My uncle went to a nice restaurant by himself for dinner while traveling. The staff ignored him for most of the time he was there, and provided poor service to him. This is not how they treated their other diners. It is pretty obvious that the staff was inattentive to my uncle because of his appearance. He is not someone who cares too much about how he dresses or being fashionable. Based on the photos he shows me when he travels, I’m assuming he was wearing shorts, a polo shirt, and possibly carrying a fanny pack. The restaurant staff probably assumed he couldn’t afford his meal at the restaurant or that he wouldn’t be able to leave a sufficient tip.
My uncle is a dentist and is financially well-to-do. So what did my uncle end up doing due to this poor service he received at this restaurant. Well, of course, he left them a huge tip! He wanted to show them that he indeed had money. Oh yeah, that’ll show them! While I think that leaving a big tip for such poor service in this circumstance would be a hard pill to swallow, I can understand why he did it. If he left a low tip because of the way he was treated, it would only confirm the staff’s perceptions that he could not afford to give a good tip.
When my wife and I were looking for an apartment to rent a few years ago, we contacted a rental agent. We met him in front of the building and he told us that he “accidentally” forgot some forms in his car, asking us to accompany him there. We walked to his car. He drives a Porsche Cayenne. I guess I was supposed to be impressed. When you see someone carrying a Louis Vitton handbag and wearing Jimmy Choo shoes, do you assume she has money? When you see someone driving a Mercedes Benz, do you assume he is wealthy?
I am an attorney. I intentionally left this information out of my “About page.” Who would listen to frugal living advice from an attorney I thought. There are 3 assumptions most people make when I tell them that I’m an attorney.
1) I make lots of money
2) I’m a jerk
3) I know all aspects of law. They then proceed to ask me questions about some obscure part of the law that I do not practice.
None of these assumptions are true for me. Well #2 is subjective…but I swear it’s not true! I make a good salary, but it probably no where near what most people think it is. Plus, I work in government and have a significant amount of student loan debt. Sure, there are attorneys who secure jobs with the top law firms and make $150,000 starting, but they are the exceptions. (They also work 80+ hours a week). Many entry level positions pay $40,000 to $60,000, even here in NYC.
I’ve had people openly wonder why as an attorney, I was still driving my 10 year old Nissan Altima and that I didn’t have the other symbols of luxury expected of an attorney: expensive watch, bottle service at the hippest night clubs, and Armani suits. Speaking of Armani suits, I used to peruse a forum targeted at and created by unemployed or underemployed new attorneys. They often mentioned that they were able to spot a fellow underemployed attorney by their J.C. Penney suit and beat up Honda Civic. According to them a financially success attorney wouldn’t shop at J.C. Penney or drive an older model vehicle.
With the story above of the rental agent driving a Porshe Carrera, I didn’t think the rental agent was financially well off when I first met him, mainly because I assumed rental agents didn’t make a high income. I was a little surprised by his car. Although I guess driving a Porshe Carrera doesn’t make him financially well off as it could be a lease. It is still very expensive. However, I do understand that certain professions do need to have an appearance that they are successful to get clients.
We try not to judge a book by its cover, but it’s human nature to have first impressions. What other factors do you look at to determine how much money someone has? Has anyone judged you to be poor or rich based on your appearance, occupation, or what car you were driving?