Sunday, January 30, 2011

Money, Money, Money!

Earlier this week, part of my job required that I pick up and set up a small lunch (fairly routine). Though normally I simply order online, which has all the payment information saved, that day the lunch was much smaller, so I had to order and pick up myself.

I went to my boss to get the corporate credit card, so we wouldn't have to deal with the mess of reimbursement. After I asked for the card, he started fishing around in a drawer, and talking about how "I'll give you a few extra, just so you have them on hand." Now, I don't know how many times you've been offered a "few extra" corporate cards just to "have on hand," but it was an offer I was pretty excited about. A little confused, but also secretly hoping that I was really getting three or four magic pieces of plastic, I waited for him to finish finding these cards. He did. He handed me a stack of about six business cards.

After the initial shock and realization that I was not, in fact, going to get multiple credit lines to use at my discretion, I started laughing. I told my boss that as much as I liked his business cards, they wouldn't buy sandwiches for anyone. We both had a good chuckle over the misunderstanding, and he then got me the only corporate card he had (which was, in fact, quite sufficient), and I went and picked up lunch.

On my way over to the restaurant, I started thinking about how funny it would have been to hand the cashier a stack of paper with someone's name on them. Then I realized that if I hadn't been paying with less plastic than goes into a Barbie doll, I would have done exactly that. See, as strange as our currency may be, it is convenient, but ultimately holds no worth.

Money's purpose is to store value and act as a means of exchange. In other words, we all know that $5 can buy you a footlong at Subway or a pair of clearance pumps at Charlotte Russe (actually, you probably didn't know that I've bought pointed-toe pumps for $5). Even though they cost the same amount of money, I'm not bringing a sandwich to retail employees to pay for my shoes. Money makes this easier, by acting as a common denominator for purchases. Instead of trading repeatedly to get the goods and services I want, I can just hand someone a small piece of paper and because of its stored value, I get what I paid for.

The US used to have gold and silver backing its paper money, but after a long journey now has no hard metal standard backing its bills (fiat money). While this allows the government to print more money without actually have more wealth, it means that our cash only has as much value as we all agree it has. Further compound that with our credit-card dominated system, in which we scan a small piece of plastic that says somewhere there's a dollar bill (with no backed-up value) that will pay for what I want. It seems a shaky to me, but I still hope the cashiers at the sandwich place don't start asking me to pay in gold ... or clearance footwear.

I used a fiat credit card instead of a fiat business card in:
Black and cream pencil skirt, black ribbed tank top, cream cardigan, black and silver hoop earrings, cream flower and pearl necklace, black tights, and black over-the-knee boots.