Reconciling assholes for nearly a decade.

Automotive stratification

Why is it that we still presume success based upon cars? The guy with the '98 Neon must be a failure, and the guy with the brand new Chrysler 300C must really know what he's doing. That guy with the Mercedes must be some sort of superhuman.

We live in an era, an era of easy credit and low payment leases, where a new BMW is easily within reach even for the most junior of positions. This is assuming that they were willing to sacrifice other elements of their lives, such that many people do to own a shiny new car.

I write this from a personal perspective - my yearly income (this is not bragging, but puts context into the discussion. I should also state that even income is a ridiculous measure of success) is within the top 5%, yet I drive a 7 year old econobox car that still runs great. I don't plan on replacing it until it dies, basically, as I realize that it is 99% the same as a brand new so-called luxury car.

It fascinates me how often I receive derisive looks, especially at my daughter's daycare where the debt laden parents climb into their shiny new just-like-last-years-only-curvier cost sink. Do people really think it's such an accomplishment footing $400/month for a lease?
Permalink ,..., 
March 3rd, 2005
As a parent, you'll love how the PR industry tries to "talk to you through your child's nagging":
http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FVE/is_9_4/ai_54631243

Conspicuous consumption and "created wants," consumers warring and frothing at the mouth over near-identical brands... It would really entertain me if one day people fought wars underneath the banners of Coke and Pepsi.

Humorously, programmers take it almost to the extreme when they fight over their tools.
Permalink Tayssir John Gabbour 
March 3rd, 2005
I seem to remember reading somewhere that Ingvar Karlsson still drives an old Volvo estate...
Permalink Andrew Cherry 
March 3rd, 2005
Woops, sorry, should have been Ingvar Kamprad...
Permalink Andrew Cherry 
March 3rd, 2005
I'm driving an 89 Corsica with 123000 miles.
Permalink Joel Coehoorn 
March 3rd, 2005
So really this thread was an excuse to brag about how much money you have. Got it.
Permalink muppet 
March 3rd, 2005
muppet you are such an asshole. Do you get enjoyment from denigrating others, or is it a habit that you aren't even aware of?
Permalink DamienKatz.net 
March 3rd, 2005
Yes, now you all know that ,..., is the mac.

I obviously mentioned income because it directly and absolutely relates to the fact that people make economic assumptions based upon one's vehicle, yet there are a lot of people with very little who have a shiny new mid-level car, and a lot of people with a lot who still drive around a beater.
Permalink ,..., 
March 3rd, 2005
,..., - people make assumptions based on physical attributes, get used to it. If you want to feel better about yourself, read The Millionaire Next Door.

muppet - people make more money than you, get used to it. If you want to feel better, read Chicken Soup for the Hand Puppet Soul.

Damien - people are just jerks, get used to it. If it bothers you so much, why do you get involved?
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 3rd, 2005
Come on guys, give muppet a break. Cars are a touchy subject with him...
Permalink  
March 3rd, 2005
Take a look at 'The Millionare Next Door'.

The key to financial freedom is not becoming a slave to consumption. Live below your means and save. It isn't that hard, but it is against everything popular culture telss us to do. (So maybe it is hard).
Permalink Unkonwn 
March 3rd, 2005
Hehe, very nice post Mr. Taw.

(Yes, I know it's not your last name)
Permalink ,..., 
March 3rd, 2005
I've had expensive European cars in the past, and they've been nothing but trouble.

I'm now in a Honda, and I'm very happy with it. It's got -zero- prestige, but I don't care -- the only time it's spent in the shop is for scheduled routine maintenance.

What clued me in was the Mercedes dealer was giving out Accords as service loaners.
Permalink example 
March 3rd, 2005
Mark -

I could give a crap that people make more money than me. Money doesn't rule my life where I can avoid it. I just thought I'd call ,..., on his thinly veiled bragging.
Permalink muppet 
March 3rd, 2005
"I just thought I'd call ,..., on his thinly veiled bragging."

Yes, everyone, respect me. I have a 12" penis, 8" around (and I can last for hours). I'm 6' 4", and I bang all of the top Hollywood starlets regularly. I can bench 360lbs (only 8 reps though) and can leg press 540lbs. I run the 100 meters in 9.9 seconds and was personally responsible for the creation of the personal computer.

How the hell does someone brag under a pseudonym, anonymously on some random forum? I would just as soon presume that people would think I'm full of shit, but nonetheless it's contextually relevant information.
Permalink ,..., 
March 3rd, 2005
Why get involved? Because I happen to think this topic is an interesting discussion and I recently blogged about something similar. But the OP says one thing that muppet dislikes (anonymous OP reveals income demographic) and muppet must insult him with the accusation that the discussion is a ruse to brag about earnings, and therefore by implication OP is shallow and insecure.

Muppet is an asshole (see the pathetic drama that is muppets life) and he tries to bring down others to his level. The really unfortunate thing is how often it works in the discussion board.
Permalink DamienKatz.net 
March 3rd, 2005
Why don't we post our 2004 income? That ought to clear the air. It's tax time in the US, so most of us should have the number handy.

