“Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a living; barely gettin’ by, it’s all talkin’ and no givin’ (Parton, p.1)”… Dolly Parton had the right idea when she wrote this song. We have to work to be able to pay for necessities such as housing, clothing, and food. In addition to necessity, having enough money left over at the end of the month to go watch a show or eat at a nice restaurant is an added bonus. Most of us put our nose to the grind stone only to live by the old “pay check to pay check” creed. Payday arrives and it’s smiles all around. Money makes us happy, but more money makes us ecstatic.
There are the lucky few who win the Publisher’s Clearinghouse sweepstakes or the lottery, but the rest of us have to stretch our dollars as far as they will go. If you aren’t rich, stretching the dollar is a way of life. However, not everyone wants to live that way. For them, there are several alternatives. They can hit up their wealthy relatives, further their education, chose to work a not-so-glamorous job, or they can turn to crime.
Unfortunately, not everyone has wealthy relatives, not everyone has their mind set to get their Masters degree, and not everyone has the body to swing on a pole for hundreds of dollars a night. What’s left? That’s right…crime. Somewhere out there people have figured out that you don’t have to work that hard to maximize your bucks. True-be-it that not all of us will turn to crime to make more money, from big corporations to mom and pop shops, maximizing utility is what it’s all about.
In the movie “Friday”, the character “Big Worm” sells the drugs he produces to make money (Gray, 1995). His operation is based on delegating sales to others, such as “Smokey”, a drug addict himself. In addition to owning a classic vehicle, which is decked out in style, Big Worm also owns a snack vending truck, which he uses to check out the progress of his sales people…incognito.
Big Worm’s character is dressed in name brand clothing, wears gold necklaces, rings and diamond earrings, and appears to have his hair professionally styled. His character seems to be so powerful that when Smokey fails to give him his due profits from sales, Big Worm has access to “guys” that are willing to put a scare in Smokey by driving through the neighborhood shooting guns. Sure…this is just a movie, but what Big Worm’s character does is no different than what big corporations do…he is utilizing his resources to maximize his utility. The only difference is that Big Worm is an undiscovered criminal, and big corporations are operating legally.
Without the assistance of a writing staff, some real-life criminals don’t have the same results with their efforts. Hollywood gave Big Worm nice clothes, a nice car and nice hair, so it appeared that as a criminal, he had his business in a position good enough to create a profit. Unfortunately for real-life criminals, however, the way they handle their profit-maximizing decisions can prove that not all criminals are utility maximizers.
Striving to achieve happiness can lead to extreme measures. Being financially set, though sometimes an unattainable objective, can relieve numerous stresses in one’s life, which can lead to happiness. For some, this goal is so important that they are willing to do not-so-legal things to get there. Occupational crimes, or crimes committed by altering records, overcharging customers or cheating a client (Wikipedia, p.1) is an example of an attempt to maximize utility. But the key word here is attempt. An attempt can be unsuccessful, which translates to the aforementioned criminal type not being a utility maximizer after all.
Take a bank teller, for example. While the money people deposit daily into their bank accounts in no way belongs to the bank teller, the teller has access to an available source. Over time, the teller discovers that by accompanying his or her deposit slip with the daily customer deposits, they are able to obtain hundreds, or maybe thousands of extra dollars in their own bank account.
After much research, the bank discovers that the teller is responsible for the discrepancies in so many people’s bank accounts. Upon the teller’s arrest, it is demanded that all monies embezzled be returned. To the bank’s horror, the teller is unable to make restitution because the money was poorly spent on material items such as clothing and electronics. In this instance, the crime was committed without the intention of creating financial security. This particular criminal was not interested in being a utility maximizer.
Back to the flip side of criminal utility maximization, insurance fraud is a good example to work with. In July of 2004, the owner of a grocery store in Everett, Washington lost everything to a fire that was being investigated as a case of arson, more specifically, a hate crime (SPI Staff Writer, p.1). It was later discovered that the owner of the store was the culprit, spray painting hate messages throughout the building’s exterior, then dousing it with gasoline before setting it on fire. This was far from a hate crime, the investigative team determined. The reason for setting his store ablaze was to obtain the insurance he had on the store in order to alleviate some financial stresses he was experiencing. The investigation team determined that this was a case of arson for profit.
On the legal side of multiplying your dollars, businesses, such as Enterprise Rent-A-Car, operate quite similarly to the style of our undiscovered criminal mentioned earlier within the text. Dubbed by “Business Week Magazine” as one of the best places to work (ERAC, p.1),
Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a prime example of how utilizing your resources will maximize your profits. The structure consists of the sales team, the managers, the regional managers and the executives. In combination with pushing upgrades with their rentals, the sales team also pushes damage waiver insurance. Good performance will earn bonus checks.
The managers then direct the sales team in order to receive higher commissions. The regional managers push the managers for increased pay scales, and the chain continues. The key to this process is using what you have to make more of what you want. Incentives help this system. As noted, the ERAC team is compensated for increasing the company’s profits. When you compare both criminal and legal operations side by side, the basics are the same.
Though we have only compared corporations and criminals, we are all utility maximizers in one way or another. We have gambling, which comes in forms of scratch-offs, lotteries, bingo games, bets and casinos. Seeking to multiply their wealth, one might use their entire pay check to maximize his dollar. On the safer side of multiplying what you’ve got, we have people who invest.
Conservative maximizers will place their money in low-interest savings accounts, while the more daring types will play the stock market. Making the most of what you have is, for most of us, human nature. On our own accord, we may choose to leave things as they are, or we may chose to make an attempt at becoming self-made millionaires. Maximizing legally or illegally, how we get there matters. After all, you can’t enjoy your maximized utilities from a jail cell.
1. Dolly Parton. “9 to 5”. Greatest Hits. RCA Country, 1980. www.dollyon-line.com/archives/lyrics/9to5.shtml.
2. Friday. Dir. F. Gary Gray. Ice Cube, Chris Tucker. 1995. DVD. New Line Cinema. 1997.
3. Enterprise Rent-A-Car. 2000/Rev. 2006. ERAC.com. January 2007. www.erac.com.
4. Wikipedia. 2001/Rev. 2004. Wikipedia.org. January 2007. www.wikipedia.org.