I drove into BJ’s Wholesale Club for gas today. It’s typically five cents cheaper than the 7-Eleven across the street, which sells CITGO gas. I don’t want to support Hugo Chavez and Venezuelan-owned CITGO… besides, I’m cheap. But that’s not the point.

As I pulled up I noticed two young men milling about the pumps dressed in black and gold uniforms of some type. As I went about my purchase, one of them approached me and said that, as part of a customer appreciation program at BJ’s, he would clean my windshield for me.

Hmmm. I guess I’m cynical. Or suspicious. Or just odd. But it didn’t make sense.

I told him that, firstly, I did not need my windshield cleaned, which was an obvious lie given the terrible state of the outside of my Suburban. And secondly, I could not figure out why a company that prides itself on cost-cutting, a company that makes you bag your own groceries (and by the way there are no bags), would hire young men to stand outside by the gas pumps and clean windshields as a, “Thank you.”

So he explained…

Apparently, they were doing it around the country, and he was affiliated with another company that had a tent set up in the parking lot.

“Ah, now we’re getting somewhere,” I thought.

He continued, “We will clean your windshield and inspect it for chips or cracks.”

Got it. If they find a chip or crack in my windshield his company will repair it and bill my insurance company.

So much for customer appreciation. It’s more like customer shakedown.

What We’re Reduced To

What we have here is a guy telling me that I am appreciated by my local retailer, but I’m only really appreciated if I have a faulty windshield that makes his company some money, which of course will be shared with the retailer. (By the way, these guys work with Sam’s and other big stores as well.)

So this is where we are?

Is this what we are reduced to?

The young man was very pleasant, so I let him off gently. I wanted to ask him if it bothered him to lie to people all day.

I wanted to ask him if he was concerned about the fact that he was outwardly offering gratitude but the sole reason for his being there was to initiate a transaction.

I wanted to ask him how he could look at himself in the mirror knowing his livelihood was based on getting people to spend money that they don’t control (after all their auto insurance company bears the cost of the transaction).

I didn’t ask him any of these questions. I just politely declined his offer to wash my windshield. But while these questions rolled around in my brain it struck me: this is how Congress functions.

Think about it…

When you run for office, all you have to do is make enough hardline promises and pronouncements to create the impression you’re part of a hardcore base. Then, after the troops have rallied and right before election you soften your stance. Once you’re in office, you simply repay your political favors and do whatever your party leader tells you.

It’s “Other People’s Money” anyway, right? So who cares?

Actually, I care. I am one of those “Other People.” It’s my money. Just like it is yours.

And it’s about to get really messy in Congress.

The U.S. is slowing down again, just as we forecast. The growth spurts caused by government stimulus are failing. People are beginning to recognize the limited effect of such action.

The reality is, Congress has done nothing – NOTHING! – so far to assist.

We don’t need a fiscal cliff looming at year end. We don’t need Taxmaggedon. We don’t need more idiotic polarized drivel about “Just Cut Taxes” or “Just Raise Taxes” and all will be fine.

What we need is clarity.

We need Congress to do its job.

We need Congressmen to create sensible legislation, present it to the body politic for debate, and then a vote. No last minute heroics. No extensions of current policy without resolution.

If we have any hope of getting America back to work, we need to stop the double talk and start with an honest assessment of where we are and what is the best way forward. We do not need a bait–and-switch-Congress intent on spending even more of Other People’s Money.




Ahead of the Curve with Adam O’Dell

How Millennial Can Turn $1 into $8

I must admit, I find most advertising downright insulting. The mere thought of a non-person, profit-seeking entity telling me how I should look, act and feel – oh, and BUY – is enough to make me consider living as a Buddhist monk.



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Rodney Johnson
Rodney works closely with Harry to study the purchasing power of people as they move through predictable stages of life, how that purchasing power drives our economy and how readers can use this information to invest successfully in the markets. Each month Rodney Johnson works with Harry Dent to uncover the next profitable investment based on demographic and cyclical trends in their flagship newsletter Boom & Bust. Rodney began his career in financial services on Wall Street in the 1980s with Thomson McKinnon and then Prudential Securities. He started working on projects with Harry in the mid-1990s. Along with Boom & Bust, Rodney is also the executive editor of our new service, Fortune Hunter and our Dent Cornerstone Portfolio.