The Millionaire Next Door

Costumes: Not Just for Halloween

One of my earlier blogs, The Downside to Understating Your Wealth, apparently hit a chord with many of you. Mrs. Davis, a teacher, told me that her memory was jogged after reading about the Honda driving doctor who couldn’t get into the hospital’s parking lot. Here is her contrasting story on the upside of understating your wealth. 

After moving to Atlanta, Mr. and Mrs. Davis were living in a rented home while searching for a permanent residence. They made several appointments to speak with builders who had “lots of homes” in inventory. The first day out, Mrs. Davis put on her business suit and pulled their brand new car out of the garage, eager to begin their home search. Meanwhile, Mr. Davis had just finished raking up the leaves in the yard. He was dressed in “yard work” casual, i.e. well worn khakis and a flannel shirt. Mrs. Davis admonished Mr. Davis for not being ready to leave for their appointment. He responded to his wife that it was she who was not ready! Mr. Davis, a skilled labor negotiating attorney, explained to his wife that a big part of cutting the right deal is impression management. 

“Honey, what will a builder think when we show up dressed to the nines driving a new car? He will think that we have money to burn! I’ll put the new car back in the garage while you change into your gardening “costume.” We are going to the appointment in our 11-year old Chevrolet.”

According to Mrs. Davis, she and her husband did make the right impression. The builder, whom they labeled “Dr. Yes,” gave them just about everything they asked for (significant price reduction, improved landscaping, upgraded cabinets, paint allowance, etc.). 

Unknowingly, many people in America give builders and other marketers of large priced items the “wrong impression” with the costumes they display. If the label on your costume says “income statement affluent/hyperconsumer,” then the trick will be on you: high prices! When you stop acting rich and start living like a real millionaire, many treats will likely come your way.

2 thoughts on “Costumes: Not Just for Halloween”

  1. Love the post, but the correct word in the first sentence is “chord”, not “cord”. My book came yesterday and there are skirmishes in my house as to who will read it first!

  2. Brett Graham in Atlanta

    I have experienced this. I am a general contractor/custom builder and meet with various people in my industry on a daily basis. A LOT of my subcontractors drive $50K trucks and SUV’s as well as use Blackberry’s in a construction setting. they ask me why I drive an old service truck with hail damage and talk on a $10 Target cell phone. “It is simple”, I reply… “You go to the bank to make payments and I go to the bank to cash and deposit checks”. In the past I have failed and learned valuable lessons which are allowing me to recover. I want to serve you no matter what you drive or wear. But be reminded… you can afford the things you don’t need until you can’t afford the things you have to have.

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