing the economy down.

    He’d do this when he came down to the office to review the budget, and insist that we head down to the coffee shop in the building lobby. He’d have my manager, a salaried employee, pay for the coffee, and then he’d take the receipt to claim as a tax write-off.

  4. 'Tis Himself says

    As some of you may know, I’m the commodore of a yacht club. The club own the slips most members use to moor their boats. Every year we have problems getting slip rentals from certain members. These members are always among the richest group. I recently had a “discussion” with a guy worth over $40 million about his $1500 slip rental. It took a bald threat to get him to pay.

    I have no trouble believing Tbogg’s story. I’ve seen the same sort of thing.

  5. smrnda says

    I can’t find the studies, but there’s been some evidence that wealthy people share the same anti-social, sociopathic tendencies of criminals and a shocking lack of empathy. I don’t doubt it, because anyone high enough up the economic ladder knows that they’re getting rich off what is basically a system that screws everyone underneath them. They often pretend not to know, but it’s a kind of willful ignorance.

    I think part of the problem comes from the fact that wealthy people are at the top of the hierarchy in non-democratic institutions. They are accountable to nobody, except other members of the same clique, and they are certainly not accountable to those underneath them. It’s probably about the same deal as the way members of the nobility probably behaved long ago.

    I’ve also worked for non-profits, and it is kind of disgusting to have to get money out of wealthy donors, which involved padding their egos a bit, and in the end, whatever they give is going to be a tax write-off for them so that, in the end, every cent they donate to a non-profit is just a cent that doesn’t go towards our roads or schools. And on top of that, how much of the money they have to donate just came from screwing over their workers? It reminds me of this time I saw a Wal-Mart which boasted it had donated 1000 to charity in a year. I mean, how much in government aid or charity did its employees need given the low wages and bad benefits?

    Rich people are also asses to customer service personnel. They have been exempted from doing real work, which enables them to feel like those who do it are subhuman, or else they actually enjoy hurting other people, which I think is more likely.

    Most people who believe that rich people somehow earned it, or have it by merit, are probably middle class people who are simply siding with the upper classes to avoid appearing to be proletarian, or because they want to believe that they are slightly better off than the lower classes because of merit. If they admitted being middle as opposed to lower class was probably the product of luck, they’d lose their pride perhaps, though if they could admit it they’d gain much more.

  6. says

    I put myself through college working as a cocktail waitress, one of the places being “boaty.” I remember one asshole who enjoyed throwing his change on the floor, presumably so he could see us “little people” crawling for it (we refused to oblige — until he had gone) and another I remember asking, sneering, for me to lend him a dollar. He was very well dressed, draped in gold chains. When I would not, he informed me if I had, I would have received a large tip; because I had not, I would get nothing. I was absolutely certain I was $1 ahead, because if I had “lent” him one, he would have kept it in order to “teach me a lesson” about being foolish with money.

  7. lpetrich says

    Seems that a lot of welfare-bashing rich people are projecting certain of their vices onto welfare recipients. That people who try to use other people’s money and not theirs for their purposes object to welfare recipients’ doing so.

  8. smrnda says

    Behaviors this extreme make me really hope for a proletarian revolt. Sentence jackasses like this to re-education through labor.

  9. Art says

    Working as a tradesman I found that the people who were hardest to collect from were almost always wealthy. They had well practiced routines for avoiding, slowing, or reducing payments. They always claimed to have no money on hand. They were always illiquid, but with something coming in “soon”.

    In one case the man owed about $2000. He was, of course, ‘strapped at the moment’ and his wife had the checkbook. So we come back a few days later and, of course, his ‘money was tied up’ so he could only cover $1000. After a few days we call back and he is still illiquid but something came in and he could only ‘break lose’ $400. Which required three calls for the check to get mailed. Next time it was $200. Each of these collection activities took time and effort. And, in the end, collection stopped with him still owing about $100.

    Later, I talked with one of his friends he played golf with and he commented that that is just how MrX does business. That he bragged that he ‘doesn’t pay retail’. He figured it was his right to renegotiate every deal after-the-fact and make you work to get payments. He also figured that money and power meant he was entitled to do this and that no matter what he had said or signed beforehand he could make collecting the bill so painful that he got, and deserved, a discount.

