Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How Krispy Kreme and Starbucks Gave Obama The Election (With Bonus Freebie Quest!)

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

comic 66 - ballot questions

Bear with me for a second while I spout some nonsensical conspiracy theories.

As most of you already knew from reading so-called “reputable news sites,” Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, and various other retailers gave away freebies on Election Day to people bearing “I Voted” stickers. You might think such a move is a generous or perhaps foolish offer on the part of these companies, but in reality they’ll more than make up the loss from people who show up only for the freebie but end up purchasing something to go with it. However, these companies may have a more sinister agenda hidden deep in these promotions.

Think about it for a second. Who is most likely to take up Starbucks on the offer of a free cup of coffee? Rich people making more than $250,000 a year? No! It’s us retarded members of the lower and middle class who think that a $1.50 cup of coffee or an 89-cent doughnut is worth waiting in line for 20 minutes to get for free. And despite the fact that voting should be our proud patriotic duty, I’m sure there are a good number of folks who had no intention of voting until all of these freebie offers started popping up in the last week. Thus, thanks to companies like Starbucks and Krispy Kreme, there are more members of non-wealthy classes voting this election.

And while I won’t say something as scandalous as “Poorer, freebie-snatching people will tend to vote for Barack Obama,” I will say that there’s a small possibility that these promotions helped shape the course of history this election. At the very least, they helped make Election Day a little tastier.

I will gladly admit to partaking in as many Election Day freebies as was geographically possible, including stops to more than one Starbucks (even though I rarely drink coffee), and trips to Krispy Kreme, Ben & Jerry’s, and Chick-Fil-A. In the end, I spent over 2 hours driving and in line and used a gallon of $2.50 gasoline to net about $5 worth of free food and beverage. It was a horrible time investment unless you consider that I feel it’s my patriotic duty to screw big businesses out of profits however possible. After all, it’s the American way, or something.

Not satisfied with my haul of two coffees, a cup of ice cream, a doughnut, and a chicken sandwich, I decided to see if any other businesses not actively advertising Election Day giveaways would nonetheless give me something for free. Thus, I spent an extra two hours on Election Day visiting various shops, going up to the front counter and simply saying, “I voted. Will you give me something for free?” Proudly displaying my “I Voted! Yo Voté!” sticker, here’s what happened at the 20 places I visited on Election Day requesting unadvertised freebies.

  • The employees at Bloom, a local supermarket chain, looked at me a little funny, suggested I go to the Starbucks down the street or down Aisle 1 for a free sample of cheese, but didn’t give me anything else.
  • The Fantastic Sams hair salon just said they didn’t have any Election Day offers. They also pointed out that I don’t have enough hair to warrant a hair cut anyway.
  • Aardvark Swim and Sport didn’t offer any freebies, but there was a hot lady there about to try on a swimsuit. I considered hanging around to help her decide if it was right for her, but I wouldn’t let myself be distracted from my mission!
  • Dunkin Donuts didn’t match Starbuck’s free coffee offer or Krispy Kreme’s free doughnut offer. It was pretty busy at the time, so I left without much fuss.
  • Blockbuster Video gave me a coupon for a free rental! I was the only person at the checkout counter at the time, and the cashier slipped it to me quietly, probably so that I would just go away. Too bad I don’t have a Blockbuster membership. I gave the coupon to my co-worker so he can rent all his favorite Hannah Montana episodes.
  • Classic Beer & Wine gave me nothing. I was really sad. I bought a beer and drank it in the parking lot as I cried.
  • And to local readers who recognize what shopping center I was in up to this point, yes, I hit the Forbidden Fruit adult goods shop. I’m sort of glad they turned down my request for freebies.
  • Down the road a bit, those crazy folks at FedEx/Kinko’s offered me a free color photocopy! I asked if I could photocopy the doughnut I had just gotten from Krispy Kreme. They said no. P.S. The girl behind the counter was really hot.
  • GameStop countered my request for a freebie with an offer to reserve the latest Guitar Hero title for just five dollars down. I countered with playing their Nintendo Wii demo station for free for ten minutes.
  • Panera Bread pointed me to some free samples they normally offer. I asked for an entire loaf of bread for free. The cashier joked that even Obama and McCain wouldn’t get a freebie like that. I replied, “Oh, so Panera Bread supports third-party candidates. Good for you!” and left.
  • Palm Beach Tan gave me nothing and tried to sell me a $300 tanning package. I jokingly replied, “What, I’m not dark-skinned enough for you?” The black saleslady didn’t really like that comment.
  • Wing Stop gave me one free French fry. “Times are tough,” the chef commented. I thanked him kindly.
  • The hostess at Cheeburger Cheeburger offered to buy me a free ice cream soda if I could name all five members of the Rockville City Council but said I’d have to buy her one if I was wrong. Apparently “John Britton, those three old ladies, and the crazy guy with the funny name” wasn’t good enough for her. I didn’t feel bad because three other people in line behind me couldn’t name them either.
  • Chipotle, which is usually pretty good about giving free stuff away once in a while, gave me nothing. I suspect things would have been a little different if this were the Mexican presidential election…
  • Long & Foster offered to provide me with a free market competitiveness thingy that included an approximate idea of the value of my home. Not wanting to know exactly how much value my house has lost since I bought it in 2006, I said thanks but no thanks.
  • Krispy Kreme reminded me that I had just gotten a free doughnut from them 10 minutes earlier. I asked if I could get another free doughnut if I voted again. They said no.
  • TownHouse Furniture indicated that they didn’t sell anything worth less than $50 in the whole store, but they said they’d throw in a free cup of coffee if I bought a thousand-dollar couch. I declined their offer.
  • Art and Framing Depot offered 15% off a custom framing job! I asked if they had a frame small enough for my “I Voted!” sticker. They said yes but added that it would be a special offer and quoted me $72 for it. I passed.
  • While I was hoping Bank of America would slip me a few Benjamins, they instead offered to set me up with a “free checking account.” When I said that I already had one, they pointed me to a dish of candy. I took eight pieces and left.
  • And finally, the employee cafeteria where I work offered me nothing. The chef said he hoped I voted for Obama.

