Whoring Out Your Head – Part 1

I have never in my life bought a Lottery ticket. And I never will.

Oh, I’ve had a few of them given to me, so I have to say I’ve owned a couple. But every time I’ve given them to someone else rather than scratch them.

I also never use coupons or special deals when I shop. I never enter contests. And though I love to go to the nearby Saratoga Race Course to watch the thoroughbred horses run, I never place bets.

I also, as you probably know, don’t go to church. The reasons for that are numerous and varied, but ONE of the reasons is the same as coupon-and-lottery reason.

It all has to do with something I call “mental access time.”

Say you own a timeshare at the beach.

Do you know how timeshares work? Someone builds a condo or cabin in a desirable place and sells shares in it. If you buy a one-week share, you get to stay in the cabin for a week, sometime during the year. With a two-week share, you get two weeks, etc.

But suppose this beachfront cabin is really your own cabin, something you yourself built.

It’s the place where you get to arrange things to suit yourself. Where you get to decorate, put walls and doors and windows where you want them, but also where you get to spend your time in the way you want to spend it. It’s the place where you get to be YOU.

To most fully accomplish that goal, you’d like to live in it year-round, right?

But in this case, because it cost more to build than you expected, you find yourself forced to sell a single weeklong share in it. As a result, for one week out of each year, you have to prep the cabin for visitors, and go off and live somewhere else.

Still, that’s not TOO bad, is it? You do get the pleasure and ease of living in your cabin for the other 51 weeks. Plenty of time to plant and grow your landscaping, get your lawn looking perfect, tend your baby fruit trees, get your Zen garden just right.

But then an unexpected bill comes up, and your only option to cover it is to sell another share, and to a different buyer. Now you have to live somewhere else for TWO weeks out of every year. The thing is, it wouldn’t be so bad if those two weeks were together, but given the fact that it’s two different buyers, that’s hardly likely. So now you have to prep the cabin and depart for one week in one part of the year, and then again in another part of the year.

You do get to live in the cabin for 50 weeks out of the year, but that 50 weeks is broken up by these two one-week interruptions.

Still, beggars can’t be choosers, huh? You take it and do your best to live with it.

But then another bill comes up, and you have to sell a THIRD one-week share. Now it would start to get annoying. You have to prep the cabin for visitors on three separate weeks during the year, and each time find a place to stay while they’re there.

And it’s not just the owner-visitors. It’s that you no longer have control over who enters your house. However nice the part-owners are, they might invite over who-knows-what kind of people. Total strangers who will be pawing through your stuff, throwing beer cans up on the roof, peeing in the pool, having sex in the hot tub, doing all sorts of ungodly things in YOUR home.

Now not only do you have to clean and prep the house for those weeks when you will have visitors, you also have to thoroughly clean it when you get back. Because who knows who’s been there? And who knows what they’ve been doing? Somebody’s probably even sleeping in your bed.

Worse, you find that the sell-off process builds on itself. The expense of staying elsewhere for those three scattered weeks forces you to sell a fourth share, and a fifth.

The wear and worry of this moving in and out, and constantly keeping the cabin in showroom condition, starts to affect your health, and because of medical bills, you have to sell five more shares. And then five more. And then still more.

Over the next two years, the situation worsens, until finally you’ve sold every share in the house.

You’re forced to face this ugly truth: Though this cabin was intended to be your dream home, now you can’t even be there for one week out of the year. Now you have to live in a completely different place.

The fact is, it’s not YOUR cabin anymore. There’s nothing of you in it.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    True story. During college I was working as a short order cook and my boss had a gambling problem — a big one. In the restaurant was a scratch ticket machine that fed off the desperate hopes of the many and gave away little. How little? My old boss spent one Easter (the restaurant was closed) scratching every single card in the machine. It amounted to over twenty thousand dollars of scratching. He had very little to show for it, except losing his job and getting into legal trouble. Such is the way of addiction.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    True story. During college I was working as a short order cook and my boss had a gambling problem — a big one. In the restaurant was a scratch ticket machine that fed off the desperate hopes of the many and gave away little. How little? My old boss spent one Easter (the restaurant was closed) scratching every single card in the machine. It amounted to over twenty thousand dollars of scratching. He had very little to show for it, except losing his job and getting into legal trouble. Such is the way of addiction.

