Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Is Your Life Worth $40?

In replying to a comment on another post, I mentioned staying at a motel that made me nervous just because I already had paid for a guaranteed reservation on my credit card. When we pulled into the parking lot of the Motel 6 on the east side of Columbus, Ohio last April, we spotted several unsavory characters lurking about. One of them was arguing with the night clerk. As we registered, a police car pulled in, lights flashing, to confront one of these lowlifes. My wife, also a police officer, began to wish she had brought her gun. I was on edge every step from the car to our room, especially going around corners. The lock on the door, the same lock that I've seen in dozens of other Motel 6 franchises, suddenly seemed not nearly enough. But never did it occur to me that maybe it would have been worth throwing away the $40 reservation and staying somewhere down the road to spare myself the stress over the possibility of being robbed or worse.

We make irrational decisions because of money all the time. We eschew a couple dollars in highway tolls and spend an extra half-hour sitting in traffic instead.

Here's my favorite example of human nature with regard to money: You walk up to a vending machine. A Snickers bar is 60 cents. You put three quarters in the machine. It spits out your change and drops the candy bar to the tray where you pick it up. But instead of picking up the 60-cent candy bar, you instinctively reach for the 15 cents in the change tray instead! It doesn't matter that the Snickers cost four times the amount of change; you go for the coins first.

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