    Ask around with people who work for tips. Many have found that it is the wealthier customers who are the worse tippers. They seem to assume it is something of a privilege to serve them so tipping is unimportant.

    It also has to be noted that people become wealthy not by handing out money, but by holding onto it. This attitude becomes habituated and gets applied to every interaction. Implicit in this thinking is that they deserve everything they get but people below them are unworthy of payments, even if those payments had been freely agreed to beforehand.

  10. unbound says

    I was a treasurer for several years at a local community association. Collecting the fees for activities was rarely a problem, and we did have a few students that were on welfare. Of the students on welfare, we fully covered 2 of them, but 2 others either paid part or the whole fees over time…one of them by a single mother working 2 jobs who will almost certainly never be able to retire even uncomfortably.

    There was a 3rd student that wanted all his fees covered as a financial hardship case. The problem was that he had a decent job for which he could pay all the fees, and his father is a very well-to-do lawyer (his father and mother always showed up at functions dressed to the nines). It wasn’t until I threatened his graduation (all fees have to be paid) that he finally relented and paid.

    I have never had an encounter with a rich person (top 0.1%) that ever showed empathy for anyone unless they could do something for them (very important distinction). They are consistently cheapskates and seem to be compulsive liars (I even have an uncle that is the same way…rich, cheapskate, and a liar).

    I’m sure there are some rich that treat the poor kindly…but they are few and far between.

  11. captainahags says

    “look bub, I ain’t gonna say I’ll do anyting to ya boat. I’m just sayin’ my launch driver might not be so careful around your Swan 42 no more…”

  12. Mano Singham says

    I hate with a passion people who play ‘mind games’ like this over those whom they have some power.

  13. 'Tis Himself says

    The threat was putting a lien on his $400,000 Sparkman & Stephens 58′ ketch. It would have cost him a whole lot more than $1500 in legal fees to contest the lien and there was a good possibility that he’d lose the case.

  14. smrnda says

    Agreed, not only because it’s sadistic but it also has the added arrogance that the person playing the mind game think they have something valuable to ‘teach’ you by doing so. The only thing being taught by these mind games is that privileged people can get away with treating everyone like shit.

    Perhaps a mind game to play on wealthy patrons of restaurants is to ask them whether they think anyone urinated on any of their food… after they’ve eaten it.

  15. Scott says

    I delivered pizzas for a few years to help make ends meet, while working a day job. Invariably, the customers in nicer homes, with nicer cars, tipped less, if at all, than customers in cheap apartments and public housing. I had a regular customer who was a minister. He would never tip, even two days before Christmas.

  16. says

    Oh, and did you hear the one about the extremely rich guy who wrote his wife’s dressage hobby off on his taxes, to the tune of $75,000? Of course I’ll never come within a long artillery shot of spending that kind of money on my hobby, but -- yeah, I bet a dressage mare could pull a tumbril.

  17. Kimpatsu says

    Over on e-budo, we discussed this. One guy who teaches karate to children said that it’s always the rich moms who drop their little darlings off in BMWs who try to get out of paying training fees, whereas the ordinary working stills are honest enough to pay up front. I wonder if they get rich by being duplicitous?

  18. schmeer says

    I worked for a company that had a reputation for high quality work that got a lot of jobs renovating very expensive homes in Boston. This was such a common problem that they would often overcharge the customer to collect the amount they really wanted.

  19. furtivezoog says

    Just seconding (or ‘thirding’…) the comments about the richer people being the worse tippers.

  20. captainahags says

    An asshole? Sounds like it. Good taste in boats though? Yeah, or at least has the sense to listen to someone in the know.

  21. Charles Allen says

    People hear all kinds of stories about what the rich are achieving within their lives, but there is one thing the rich can never achieve, and that is the truth of life. The rich live in a fantasy worl of false dreams and pleasures, not hav ing the faintest idea what the real world is all about. The poor have the brains of how to live and survive in the real cold and harsh world, which the rich know nothing about. When a poor man dies, he loses nothing not even his soul, but when a rich man dies, he loses everything, even his soul. So at the end of the day who has the brains? The rich man or the poor man? I will go for the poor man because this is what true life is all about today, the truth of how to survive in this world today.

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