  • Randomfactor

    But if you won the lottery, you wouldn’t have all those bills and could enjoy the cabin 24/7/365.2422… ;)

    True confession: I DO buy a lotto ticket twice a week; it’s a “do this in remembrance of me” thing. And no, I have no real illusions of winning big-time.

  • Randomfactor

    But if you won the lottery, you wouldn’t have all those bills and could enjoy the cabin 24/7/365.2422… ;)

    True confession: I DO buy a lotto ticket twice a week; it’s a “do this in remembrance of me” thing. And no, I have no real illusions of winning big-time.

  • inflection

    As a math prof, I take the existence of lotteries as an insult. I have taught freshman probability courses before, and the negative expected value of a lottery (that is, the lottery’s profit before costs) is one of the most important examples I always use in the course of the semester.

  • inflection

    As a math prof, I take the existence of lotteries as an insult. I have taught freshman probability courses before, and the negative expected value of a lottery (that is, the lottery’s profit before costs) is one of the most important examples I always use in the course of the semester.

  • Old Fogey

    I really don’t see the relevance of the parable.

    Firstly, lets take a different slant and see how things look. So you find you have some spare cash and you buy yourself a little place in the country where you can relax. You can’t afford to live in it full time, you still have to live in the city to earn a living, but you get up there when you can, and at other times it’s something good to think about, maybe dreaming of moving in full time when you retire.

    Now that sounds good, though not everybody can pull it off.

    Now the lottery offers a different deal, as long as you’re not a gambler.Most weeks my wife and I buy one ticket between us – not a scratchcard, which is over in seconds, but in the weekly draw. We know what the odds on a BIG win are, and we don’t expect to get one (or even a small win really). What we do get for a sliver of pocket change is this. If we are walking in the country and see a beautiful old house that we would love to live in, we can say “Ah, now if our ticket came up we could….” and go into all the possibilities.

    And it is having bought a ticket that makes the game viable, by giving just the very slight element of possibility. We consider it money well spent.

    As for the question of coupons and special deals, I just don’t understand the point. If you are going to buy something, why would you not use a coupon, voucher or other deal? I mean if there were two car dealers in town, both with good reps, both selling the car you have decided to buy, at the same price, but one of them offers to throw in a tank of fuel, a years free servicing and an upgrade of the radio, who would you buy from?

    • Hank Fox

      Fogey, beautifully stated! The question in your last paragraph …

      If you are going to buy something, why would you not use a coupon, voucher or other deal?

      … is exactly what I hope to address in three following posts in this series.

      Thank you also for the second half of that final paragraph — you’ve given me something unaddressed in the full series as I originally envisioned it, and I’ll now need to deal with that too.

  • Old Fogey

    I really don’t see the relevance of the parable.

    Firstly, lets take a different slant and see how things look. So you find you have some spare cash and you buy yourself a little place in the country where you can relax. You can’t afford to live in it full time, you still have to live in the city to earn a living, but you get up there when you can, and at other times it’s something good to think about, maybe dreaming of moving in full time when you retire.

    Now that sounds good, though not everybody can pull it off.

    Now the lottery offers a different deal, as long as you’re not a gambler.Most weeks my wife and I buy one ticket between us – not a scratchcard, which is over in seconds, but in the weekly draw. We know what the odds on a BIG win are, and we don’t expect to get one (or even a small win really). What we do get for a sliver of pocket change is this. If we are walking in the country and see a beautiful old house that we would love to live in, we can say “Ah, now if our ticket came up we could….” and go into all the possibilities.

    And it is having bought a ticket that makes the game viable, by giving just the very slight element of possibility. We consider it money well spent.

