This was the second year in a row that I braved the Black Friday/Midnight Madness sales at my local retailers. I used to laugh at people who do this, and I still think it’s ridiculous to wait outside Wal-Mart at 3 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving. I also have to admit that it’s kind of fun.
Walking around the store with my (deeply discounted!) soon-to-be-purchases, I noticed that pretty much all of my fellow shoppers had at least one huge box in their carts. One box marked “Sony”, “Panasonic,” or another huge electronics firm. In other words, one gigantic widescreen TV.
My guess is that pretty much every apartment resident in America has one of these billboard-sized monstrosities. Certainly 90% of mine have had them. And since probably a third of my tenants have had rent issues over the years, that means about 30% of my tenants – probably 30% of yours – have blown money on a widescreen TV that they then did not have for basic housing.
WHAT ARE THESE PEOPLE THINKING?
Now if you, my fellow landlord, have a widescreen, that’s no skin off my back. You don’t owe me rent. But most of the landlords I know lead modest lives relative to their financial situation. I have what used to be considered a fairly large TV (32”), but it’s five years old, not a widescreen, and makes a funny whining sound for the first few minutes after it’s turned on.
Actually, the story of how I got it is kind of funny. Back in 2004, my old TV broke under mysterious circumstances. My mother and my then-four-year-old son blamed each other. Personally I think my mother did it.
That same week, I had a heating emergency on one of the coldest nights of the year (in Somersworth, NH, that’s pretty cold). I drove up there and worked for about three hours with the heating guys. When all the tenants were warm (and watching their widescreens), it was about 10 p.m.
I had planned, that night, to go TV shopping. The New England Patriots were on a playoff run and I didn’t want to miss any of the games! But at 10 o’clock, all the stores were closed except one – Wal-Mart.
I got in there 15 minutes before they closed and picked out my TV – not the biggest one, but still pretty darned heavy. Somehow got it out to the car. Brought it home. Heaved it up the stairs to my door and slid it, in the box, into the living room, so my wife could look at it (still in the box) while drinking her morning coffee in about five hours. I did not have the energy to open the box or set it up.
TENANTS, YOU WILL PAY FOR YOUR HUBRIS!
It really doesn’t bother me when I go to a friend’s house and see a 52-inch Sony Bravia ($1189 at Amazon). It does bother me when I see this in one of my apartments. The TV cost more than a month’s rent. Therefore you will get no sympathy from me when you look up from watching it to let me know that you can’t pay this month’s rent.
Tell you what, I’ll trade you. You give me the Sony. I’ll give you my five-year-old Sanyo that makes the whiny noise. You get to stay in the apartment for another month. Next month, get a job or we’ll see what else you have to trade.
Of course, there is a way to get a widescreen without paying $1200. You can rent it! It costs about $100 per month and you’ll never own it. But, tenants, be careful – if you tell me I can’t have the TV because you’re renting it, I’ll be even more annoyed. Why are you spending money on that when you can’t afford a roof over your head!
The Widescreen Rule
Recently my wife started doing most of the apartment showings. I let her know a few of my rules, one of which is that every prospective tenant has a widescreen. (Another is that only 60% of prospects show up for their appointments, but that’s another story.)
This weekend she showed to a very nice woman who liked the apartment a lot. She was planning where things would go, which is always a good sign.
“We’ll put the sectional over here, and right here we’ll put the” – wait for it! – “widescreen.”