Laura on Life

A check equals a cookie

By Laura Snyder

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[March 14, 2009]  When raising children, you learn to use whatever methods are available to you for getting a child to mind.

Theses methods include, but are not limited to, rewards, punishments, bribery and sending them to boarding school. Usually, I start out offering a reward for good behavior.

"If you guys can get your rooms clean in one hour, you can have cookies and milk."

What follows is a lengthy negotiation about what kind of cookies, whether they can eat them outside on a blanket and whether the cup should be glass or plastic.

Shouldn't they simply be happy that I offered a reward? I mean, parents don't get a reward for doing something we know we're supposed to do.

Imagine paying your electric bill and receiving a cookie in the mail. Wouldn't that be awesome? It would sure make paying bills easier.

If companies promised a cookie every time I sent them a check, I'd be merrily ripping checks out of my checkbook all day long. I'd be a paying fool!

...And I'd be broke. But I'd have cookies!

What if a credit card company had a mini celebration for you after you finally paid your account in full? They could send a dozen roses and tickets for two to a local cinema. And really, that's the least they could do. I don't think a limousine with a stocked bar would be asking too much either. Lord knows, we're going to feel like celebrating when that bill gets paid off, and that's hard to do without putting more charges on the credit card.

Some banks give away toasters when you sign up for a loan, but nobody rewards you for paying back the loan.

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Instead of rewarding you with cookies, they threaten you with higher interest rates when you are late on a payment. Usually -- and I may be way off here -- a person who paid late did so because they didn't have enough money that week. Does it make sense to sock them with a bigger bill if they couldn't pay the smaller one? How is that helping the company or the consumer get that loan paid off? That's like sending Guido to "break some legs" if you don't pay up.

Companies should take a cue from how we raise our children to be responsible, law-abiding citizens: Start off with a cookie first. If they don't respond, then and only then do you send them to the timeout chair until they've seen the error of their ways.

In credit card lingo, this means to put a hold on the card until the customer sends a check.

I've decided to make bill-paying less miserable by making a habit of having milk and cookies after I'm done. The promise of cookies has taken the stress out of bill-paying and made me a more responsible person. I don't put it off until later anymore. In fact, I pay bills as often as I can -- every day, if possible. Unfortunately, I have more cookies than I have bills. So I have taken to asking friends, family and total strangers if they have any bills I can pay.

I've gotten so used to the whole "check equals cookies" mindset that I was even enthusiastic about going grocery shopping. I was a little puzzled, though, when the cashier handed me my receipt and said, "Have a nice day."

I stood there, mouth open, eyes wide, totally dejected and whined, "But... where's my cookie?"


Laura Snyder is a syndicated columnist, author and speaker. You can reach her at lsnyder@lauraonlife.com or visit www.lauraonlife.com for more information.


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