How to lose 100 bucks really fast
Be warned: From Prague to Beirut and beyond, a fool and his money are easily parted. Here are some stories shared with Kipp about supremely wasteful behavior.
June 4, 2010 4:52 by kippreport
Piles of junk mail and advertisements in my postal box were trying my patience, and I finally decided to buy a high quality paper shredder to dispose of all the credit card solicitations and assorted unwanted mailings.”It won’t go nice with all my pretty furniture in my new flat,” I told myself, and decided to store the bulky oversized shredder in the garage, next to the car.
One morning, I grabbed an armload of junk mail that had been accumulating for weeks. Perfect chance to try out the efficiency of my new high-powered machine, I reasoned. Headed to the supermarket, my hands were full – car keys and purse in one hand, junk mail, grocery list, and a crisp new $100 bill in the other. Hurrying to the car, I deposited the unwanted mail in the shredder, climbed into the car and backed out of the garage. a sinking feeling came over me. The money? I pulled the car back into the garage and opened the shredder. There, right on top, was the bill, efficiently shredded into 100 perfectly matched strips.
But all was not lost. I recovered the thin green strips and reassembled them into a mosaic, mounted on canvas, framed, and titled “It’s only money.”
On holiday in Vienna, I thought, “Why not take the train to Prague for the weekend – that’ll be fun.” So I got my guidebook, backpack, and some comfortable walking shoes and made my way to the rail station. Keen to be well prepared, I stopped at a bank on the way. “I’ll exchange my travel money here. The exchange rate will probably be better.”
This was during the cold war years, and as part of the USSR, Czechoslovakia, as it was called back then, maintained its own exchange rate – far lower than that applied on the free market. I purchased $100 worth of Czech currency in Vienna – and my $100 bought a lot of Czech money! I was thrilled.
I boarded the train and thumbed through my guide book. The prices listed were so low. “At these prices, my $100 of Czech money could last a whole week,” I marveled, congratulating myself at the decision to change my money in Austria.
Not long after, we approached the Czech border and a uniformed officer asked me for my visa and passport, which I presented. He studied them carefully, and then handing them back, asked, almost as an afterthought, “Are you carrying any Czech currency?”
“Yes, “ I answered, a hint of pride in my voice.
“Where did you get it?” he asked. “May I have a look?”
Pulling it from my backpack, I presented it to him. .
“I changed it in Vienna,” I said proudly.
“Well, that would be illegal,” he said, unsmiling. “I’ll have to confiscate it.”
“what am I supposed to do? That’s all the money I brought for my vacation in prague,” I whined.
“Then I don’t think you’ll be having a vacation in Prague,” he answered. “You might not want to disembark the train,” he said, leaving. He did give me a couple of chocolate bars for the ride back, though.
If you’re a smoker who’s considering kicking the habit, this story may be all the extra encouragement you need. People like to chastise smokers by saying cigarettes can put a hole in your lung, but let me tell you about the time a cigarette burned a big hole in my wallet. I work at a prestigious architectural firm and they’re all about “clean living” and an eco-friendly environment. So, the corporate policy bans smoking during work hours. Great, I guess, but we all know how addictive smoking can be, so during a long workday, what can I say? Sometimes, I cheat and sneak into the stairwell for a quick puff. I knew it would catch up with me, but the day my boss tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a fine for $100, I knew that it was time to quit.
I was just trying to be nice and it cost me my evening out. I was getting ready for work one morning when a disheveled old man knocked on my door. In Lebanon, the beggars actually come to you, not the other way around. So, I opened the door and I was kind of rushed getting ready to leave for the day. “Please madam, a jacket,” was all he said. In my haste, I rushed to my husband’s closet and chose what really looked like it was past its prime – it was an old jacket that I didn’t ever remember seeing him wear. Anyway, I pushed it at the homeless man and shut the door, rushing to finish getting ready.
When my husband came in that evening, we were dressing for our weekly restaurant outing. I thought he was trying to decide on what to wear, but a few minutes later, I asked him what he was looking for so long in his closet.