I made 90k, which was a bit of an "off" year for me.
Permalink Six Inch Wang 
March 3rd, 2005
You use the same identity every time you post, right? That means you have a reputation. Bragging is tied to reputation. That's how you can brag on an online forum. Nice try though. :)
Permalink muppet 
March 3rd, 2005
> Why is it that we still presume success based upon cars?

I don't, in case that matters.
I don't own a car.
I see cars as a liability (not just an asset), and most cars as symptomatic of some kind of (personal and/or societal) failure or compromise.
Permalink Christopher Wells 
March 3rd, 2005
Actually, no - I use this pseudonym (yup I use more than one "Full Name") mostly when I don't want to apply things to me. Either positive or negative. I consider my income private, so I fall to a pseudonym to reveal it. Other times I use this pseudonym to be an asshole (sometimes just for fun), so I don't believe I have any sort of karmic reputation with it.
Permalink ,..., 
March 3rd, 2005
If you say so.

Anyway I agree with you that people are consumer whores, but no one cares and you can't reform them. They can't even comprehend that there is a problem.
Permalink muppet 
March 3rd, 2005
I'm driving a 2004 Mercury Sable. A measly $14K, and I'm packing 200 HP, leather seats, climate control, moon roof, etc., etc. To even think about a comparable Honda or Toyota, it'd be min $28K. I don't even want to think what a comparable Mercedes or Audi would cost. We've driven Sables for a while now, and our first one died well after the 200,000 mile mark.
Permalink anon 
March 3rd, 2005
My one and only Mercury Sable self destructed at around 120K.
Permalink muppet 
March 3rd, 2005
Personally I think it's ridiculous how some of you guys pass judgement on someone driving a nice car as a "consumer whore". I know quite a few people who sacrifice spending money on other parts of their life for a nice car because that is what is important to them. We all have different priorities in life and it's not like someone driving a Mercedes or BMW is somehow negatively impacting our lives so why should we care what car they drive?
Permalink Gerald 
March 3rd, 2005
+++I know quite a few people who sacrifice spending money on other parts of their life for a nice car because that is what is important to them. +++

personally I think it's ridiculous if an extravagent car is what's singly important to you.
Permalink muppet 
March 3rd, 2005
Gerald, this topic is precisely agreeing with you -- why should people rabidly care?

Personally, I have a few buying preferences which label me a consumer whore -- I buy Moleskine products for example. But I don't look down on people for writing on napkins or scrap paper.
Permalink Tayssir John Gabbour 
March 3rd, 2005
personally, I think it's ridiculous that you would spend hours of your life away from your children penning a crappy sci-fi novel that no one is ever going to read anyway. So what? to each his own, in matters of taste, I guess.
Permalink zed 
March 3rd, 2005
Nice try, zed. :)
Permalink muppet 
March 3rd, 2005
I may end up spending money on a new monitor, if it doesn't survive having soda sprayed on it as I read this comment:

"If you want to feel better, read Chicken Soup for the Hand Puppet Soul."

[snicker]

My car turns ten next year. :)

Philo
Permalink Philo 
March 3rd, 2005
Busted! :)
Permalink zed 
March 3rd, 2005
In answer to the OP's original question, comparing newer cars to seven year old econoboxes: Newer cars tend to be quieter, smoother, better riding, better handling, more comfortable, more practical, more reliable, more enjoyable to drive and so on.

Some people have the discernment to tell the difference, and to care about it. Those people will actively seek out and buy good cars and will avoid bad cars.

Sometimes an older classic model used car is an excellent choice, and some brand new makes and models are absolute crap, so I say judge people on their taste, not on the cost of the car. I can't really think positively about somebody who might drive an old, noisy, mushy, bad handling box on wheels and who doesn't know or care how bad that car is.
Permalink Ian Boys 
March 3rd, 2005
Many rich people got that way because they were not stupid consumers, but smart ones. Buy low, sell high... basics. You can't usually sell a car high, so you may as well just buy low to begin with. I drive a 2k Celica. It's paid for now and only has ~40k miles on it. I plan to drive it till it falls apart.
Permalink I am Jack's car catches 
March 3rd, 2005
"Why is it that we still presume success based upon cars?"

Humans have evolved to judge quickly on appearance - it's a survival mechanism.

Mixed with modern society it may not always be accurate.
Permalink Actively Disengaged 
March 3rd, 2005
Firstly, Ian, your ability to totally miss the point is extraordinary.

Nonetheless,

"I can't really think positively about somebody who might drive an old, noisy, mushy, bad handling box on wheels and who doesn't know or care how bad that car is."

Strangely the car I drive drives beautifully, has extraordinarily good handling, and gets good fuel economy, but superficially it looks dated. I'm sure there have been loads of technological advances in the automotive industry in the past 7 years (bwahahahaha. I'm sure you really think there has been, eagerly consuming marketing bullshit), it still is a pretty good car.

