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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Why write it down? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Why write it down?
mr_porteiro_head
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I many movies and TV shows (the most recent being this week's Justified), during negotiations, the person writes down on a piece of paper the amount of money being offered.

Why do they do that? On one hand, if the number is never specified, then 20 years later it doesn't seem like a laughably small amount. On the other hand, I don't think that most writers are looking that far ahead when they do this.

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katharina
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Talking about money is tacky. Writing it down keeps the conversation civilized.

My theory, anyway.

Also, it allows someone to take their time reading it and possibly formulating a response. A spoken conversation gets awkward with long pauses like that.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by katharina:
Talking about money is tacky. Writing it down keeps the conversation civilized.

My theory, anyway.

Also, it allows someone to take their time reading it and possibly formulating a response. A spoken conversation gets awkward with long pauses like that.

I think katharina is on to something here.
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Hobbes
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I think at this point it's mostly to add suspense. Also, when you don't actually show the amount it's like when you don't show the villain in a horror movie. Your mind can make up more ridiculous things based on the character's reactions than is really reasonable.

Hobbes [Smile]

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Teshi
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Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be because talking about money is gauche. Writing a number down and sliding it across the table is more polite AND makes better, more dramatic, television.
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Belle
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Also when written down it is more reliable. I mean that you cannot come back and say "No, that's not what you offered! You told me $XXXX instead!"
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Jeorge
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
many movies and TV shows

...and does it happen that way in real life?
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mr_porteiro_head
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It never has for me.
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Jeorge
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The closest it comes for me is when I'm submitting a quote on a job...it's always on paper, but it's part of a detailed project specification with the price at the end.
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
talking about money is gauche
That would have never occurred to me.
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Papa Moose
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When we purchased our minivan many years ago, we did the written-down offer/counter-offer thing. That was probably because it was a form, though (included trade-in value for another car).

I haven't noticed that one as often as the one that's been bugging me recently, which I realize has probably been going on a long time but of which I didn't take much notice before. "You're gonna want to see this." Really? No, in most of these situations, I'd rather you told me, and then I could come see it for myself if I felt the need.

And, of course, "There's no time to explain." Usually there is, even if only briefly.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Teshi:
Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be because talking about money is gauche. Writing a number down and sliding it across the table is more polite AND makes better, more dramatic, television.

Why is it more polite?
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advice for robots
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Somehow a large sum seems more legit on paper. I like it better when buying a house, for example, to put the offer on paper and see the counteroffer on paper.

But I agree--discussing money verbally is gauche. To Americans at least, money is a sacred thing that needs to be danced around instead of addressed directly. I think saying the amount makes for awkward TV dialogue as well.

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
But I agree--discussing money verbally is gauche.
I think that's just silly.
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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
And, of course, "There's no time to explain." Usually there is, even if only briefly.
There's No Time to Explain!
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advice for robots
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The fancier the restaurant, for example, the more the subject of money is danced around. It's simply not polite for a server to tell you it's time to pay for your food. No, you take care of the bill, or "I'll be your cashier when you're ready." At a certain number of dollar signs the whole transaction is just carried out tacitly.

Do you ever tell people how much you make? I don't. I know in other countries that's less of a taboo subject.

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mr_porteiro_head
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I don't tell people how much I make. That's nobody's business.

But if I'm buying or selling something, I'll tell them how much I'll pay or how much I'm asking. That is their business.

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Belle
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I don't have a problem telling anyone what I make. Maybe because my salary is public notice ANYWAY. I could link you to it right now. My husband's salary is also public knowledge. Both of them. He has a full time job as a firefighter and a part-time job as a junior college instructor.

In my family and extended family it's definitely NOT taboo to talk about money or how much someone makes. I remember a recent gathering at my cousin's home where she openy discussed how much she paid for her house and how the recent raise her husband got affected their finances. For my very close-knit, very big extended family it's not considered rude to talk salaries. In fact, being close-mouthed about what you make would be considered rude, more likely. As if you had something to hide or something. *shrug*

But I recognize that it is different for other people.

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Tstorm
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quote:
I don't tell people how much I make. That's nobody's business.
But, I'm guessing you don't work at a place where your salary is published, public knowledge. My salary is published and publicly available to anyone who asks. Therefore, in most conversations, I don't have any problem telling people what it is.

It's interesting; I'd probably feel the way you do if I was privately employed. [Smile]

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mr_porteiro_head
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Where I generally wouldn't ask "How much do you make?", I very well might ask "How much did you pay for ______?"
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
I don't tell people how much I make. That's nobody's business.

But if I'm buying or selling something, I'll tell them how much I'll pay or how much I'm asking. That is their business.