“Where is the green jacket I had hanging in here,” he muttered, rifling through the overstuffed closet.
“What do you need that old thing for?” I answered. “It was ready for the secondhand shop, I gave it to a needy man this morning.”
“Oh really,” he said, his eyes narrowing, “Well, you gave him your steak dinner tonight, too. I keep $100 in the pocket of that thing.”
He never let me forget that. It was the night we had omelet on the couch, instead of steaks at Le Gray.
Blame it on vanity, but none of my little handbags seemed just right for the haute couture dress I was wearing to the wedding. It’s not like I really needed to carry anything in the bag anyway, except a little mad money. So I just thought, better to carry the money in my clenched fist all day than ruin my whole look with the wrong bag, right?
So I grabbed a hundred dollar bill, folded it into a neat little square that fit winningly in the palm of my hand and figured, “I’ll carry it, no big deal.” And I did – until I lost it, that is. I didn’t even feel it slip out of my hand. I really have no idea when I dropped it. And the worst part was that the whole wedding affair was a colossal bore – which cost me an arm and a leg!
Money changers are on every corner in big Latin American capitals. They have a unique call that announces to passersby the service they’re offering. I didn’t ordinarily use money changers, feeling it unsafe to be standing in the middle of a busy intersection, participating in the exchange of big wads of cash. But being in a rush and late to pick up a friend from the airport, I made an exception and approached one. I flashed my bill and gave a questioning look, by way of asking if he could do the exchange. He nodded and took my bill. He put it on the bottom of a stack of what appeared to be very small denomination notes. The whole stack didn’t look like enough to total $100. He thumbed through it for a minute and then returned to me what I believed to be my original hundred dollar bill.
“Sorry,” he said in Spanish. “I don’t have enough to change it, after all.”
I crumpled the bill into my pocket and ran back to my car. I’d certainly be late to the airport now, I thought. But no harm, I’ll change it at the bank after my friend’s flight arrives.
Later that afternoon, I headed into my local bank and fished the crumpled note out of my back pocket. I handed it to the teller automatically and she smoothed it out on her counter. I could see from across the teller’s window that all was not right with the bill. She pushed it back to me. “Sorry, this is clearly counterfeit,” she said.
I picked up the bill and could see what a ridiculous fake it was – a blurry photocopy of a hundred dollar bill. The money changer had exchanged my good bill for the fake on the bottom of his stack. But despite driving by that same corner every day for months, I never saw the lone changer again.
My friend and I were in an upscale mall and decided to check out the newest nail salon. Their marquis featured the “latest in pedicures from around the world.” We were intrigued, because, really, how many ways can you polish someone’s toenails?
So, we went in and the stylist explained a new European procedure where you recline your feet in a big pool of water, while hundreds of little fish nibble away at your skin, leaving you polished and ready for your pedicure. A little bizarre, I know, but what the heck. So we took the plunge, but wondered at the little fish which didn’t seem to want to come near our feet. They rather lazily swam around for a bit. So, thinking it was all in good fun, we dried off and headed for the door. The lovely stylist cleared her throat, “there’s just the matter of the bill,” she said shyly.
She presented us with $100 bill for our footbath. “The fish are imported,” she said by way of explanation.
I think the lesson here is that you shouldn’t try to buy a dozen eggs with a hundred dollar bill. But one afternoon, with a houseful of guests expected for Sunday brunch, I headed to the corner market on foot. Not 50 feet from my door, I passed a street vendor standing behind a push cart filled with baskets of eggs. I asked him if he could change a hundred and he said, “Just wait here, I’ll go get change.”
Twenty minutes later, there was no sign of him, although potential customers continued to try to buy eggs from me as I stood behind his cart like it was some kind of collateral. In retrospect, I should’ve sold the inquiring passersby some eggs; it would’ve offset my losses. He never came back as far as I know. But I took his cart and padlocked it to my front porch gate, and put up a sign, “Free eggs: Donations Appreciated.”
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