Please note that I didn’t expect that any of these places would actually give me freebies since they didn’t advertise any, so the fact that most of them refused is perfectly within their rights—and it’s probably for the best as giving one person something for free would have meant having to give something for free at least to everyone else in the store at the time. In fact, those few places that actually did give me something for free, while they could be commended for their excellent customer service, probably shouldn’t have.

So my thanks go to Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, Ben & Jerry’s, Chik-Fil-A, and the rest for helping me fill my belly on Election Day. And congratulations to Barack Obama for actually wanting to clean up the horrendous mess made by the current administration; you’re a much braver man than I.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Okay, Fine, I’ll Write About the Damn Financial Bailout

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

comic 61 - united states of china

Today I found the following e-mail in my inbox:

Dear Nick,

How come you haven’t written anything about the horrible injustice that is the $700 BILLION DOLLAR bailout of stupid people? I’d love to see one of your cartoons about this topic too, but I’d also be interested in hearing what you seriously think about the bailout.


Scott, you bring up a good point—I tend not to write about politics and so-called “important issues” very much. That’s because topics like the financial bailout (whose proper name is the Kick Taxpayers In The Balls Act of 2008) get covered on every other news site, blog, and cocktail napkin in the country, so I figured everyone wouldn’t mind reading about something more refreshing for a change, like ketchup theft and workplace drinking games.

But fine, I give up. I’ll give you all my two cents on the financial bailout. In short, it sucks. In long, it suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. In fact, it sucks so much that, for the first time in history, I actually wrote to my Congressional representatives and told them not to vote for it if they still want my vote in November.

What exactly about the financial bailout plan has earned my boundless ire? Well, by default, I tend to oppose any federal legislation that would spend $700 billion on anything. You can spend a mere $85 billion to bail out an insurance giant and I might not bat an eye. And you might be able to get away with spending $500 billion on a war nobody likes anymore. But $700 billion dollars is where I draw the freaking line.

See? There’s the line, and I just drew it.

So why do I have such a problem with the government spending $700 billion dollars on what essentially amounts to a blank check to the financial industry to continue being a bunch of retarded monkeys? Well, for one, consider exactly what else could be done with that much money. $700 billion dollars can buy a lot of things, such as:

  • A check made out to me in the amount of $700 billion dollars.
  • $700 billion in cash in a suitcase for me.
  • 15 minutes alone with Hayden Panettiere to do anything I want.
  • Portugal.