    As for the question of coupons and special deals, I just don’t understand the point. If you are going to buy something, why would you not use a coupon, voucher or other deal? I mean if there were two car dealers in town, both with good reps, both selling the car you have decided to buy, at the same price, but one of them offers to throw in a tank of fuel, a years free servicing and an upgrade of the radio, who would you buy from?

    • Hank Fox

      Fogey, beautifully stated! The question in your last paragraph …

      If you are going to buy something, why would you not use a coupon, voucher or other deal?

      … is exactly what I hope to address in three following posts in this series.

      Thank you also for the second half of that final paragraph — you’ve given me something unaddressed in the full series as I originally envisioned it, and I’ll now need to deal with that too.

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    I now regret having read part 2 first. At a certain point I had a bad image of someone peeing in my brain or hot tubing there. I need to clean my brain with some bleach and a stiff brush now.

    <blockquote cite="What we do get for a sliver of pocket change is this. If we are walking in the country and see a beautiful old house that we would love to live in, we can say “Ah, now if our ticket came up we could….” and go into all the possibilities."?

    I’ve done the same thing a few times, but one could compare this to believing in a religion. Ultimately, it’s not real. The lottery makes people fantasize about a paradise that doesn’t exist. I guess to argue against my own comment, one could say that daydreaming isn’t a bad thing. It in its own way is a bit of creative “me-brain” time.

    (No negative personal commentary meant in what I said. That comment just made the connection with religion in my brain. And now I’ve just lost a few precious moments to a space for religion.)

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    I now regret having read part 2 first. At a certain point I had a bad image of someone peeing in my brain or hot tubing there. I need to clean my brain with some bleach and a stiff brush now.

    <blockquote cite="What we do get for a sliver of pocket change is this. If we are walking in the country and see a beautiful old house that we would love to live in, we can say “Ah, now if our ticket came up we could….” and go into all the possibilities."?

    I’ve done the same thing a few times, but one could compare this to believing in a religion. Ultimately, it’s not real. The lottery makes people fantasize about a paradise that doesn’t exist. I guess to argue against my own comment, one could say that daydreaming isn’t a bad thing. It in its own way is a bit of creative “me-brain” time.

    (No negative personal commentary meant in what I said. That comment just made the connection with religion in my brain. And now I’ve just lost a few precious moments to a space for religion.)

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  • P Smith

    There’s only one near-certain way to win at gambling: Play poker against people with deep pockets who are less skilled than you are. And no “house” to take a cut.

    Actually, that wouldn’t be gambling, it would be a risk since you have a better than 50% chance of winning. The difference between gambling and risk is the same as the difference between a daredevil and a stuntman. A stuntman expects to succeed, a stuntman doesn’t know if he will, and probably won’t.

    One of the worst things about lottery tickets is how it preys on desperation. When I was younger with little money and less life experience, I was dumb enough to play a few dollars a week, about $150-200 per year. Nowadays, having the education to know better and a job where I can save US$600 or more per month after taxes and expenses, the idea of “playing the lottery” is laughable to me. I don’t play because I’m already winning, building a sizable fortune over time.

    The old saying is true: it’s a voluntary tax on the poor.

    .

  • P Smith

    There’s only one near-certain way to win at gambling: Play poker against people with deep pockets who are less skilled than you are. And no “house” to take a cut.

    Actually, that wouldn’t be gambling, it would be a risk since you have a better than 50% chance of winning. The difference between gambling and risk is the same as the difference between a daredevil and a stuntman. A stuntman expects to succeed, a stuntman doesn’t know if he will, and probably won’t.

    One of the worst things about lottery tickets is how it preys on desperation. When I was younger with little money and less life experience, I was dumb enough to play a few dollars a week, about $150-200 per year. Nowadays, having the education to know better and a job where I can save US$600 or more per month after taxes and expenses, the idea of “playing the lottery” is laughable to me. I don’t play because I’m already winning, building a sizable fortune over time.

    The old saying is true: it’s a voluntary tax on the poor.

    .

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