December 3, 2010

Downsized : Episode #4 - "We're Working On It"

I've been watching the program 'Downsized' on the WE television network.  The show follows the Bruce family and their seven kids and discusses their financial difficulties after they go bankrupt.

[SPOILER ALERT : there are spoilers below]

Yesterday I finally watched the fourth episode of the program on my DVR.   

Suspending Cable Service

They spent the first five minutes of the show mostly talking about how they cut cable off and kids didn't like it.  Actually Laura (the mother) suspended their cable account rather than cancel it officially.   Suspending the account will put it in 'limbo' so that you are paying nothing but get no TV service.   This way they can turn it back on later if they get the money but won't have to pay to reconnect the service.   I'm sure that the cable company prefers suspension over cancellation since it gives you an easy option to come back to them and give them more of your money.  I don't see a down side for the consumer except the possibility that someone will give in to weakness and un-suspend their account with a quick phone call.

Disciplining Kids Who You Borrow Money From

Bruce (dad) and the teenage boys worked on one construction job.  They were doing some landscaping work in someones back yard.    One of the boys, Dylan, failed to show up for work one day and wasn't answering his cell phone.  He was found sitting on the couch eating ice cream.   Bruce disciplined him by taking away the cell phone and grounding him from baseball for a month.    The son pays for the cell phone ($15 a month) himself so he wasn't happy with having it taken away.   Laura sympathized with that thought and also felt they were in a precarious situation to discipline the kids that way since they have borrowed money from their kids.    In my opinion, Bruce is right and kids don't get to keep their 'stuff' just because they paid for it.   Cell phones are not a 'right', they are a privileged.   I understand the kids perspective, he's a lazy kid who doesn't like discipline.  No surprise that he thinks his punishment is 'stupid'.  Flaunting rules and eating ice cream was pretty stupid too.    I also understand Laura's perspective that its hard to take 'stuff' away from the kids when you owe them cash.   She probably shouldn't borrow money from her kids in the first place.  But now that they are in that difficult situation they can't let it overrule all household rules and let the kids reign free simply because mom owes them money.

Housecleaning for Too Cheap

Laura had the idea to do house cleaning as a side job and she enlisted the teenage daughters to help her.   She knew a friend of a friend named Gina who needed some house cleaning and got a job to do it.   When she went to talk to Gina she found out what the work would involve and then Laura had to give a quote for the service.   Laura (in voiceover) said that she thought about charging $100 or $120 but then actually quoted $80 for the work.   She immediately realized from Gina's happy reaction that the $80 figure was too low and that shed undersold herself.   This is probably a common mistake made by people doing first time businesses.   Its hard to know what to charge for a service and people may be more inclined to charge less to try and make sure they get the job.    Laura realized the price was low so I assume she will charge more in the future for other customers.   But its a difficult precedent to charge Gina $80 one day and then try and raise the amount for subsequent work.    Gina did give Laura and the girls a $20 tip though so they ended up with $100. 

Laura's attitude

There was what seemed like some grumbling from Laura about the housecleaning.  She mentioned how she had spent eight years in college and how she used to have her own house cleaned.  She said that it could be demeaning.   I wouldn't really consider it whining and she wasn't making a big deal about how horrible it was.   But she did mention it so you know theres something of an attitude from her about it.   At one point early in the show she said something about how she wouldn't get the summer off like usual.  To me that seemed fairly obvious given the situation.   She mentioned it but it again it wasn't whiny, it may just have been statement of the obvious fact.   I'm not really sure if Laura is being whiny or not.   Maybe she's feeling a little sorry for herself.     But of course its a reality TV show so the producers may just be cut and edit everything out of context to maximize the drama.

Other News

Laura started doing some tutoring work with one child.   They worked on making a video to advertise Bruce's construction business.  That video was a lot of the episode but I personally didn't find it too interesting.   Instead of handing out flyer's to advertise the construction business the older teenage daughter had the idea to create a video to post on the internet for advertising.  Then they had creative differences on how to make the video and it seemed to end unfinished. 

I'm starting to lose interest in the show some at this point.    I'm not sure if I want to keep watching it.  The show isn't bad really, but I think I can find something more useful to do with my time.

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