The other problem I have with this bailout—and likely the only thing I’m going to say in this entire VERY SERIOUS ARTICLE that makes any sense—is that it doesn’t help the people who need help the most. No no, I’m not talking about homeowners struggling to keep their houses. I’m talking about midget helicopter policemen. Nowhere in the entire text of the bailout bill is any reference whatsoever made to midget helicopter policemen. In fact, at second glance, a whole lot of other people aren’t being helped by this bill, including:

  • You.
  • Me.
  • Us.
  • Everyone we know.

Indeed, unless you know someone who works in the financial industry or who somehow benefits from the merciless death of the U.S. dollar (e.g. terrorists—and I hope you don’t know any of those), chances are that you can’t think of a single person who’d benefit from a bailout bill whose text does not include the line “The Federal government will write a check to each American in the amount of $5,000” and instead says (and this is a direct quote from a paraphrase of someone I heard talking about the bill) “Neener, neener. Thanks for the bailout, chumps. Love, Wall Street.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to get off my soapbox which is really just a regular cardboard box because I’m too poor to afford a soapbox thanks to the economy. And hopefully this will teach you all never to request that I talk seriously on any serious subject ever again. Seriously.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

8 Financial Problems Neither Major Presidential Candidate Will Solve

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

comic 56 - presidential speeches

Whether you’re a fan of the young guy and the old guy or the really old guy and the mildly-attractive girl, there’s little denying that this coming presidential election will bring about either a great deal of change or a great deal of everything staying the same and getting worse, likely both. Both major candidates have outlined how their administrations would tackle the big problems facing our economy, and each has fully convinced me that if we elect “the other guy” that our nation will suffer from a nationwide financial collapse not seen since that tower of one-dollar bills I was constructing fell over when the air conditioning turned on.

Or maybe things won’t be that bad. It’s really too soon to tell. But what it’s not too soon to tell is that a great deal of money-related dilemmas will go unaddressed regardless of who we elect. Here now are some of those issues in no particular order.

  1. Lazy people make more money than me. Neither the Republican nor Democratic candidate has outlined plans for rectifying the horrible monetary atrocity that is Joe Stevens (name changed to protect the real idiot, Scott Phillips). You see, Joe works three offices over in a similar role to mine. He started at the job the same month I did. Yet Joe makes 20% more money despite only doing half the work I do because he’s as dumb as a brick. More important than gender-equal pay should be intelligence-equal pay—all the smart people get paid a lot more than the stupid ones.
  2. Candy store child beggars. Every time I go to the candy store now, there’s always some little punk kid in there who comes up to me asking for a dollar. Since I rarely carry any cash, I can usually honestly say “Go f*** yourself, punk” without feeling like a jerk. But the real question is this: Why don’t these kids have a dollar for candy? Our candy industry must be in tremendous peril if kids don’t have candy dollars. Either major financial subsidies for chocolate farmers are needed, or the government must consider issuing “candy grants” so that these kids can get their freaking gumballs and lemon drops.
  3. A tiny sandwich at college costs $7. My wife recently transferred schools and was horrified to find that a quick-serve sandwich that she could make for about 50 cents at home was on the school cafeteria’s menu for $6.99. That’s almost seven dollars! And that’s almost 10 dollars! Whoever is elected to lead this country must take a firm stand against profit-hungry universities and tell them “Dammit, don’t be chargin’ no 50 bucks for no two pieces of bread with a slice of baloney!”
  4. American cars still suck. The new President needs to tell American automakers to stop sucking, perhaps by issuing an executive order to Ford that it must make every car as awesome-looking and well-equipped as the Batmobile.
  5. People are still retarded with their money. Despite the recent and ongoing recession scare, most Americans haven’t learned a thing about financial responsibility. I propose that the next President increase the income tax to 90% and use the money to buy people the things they really need first—affordable housing, a college education, and a car that isn’t a Mercedes when you’re only making $15,000 a year. And yes, I’m advocating Super-Big Government at this point because most of the country has proven that it’s as responsible with its money as a five-year-old in a toy store.
  6. Deal or No Deal is still around. Presidential veto, executive order, secret assassination—something to get this piece of crap game show off my television. Seriously, why are people so fascinated with this show? It’s just a guessing game with large dollar signs. And speaking of television…
  7. Yet another year without a new Star Trek TV series. By my estimates, each month that the world goes by without a new Star Trek television series being produced, our nation is losing upwards of $500 trillion dollars in generated revenue. Our new President must command Paramount to produce a new Star Trek series. Oh, and make sure former Trek producer Rick Berman gets sent to Guantanamo Bay or something so he can’t screw this one up too.
  8. Rampant prostitute inflation. While the U.S. inflation rate is hovering somewhere between 3% and 5%, several important staples are skyrocketing in price at 20-50% per year—things like gas, milk, and especially hookers! My buddy said that the same whore who used to charge just $100 an hour just upped her prices to $150 an hour last week. That’s a 50% increase right there! The Federal government must do something quickly to help ensure that the rich and poor alike have equal access to street walkers, or our nation may fall into another Great Unsexed Depression.

