Recession skill #1: Not paying

November 3, 2008, 3:38 PM UTC

The other day I was having lunch with a couple of guys I know. The check came, as it will. Only two of us reached for our wallets. “I’m an elderly gentleman on a pension,” said the third of our number. The other two of us put down our cards and split it down the middle, things being what they are in the corporate realm.

Afterwards, I thought about the situation a little. How did Klein, who is fully as flush as just about anybody out there, who has a home in an affluent and bucolic ski town out west, who has a nice pension he will live off for the rest of his days quite comfortably, get away with what he did — sticking me and Brewster with the check?

I’ll tell you how: he played the Not Paying card. He didn’t go to the restroom while others sorted things out. He didn’t promise to pay next time. He didn’t slap his pockets and say, “Whoa, left my wallet in my other suit!” or any lame thing like that. He just implemented Recession Skill #1: He declined to pay, citing indigence. It’s interesting. If he’d been less staunch about it, Brewster and I would have yanked his chain so hard he’d have been kissing dirt for a year. But he was clear. He was determined. He was not paying.

As this economic situation cascades down on us, we’re all going to need to develop certain new capabilities to manage our way through the crisis while still doing business, still enjoying life a little bit, still traveling for our work in some comfort. Klein has discovered one important weapon in the battle. There are others that will take shape over time, I am sure.

All ideas are welcome. We’re clearly on the frontier of a relatively new area of study here, one that will be of interest for quite some time to come.

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