Perception Is Everything.

When my love and I first moved in together, we were in a new city, so we went out to research local gyms. One club we visited had more than anyone could possibly need, like televisions and DVD players on all the aerobics equipment, two floors of weights, and every possible bathroom provision, including disposable razors. It was easily double the price of any other club in town, so we had effectively written it off as a choice.

If you’ve ever checked such places out, you know they usually have very pushy sales staff, so when the sales rep who’d given us the tour motioned for us to join him in his office, I was sure my love would tell him, “No, thanks.” To my surprise, he followed, with me in tow.

Once inside the office, the rep pulled out the requisite media kit and contract paperwork, and my love reached for it with his left hand. He is not left-handed, but that is where he happened to be wearing his Rolex that day.

“Nice watch,” said the rep.

“Oh, thank you,” said my love, who made motion to study the paperwork.

The rep excused himself for a moment and I watched through glass as he had a brief moment with (ostensibly) a manager. He came back and offered us membership at half the usual rate.

This was the first time I realized how many breaks people with money get. Oh, I knew that wearing a pinstriped suit to the bank meant better service and all, but I had not put together the “expensive watch / good credit / no risk” correlation. That is, if you dress well, have items on your person which are not seen as cheap, and you maintain a good credit rating, you get all kinds of financial deals you wouldn’t otherwise get.

It’s been 8 years since that encounter at the gym. I’ve always been a label queen, of course, but I’ve also always found my Halston skirts or Tahari suits in thrift stores. That hasn’t changed. What changed was I upgraded my jewelry to better overall quality, though most of it is bought on clearance, on eBay, or again at thrift stores. I only carry an expensive purse, which retails for $80; no one need know I found it at Sam’s Club for $20. I even have a pair of Cole-Haan sandals – retail $200+ – found at a garage sale for $20.

I’ve also spent years clearing up my credit after the 1995 and 1997 bankruptcies. It’s only 10 years bad luck, but I did have to monitor it until all three reporting agencies got it 100% correct.

My first point is the title of this post. Perception is everything. If someone, especially in sales, thinks you won’t default, you get a better deal. Period. It’s worked so many times, I suppose our savings have been in the thousands by now.

My second point is you don’t have to spend a fortune to look like you do. Rich people don’t remain so if they spend willy-nilly. The occasional item, sure, but why pay $80,000 for a new Audi when you can get a three year-old used lease return for about $20,000, including the warranty?

Yeah, we did that. Three times so far. Just because you can pay retail doesn’t mean you should. No one knows what you paid, all they see is the final product.

The trick? Don’t correct them.

Perception is reality. ~ Lee Atwater

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