I urge you to e-mail both major candidates and insist that their economic plans be revised to address these burning issues, lest their prophecies of financial turmoil if we elect “the other guy” should come true!

Monday, June 23, 2008

EMS Fees May Scare Sick Into Skipping Life-Saving Treatment

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

comic 38 - ambulance

In an era where getting from Point A to Point B is costing more and more with each passing year, it can be reassuring to know that if you get hit by a bus and need to go to the hospital, you won’t have to pony up $4 a gallon to pay for the gas the ambulance uses to get you there. At least, it used to be reassuring.

Unfortunately for all you accident-prone and sickly individuals out there, your next ambulance trip may feel more like a taxi ride thanks to many politicians’ sudden realization that there was something they weren’t taxing. All over the country, many counties and jurisdictions are writing legislation to charge fees for Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Currently, most EMS operations get their money indirectly from taxpayers, from hospitals, or from voluntary fundraising. Under the new legislation, various fees may be charged to patients who make use of EMS. Some of the proposed fees include:

  • A basic transport fee. Need an ambulance to cart your bloody body to the nearest hospital? That’ll be $300. Or maybe $800. Or maybe more!
  • A mileage surcharge. In one county, the EMS fee proposal calls for a $7.50 per mile charge in addition to the basic transport fee. Heaven forbid you live more than a few miles from the nearest emergency room.
  • An initial response fee. Not content to charge the sick and injured for the ride, some places will charge you just for getting checked out by paramedics on the scene, even if you don’t need a trip to the hospital.
  • Charges for services provided. If the paramedics use some gauze and staples to reattach your limb en route to the ER, they’ll charge you for those items and anything else they use to keep you in one piece.

The EMS fees have some very obvious benefits. For one, it is good for EMS to have money so they can afford to keep you from dying. It would suck if the next time you called for an ambulance, they told you: “I’m sorry. Our ambulance got repossessed. We’ll have a rickshaw out to you in 30 minutes.” With tax money and hospital payments fluctuating constantly, direct billing may be the best option to ensure EMS operations can stay afloat.

Nonetheless, the drawbacks of charging for EMS may far outweigh the benefits:

  • The poor and uninsured may suffer. While some jurisdictions are including caveats to their EMS fee legislation granting waivers for financial hardship, other places will happily tax the impoverished and elderly just as much as they charge celebrities who O.D. on crack.
  • Insurance companies may be unfairly targeted. A few cities say they’ll only charge EMS fees to insurance companies, waiving the fee entirely for the uninsured. As little sympathy as most have for fat-cat insurance companies, is it really fair only to go after insurance providers for fees?
  • People may forgo necessary medical treatment. Rather than pay $1,000 or more just for an ambulance trip, some sick or injured may skip the EMS ride or find alternative transportation that isn’t meant for emergency transit. Even if only insured people get the charge, some may not understand this and worry that they’ll be on the hook for the fee if their insurance company doesn’t pony up.
  • Insurance rates will go up. Some cities are touting their EMS fee plans as having “no cost to residents” if they only bill insurance companies. But not so fast! Who pays the premiums to insurance companies? You do! And when your insurer starts getting socked with EMS fees, they’ll pass the cost right on to you, the customers.

Personally, I’m conflicted on this issue. On the one hand, I wouldn’t mind seeing all taxes based on the services people use when logistically feasible (e.g. if you send your kids to private school, you don’t pay taxes to send others’ children to public schools). On the other hand, poor people are more likely to need more assistance from EMS, and I don’t think it’s morally correct to burden them with these costs. Even limiting the charges to insurance companies still poses ethical dilemmas.