If you were discussing with me your ability to survive off your salary, and making the point that it is insufficient, would it not be my business if I disagreed with you, and then asked what you made a year so as to make my point?
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advice for robots
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If I divulged how much I make it would cause considerable tension at work. Same as if I knew how much one of my colleagues made. I negotiated my salary when I started working here. Doubtless I started higher than others who do essentially the same work I do, based on my experience and previous pay. If they knew I made more, they'd be frustrated. If I knew they made more, I'd be somewhat frustrated in return. Frankly, I don't want to know. Then we can all go on pretending we're all equals, no? [Wink]

While buying an anniversary gift for my wife at the jewelry store, I went ahead and set up an account with the store. The guy had to know how much I made a month. It was kind of weird telling him--vocalizing the sum, for one, but mostly revealing it to another man. Also, having to compute it in my head, because I don't keep track of my monthly pay.

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mr_porteiro_head
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ETA: to BB

Absolutely not. It would still be none of your business.

I could share it if I wanted, but you have no need nor claim on that information.

Of course, asking how much somebody paid for _____ is also none of my business. It's not a mortal sin.

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Teshi
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My parents discuss money only quite seriously. If they want to talk about money with me, they do it either in writing (email) or formally, alone and away from other siblings or such distractions.

I don't think I've ever seen anyone write down a quote for a job or something, but I feel that poeple do it in tv shows and movies when large sums are being discussed primarily because of its dramatic value. We only learn how much it is from the actors' reactions.

It makes me think of the White Christmas scene wehre the Bing Crosby character is trying to set something up and the other character wants to know how much it's going to set them back. The response given is not heard-- only Bing's response: wow. The question is, "How much is wow?"

I think the way that is handled says a lot about the way amounts that aren't spoken are more effective than amounts that are.

People have already mentioned how in restaurants the bill is given to you rather than the cost spoken. Many restaurants actuall put the bill face down, especially if everyone is paying separately. The politeness factor is that you read the bill yourself, creating some distance between the server and the served (unlike a fast food restaurant, where the price is just told to you).

I think any request for money, even for goods or services, is considered (especially when large amounts are in play) to be something that requires a little distance and privacy. The act of writing money amounts on paper, even if both parties know how much is being discussed and it's just a scrap of paper, both creates distance and introduces some formality. I think it also reduces the number of people who know how much money is in play.

I read something about awkwardness somewhere. Someone was talking about awkwardness occurs when a relationship is unbalanced-- when a relationship becomes incorrect or knowledge about someone becomes too much (for example knowing sexual details about your grandmother).

I think this awkwardness also plays a part in the desire to write important details down. It's easier to share important things on paper-- it's easier to break up with someone on paper than in person.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by advice for robots:
But I agree--discussing money verbally is gauche. To Americans at least, money is a sacred thing that needs to be danced around instead of addressed directly.

A 'sacred thing that needs to be danced around.'

Yeah, thankfully not in the circles I run in. Not with my family nor my business. I don't think I've had a single client not want to discuss bids or other number figures verbally.

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Stone_Wolf_
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One point no one has brought up...the best reason to write a number down...

To avoid being overheard.

Either by eavesdropping or being bugged.

But yes, there is a taboo about talking money, one I have never understood really, which has gotten me into trouble from time to time.

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Mucus
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We've done the written down thing and using a calculator as well. It's actually faster when verbal communication is unreliable.
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advice for robots
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I would think a client would want the number in writing anyway, be it on an actual piece of paper or in an email or some other electronic document. Then the amount is recorded and not just heard, where memories are slippery. In the quotes I've submitted to clients, the amount is definitely written down surrounded with plenty of explanations as to why it is as it is. The whole thing is better digested as a whole.

I admit I'm much more comfortable discussing figures on paper. But I'm better at communicating with people in writing anyway.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
ETA: to BB

Absolutely not. It would still be none of your business.

I could share it if I wanted, but you have no need nor claim on that information.

Of course, asking how much somebody paid for _____ is also none of my business. It's not a mortal sin.

It's not really a need or a claim, it's a request so that the conversation can actually take on a basis in reality.
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mr_porteiro_head
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Your question was whether or not it was your business to know how much I make in that situation.

The answer is no. It is not. [Smile]

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MattP
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I don't mind sharing how much I make, but I don't do it indiscriminately. I wouldn't post it on the forum, but if a forum member that I was familiar with asked me privately I'd probably tell them.

If I were making an argument based on my income, I'd feel some obligation to present that value if challenged or find a way to obfuscate it without weakening my argument. ("I make less than Y and even Y wouldn't be enough...")

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
I don't mind sharing how much I make, but I don't do it indiscriminately. I wouldn't post it on the forum, but if a forum member that I was familiar with asked me privately I'd probably tell them.

If I were making an argument based on my income, I'd feel some obligation to present that value if challenged or find a way to obfuscate it without weakening my argument. ("I make less than Y and even Y wouldn't be enough...")

That's essentially how I feel about the matter, and what I was trying to get at. I just wasn't wording it very well.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
One point no one has brought up...the best reason to write a number down...