Of course the stratification I'm talking about has NOTHING to do with the real merits of a car (which is a nice little red herring), but rather the perceived esteem of a car.
Permalink ,..., 
March 3rd, 2005
Ian is a victim of the whole "newer must be better" planned obsolescence thing. He also thinks Shakespeare "talks funny" and is waiting for the Bloods vs. Crips update to Romeo + Juliet.
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 3rd, 2005
"The key to financial freedom is not becoming a slave to consumption. Live below your means and save"

Hah. Outdated.

My insurance agent tells me the key to financial freedom is leverage. Borrow money to buy 'carefully chosen' funds so you could retire early before 55.

Also, a radio talk show guest says the incredible high price of real estate in Vancouver is a very good thing. He said anyone who disagree don't understand finance and he should come back some time to educate us mere mortals.

Sure, only idiots listen to radio talk show.
Permalink Rick Tang 
March 3rd, 2005
Your insurance agent is wrong, you take out a 3rd mortgage on your house to buy carefully selected fund *options*.
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 3rd, 2005
Reading this thread, I'm struck by the fact that no contemporary auto model really appeals to me enough to care about owning. The only cars I get wistful about possessing are the truly antique ones--hopelessly obsolete technologically.
Permalink misanthrope 
March 3rd, 2005
Money is a tool for getting what you want. If you buy a car, house, whatever to impress people you neither know or care about, you're still using money as a tool what you want--i.e. the admiration/envy of strangers. Whether that's a laudable goal is another discussion.

My two-cents... [duck] [run] ;-)
Permalink cubiclegrrl 
March 3rd, 2005
,..., I don't think I missed the point, I just put a different perspective on it.

I said "Sometimes an older classic model used car is an excellent choice, and some brand new makes and models are absolute crap, so I say judge people on their taste, not on the cost of the car." And you said: "Strangely the car I drive drives beautifully, has extraordinarily good handling, and gets good fuel economy". So good, evidently you have good judgement when buying cars. Full marks to you.

Since you have not said what make and model of car you have, I obviously cannot have been suggesting that your car is a bad one. But I know for a fact that many people do drive bad cars and are quite uncaring of the fact. Consider the UK Ford Escort in the days before the Focus came along. That Escort was an absolute dog, a nail, yet people bought it in droves.

MarkTAW misses my point though, since I said discerning buyers buy good cars, whether new or old. Some new cars are good, some are bad. Some old cars are good, some are bad. It is a shame that some people buy bad cars, new or old, and don't even notice that they have a bad car.

Honestly though, if there are people that think the best of the new cars on the market today are not better than the best of the same market segment ten years ago, you don't know what you are talking about. It's true that these days the improvements are getting marginal, but the difference between now and twenty years ago is dramatic.
Permalink Ian Boys 
March 3rd, 2005
Replace "discerning buyers" with "well trained consumers" and I agree with you.

Don't get me wrong, I've argued the same thing with my mother who always bought crappy phones that lasted a year, when she could've spent 3 times as much and had a good phone that lasts 3 times longer, but when you say you "can't think positively about" someone without an arbitrary status symbol I have to tease you.
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 3rd, 2005
"arbitrary status symbol"

Such as green checks?
Permalink Rick Tang 
March 3rd, 2005
You're right, I can't think positively about any of you. Pheh.
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 3rd, 2005
Depends on the scope.

It gives you a sense of superiority in this forum.

Argue is furtile.
Permalink Rick Tang 
March 3rd, 2005
Really Mark. I said "I can't think positively about" someone who drives a god-awful crap car and thinks it's good. It's nothing to do with status symbols, and nothing to do with buying this year's latest model.

I drive a Honda, and I don't care what people think because I know it's a good car. I think it's funny that people pay more to drive Acuras just because they have more snob appeal. Why does the Acura badge only exist in the North American market? In Europe, everything is badged Honda from the NSX down.
Permalink Ian Boys 
March 3rd, 2005
Texan: Man, on my ranch it takes all day to drive to the front gate to pick up my mail!

Aussie: Yeah, I had a car like that once.
Permalink trollop 
March 3rd, 2005
>> Your insurance agent is wrong, you take out a 3rd mortgage on your house to buy carefully selected fund *options*. <<

But only if your cousins's wife's hairdresser who vacations in Des Moines says that wheat prices are going up next year.
Permalink example 
March 3rd, 2005
"I seem to remember reading somewhere that Ingvar Karlsson still drives an old Volvo estate..."

Have you ever driven a 200-series Volvo? I've owned a 245, one of the very first runs, and let me tell you - it has a unique character that endears the car to you even when you can afford something better. My car was a '76; the youngest 200-series I've seen on sale was a '94. That's an insane lifespan for a family car. The 700-series has been out since the mid-80s, but the home market demanded that Volvo continue to make old 200s for another decade.

As for why buy a BMW if you can have a Camry - it's quality of life, pure and simple. A Camry provides transportation, a BMW provides enjoyment.
Permalink Flasher T 
March 4th, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

Other topics: March, 2005 Other topics: March, 2005 Recent topics Recent topics