Maybe our best bet is to commercialize EMS services. When you call for an ambulance, you get to pick your service provider. Some providers will be cheaper than others, while higher-end providers will offer ambulance rides with a touch of luxury—sequined gurneys, relaxing music, and really hot nurses. And if your ambulance ride doesn’t get there in 30 minutes or less, your ride to the morgue is free!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Much More Awesome Economic Stimulus Plan

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

...right in your economy

I can hear the poor people partying in the streets over the announcement of an economic stimulus package which will include hefty tax rebates for low-income folks—both the genuine kind of poor people and the “I only have a 56-inch HDTV and 600 satellite channels” kind. Under the plan, various people making under $75,000 (or under $150,000 for couples) will get back anywhere from $300 to $1,200 in the form of a tax rebate. “Tax rebate” is a nice way of saying “the government is going to cut you a check so you stop complaining about how bad the economy is.”

Unfortunately, the wizard of economic analysis that I am, I have determined that this economic stimulus plan will not help ward off the looming recession for three very subtle yet painfully obvious reasons:

  1. Writing checks to stupid people is stupid. I promise you that 90% of the money issued by this tax rebate plan will go straight to drugs, booze, and hookers. And that’s just my share!
  2. $300 cash isn’t going to help anyone. Most people who get their check will blow through that money in 24 hours or less. Yes, the purpose of the rebate is to encourage spending. But really, how much spending can you do with $300? One iPod, maybe some Pokémon cards. That’s it.
  3. It includes too many not-so-poor people. In some parts of the country, a couple making $150,000 a year is considered filthy rich. The folks on the richer end of the rebate spectrum will likely put their money into savings or use it to pay down debts—something that’s not going to do anything for an economy that needs more consumer spending.

I spoke to President Bush about this earlier and offered some alternatives to this plan, but he wasn’t able to respond because I was talking to a TV broadcast of him. Despite that, I think I got my point across when I suggested one of the following options as a substitute for this economic stimulus package which is destined to miss its mark. I’ll share my alternatives with you now so you can judge for yourself.

Ten Much Better Ways to Stimulate the Economy

  1. Send all $150 billion of the package to me. I will use that money to buy every household in America a George Foreman grill and the thickest, juiciest steaks that $1.99/pound can buy.
  2. Cut out the rich folks. Save the tax rebates for the five or ten percent poorest people in the country. They are much more likely to re-inject it into the ailing economy with spending on things they don’t need like expensive jewelry, designer jeans, and fancy cars (Chevy Aveos for all!)
  3. Send gift cards instead. Give everyone a $300 Target gift card. They’d kill two birds with one stone—consumer spending would soar, and Wal-Mart would be driven out of business.
  4. Put on the biggest party in history. Use the money to host an annual Economic Stimulus Party that spans every city in America. It’ll make Times Square on New Years Eve look like your child’s third birthday party.
  5. Fund “Take a Penny, Leave a Penny” containers around the country. I can’t remember the last time I’ve actually seen a penny in one of these things. How about sticking a Benjamin in each one and renaming it to “Take a Hundred, Leave a Hundred?”
  6. Start another war. These seem to be great for our country. How about we go after a country we could actually use for once, like Sweden. Then we could import all those hot Swedish women into the U.S. and help make our country look pretty again.
  7. Instead of spending it on Americans, spend it on Iraqis. I think we could make Iraq a very peaceful country just by dumping a few plane-loads of cash all over it. Most insurgents are probably just angry because they can’t afford a nice pair of shoes. That money might help turn them from following a religion of hatred and violence to one of material goods and wealth, just like us!
  8. Subsidize the rising price of milk. People getting stingy with their money and grumpy in general because they’re not getting enough calcium. Fear of brittle bones and rotting teeth are driving people to stash their cash or spend it on cheaper drinks like bottled water and beer. Milk, it does an economy good!
  9. A Nintendo Wii for every household. I don’t know why; I don’t know how; I just know that doing this would turn the economy around instantly. Or it might cripple it irreversibly as people stay home and play videogames all the time. There’s only one way to find out for sure!
  10. Pay the Hollywood writers to get back to work. If I don’t get some new episodes of Heroes and How I Met Your Mother soon, I’m going to stop spending money out of spite.

Of course it’s likely that none of my clearly superior economic stimulus options will be exercised, but I’m still looking forward to spending my $300 to help rejuvenate the economy. Though I can’t help but think that $300 worth of beef jerky might not be the best thing for me.