To avoid being overheard.

Either by eavesdropping or being bugged.

That makes more sense, contextually to some movies where you see this.
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mr_porteiro_head
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Not to the one that prompted this thread, this week's episode of Justified. Nobody had any reason to believe they were being monitored, and even if they did, nothing untoward was happening.
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Swampjedi
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quote:
Originally posted by advice for robots:
Somehow a large sum seems more legit on paper. I like it better when buying a house, for example, to put the offer on paper and see the counteroffer on paper.

Precisely. I recently had an offer on my house "verbally" (my selling agent was the one who had shown the house, so she was the only intermediary). I requested the offer in writing. She demurred. I fired her on the spot. I was likely to accept the offer, too, so that mistake cost her a few grand.
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Teshi
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quote:
One point no one has brought up...the best reason to write a number down...

To avoid being overheard.

Has been brought up, albeit buried in my rather confused post.

quote:
I think it also reduces the number of people who know how much money is in play.
Even if the room isn't bugged, it keeps the number of people who know the amount being exchanged to two.
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Kwea
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In a semi-public area it is sometimes done to keep an amount private, between the people actually discussing it.

Also, it is more formal. It takes it from a discussion to an actual concrete offer. It has psychological value.

In real estate it is used because people are visual by nature. Seeing the actual number is more impressive, and because it is more formal, and to some people more concrete, on paper it makes people treat the offer differently.

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Darth_Mauve
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If I offer to sell the car to Mr. Jones for $12,500 I don't want the Smith family, in the cubicle next door, to hear that price. I might be able to convince the Smith family that $15,000 is as cheap as I can go.

Similarly, Mr. Jones doesn't want the Smith family to hear that he is stupid enough to pay $12,500 for a car that they are going to negotiate down to $10,000.

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mr_porteiro_head
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I hate such weasel tactics that car dealers use. Tell me how much it costs, now, and if it's too much, I just won't buy it.

I also dislike the distance that they put me from the transaction of giving money for food in fancier restaurants.

At my core, I guess I'm plebe.

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Jake
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The whole money dance we do in this culture seems ridiculous to me too, Porter.
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Stone_Wolf_
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Money: It's that green stuff you don't have.
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advice for robots
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I wonder if cultures with more of a haggling tradition are less sensitive about monetary amounts than Americans are. If the amount asked for isn't a starting point for negotiations but a bar you can either cross or you can't, then money becomes more of the domain of the gentle rich (where politeness is measured by discretion) rather than an arena for the opportunity seeker.
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TomDavidson
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You know what really annoys me? When job listings don't give you any idea of the salary range, so you have no clue whether it's worth your while or not to apply.
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Darth_Mauve
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I think its the other way around.

If price is a fixed value, then we as a society want it to be listed openly.

If price is negotiable, then we as individuals want it hidden, because we will be judged on how well we negotiate. "You paid $5 for that chicken? Fool. I paid $2. What an idiot."

Look at places where the "written" price that started this conversation is ever used...

Car sales
House sales
Employment negotiations.
Employment bonuses.

All are haggling.

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advice for robots
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It could be the other way around as well, that's true. You don't reveal what you paid for your house because you're afraid someone else will think you got taken to the cleaners. You certainly don't tell your coworkers what you make, because the cuss that sits next to you might have negotiated 10 grand more than you did.

But we also have such a reverence for the assigned monetary value of something that we only speak about amounts in hushed tones or write it down so we don't have to vocalize it at all.

As Americans we enter the limited number of haggling situations we have with a good deal of trepidation. We're not used to it. There are books written about how to negotiate these things, because it's something we do so rarely. We have to talk ourselves out of feeling guilty for talking the price down and "getting away" with a steal.

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Jake
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
You know what really annoys me? When job listings don't give you any idea of the salary range, so you have no clue whether it's worth your while or not to apply.

Yeah, that's incredibly annoying. It also bothers me that it's considered gauche to discuss salary at a first interview.
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rivka
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I'm with both of you.
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MightyCow
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In several of the jobs I've had, it has been explicitly against company policy to discuss your salary with anyone else at the company, or who has business dealings with the company.
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AvidReader
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I actually get that one. One of my coworkers used to be a head teller before she moved to the back office. i went straight there from being a teller. So even though we both do the same work now, it's only fair for her to make more for it based on her seniority and experience. But if I heard the number, I'm betting I'd still feel a twinge of jealousy.

My Dad once had a position eliminated where the comapny moved him to another department. It wasn't as good a position as what he'd had, but they didn't cut his pay so he didn't mind too much. Again, it's fair, but involuntary emotional responses don't care about logic.

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Teshi
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quote:
Yeah, that's incredibly annoying. It also bothers me that it's considered gauche to discuss salary at a first interview.
All the jobs I have had have discussed salary, but I've only ever had one-interview jobs.
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