Thursday, December 3, 2009

Orkin and The Samuel Vimes "Boots" Theory of Socieoeconomic Unfairness

In Terry Pratchett's Men at Arms, a character, Samuel Vimes, describes how the wealthy remain wealthier than the poor because they can afford items with a larger upfront cost and greater durability.  As Mr. Vimes says "A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years time, while a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet." (Pratchett, Terry, Men at Arms, 29, emphasis in original).  (If you've never read the series, you're missing out in a big way.  Skip the first two and start with Equal Rites, though).

I had a very similar experience with Orkin this week.  We've got termites.  And termites, of course, must be dealt with immediately; it only gets more expensive the longer you delay the problem.  The termite treatment cost us $958 paid immediately.

They also offered us three payment plans: $88.29 a month for one year, $55.85 a month for two years, or $46.12 for three years.  If we could not have paid up front, we would have paid an extra $101.48 for one year, $382.40 for two years, or $702.32 for three years.  To put those numbers in perspective, it would be better to pay the same amount monthly on a credit card with a 22% APR for the one year plan, 35% APR for the two year plan, or 42% APR for the three year plan.  I was absolutely gobsmacked when I ran those numbers.  In most states, it's not even legal for credit cards to charge that much.

Our EF is running very low, but December is a three paycheck month for us and we are going to scrape by.  For people unable to come up with that kind of money, with no credit cards or ones that are maxed out, well, Orkin is forcing them to dig themselves into an even bigger hole.  I'm glad I'm not an Orkin representative - I don't think that I could, in good conscience, offer this to people with no other options but to see their houses fall to pieces around them.

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