Saturday, December 06, 2008

Is "poor" an insulting term?

This is a small personal anecdote from many years back: I used to be a landlord letting out a few houses that I owned at the time. On one occasion I had a house vacant and put a "To Let" advertisement in the newspaper. The advertisement stated the amount of the rent, the suburb, a brief description of the house and a statement that a bond equivalent to four week's rent was required in addition to the rent before a tenant could move in. All of which was customary in that time and place.

One caller said he liked the sound of the house but that he wouldn't have all the money needed until payday so could I hold it for him until then?

There was something irritating in his approach, however, a sort of arrogance. So I said, No, I didn't want poor people in my house.

He was outraged and claimed that he was not poor -- even though he had no money. He went on to abuse me and even called back later to abuse me again. I guess my frankness was a bit brutal but how much better it would be if people could face and accept reality. I may in fact have been instrumental in getting him to start saving his money.


Anonymous said...

he may well have been correct that he wasn't "poor".
I'm not poor myself but I don't generally have 2 months worth of rent sitting in the bank just in case I need it, especially at the end of the month near payday.

Or take my parents, who for the first time in some 40 years had a lack of direct funds last month when they got a €20K taxbill, and 2 €10K bills from their health insurance in the same week.
Had to wait a week or so to make major purchases until their pensionfund paid out again.
Not poor people, but temporarilly (and only for a very short time) out of money because of an unexpected set of circumstances.

But to get agressive over such a statement...

Anonymous said...

Defensive is one thing - to say "I can provide documentation, I can prove employment and salary, I can provide credit history" all of which we have to do in the States now to rent an apartment is one thing.

To heap abuse on a person simply because we are currently financially embarrassed is another.

But that's what people do. They deem their embarrassment not a reason for shame and timidity, but an excuse for abuse and aggression.

Anonymous said...

There's a big difference between being broke and being poor!

Anonymous said...

Poor, his paycheck would cover 4 months rent.

Anonymous said...

I know people who are wealthy by anyone's standard, yet they are "poor" because they don't know how to use their wealth in a sensible or rational way. (rushing to get an early-bird special, while driving a $150K car) On the other hand, i know people who have no money, yet they are "rich" because they still have self-respect, pride, and good friends, all of which are the basis of true wealth.

Anonymous said...

Jon - that story is hilarious. I am so proud of you, having the guts to come right out and say what pretty much every landlord thinks. Who would want a poor person in their house? What sort of problems would you have been setting yourself up for by renting to a dumb-ass povo who can't organise their money in a timely fashion?
I am surprised at how he took the news however.
You're lucky that the poor aren't a protected class and that this happened some time ago!