Get Rich With: Good Old-Fashioned Honesty

Just a few minutes ago, I was at the grocery store bagging up a few last-minute purchases for a dinner party we’re hosting tonight. I was enjoying a bit of small talk with the young lady running the register, when suddenly she transformed into a zombie and started rapidly muttering some nonsense that had nothing to do with our conversation:

Okay Mr. Mustache, you saved $3.12 today which is 15%, your fuel bonus is up to 120 points, and you are eligible to participate in a store survey at the URL provided on your receipt. Would you like any help out today sir?

I wasn’t overly surprised, because she had briefly run the same zombie script a minute earlier when the customer ahead of me was checking out. But I felt sympathy for her: here was an otherwise-intelligent college student being forced to recite a series of selling points that were dreamed up by a team of lame-brained marketing executives somewhere far off in Safeway headquarters. I knew her plight, because I was often scolded in my own minimum-wage jobs for not delivering the prescribed annoying marketing speeches when I thought the boss wasn’t watching.

The executives surely had their on-staff statistical analysts run some numbers, which indicated that customer conversions from grocery to fuel sales increased by 3.12% in the 90-day period after adding the fuel points reminder, and that Safeway discount card usage increased 5.55% due to the reminders about the fake savings. These executives surely congratulated themselves – “We’re making a killing just by forcing our young, powerless employees to recite our targeted messages a few hundred times each day!” Just as factory farms make a killing by pumping antibiotics, hormones, steroids, antidepressants, and even ibuprofen into their caged animals to increase growth speed while decreasing handling costs, and just as tobacco companies have made killings in the past by actively distorting evidence that their products are in fact killers.

Companies who run their business like that are indeed making a killing. In the short term, they’re generating killer profits. In the long run, they’re killing the goodwill of their customers, employees, and society as a whole. Because while they think they’ve thought of everything by running the numbers, they have actually forgotten to capitalize on the biggest advantage of all.

This advantage is often overlooked, because it is almost impossible to measure, but it’s still there. The name of this incredible long-term strategic tactic? Good Old-Fashioned Honesty.

The neat thing about honesty is that it can be adopted by large companies and individuals alike. In fact, it’s much easier to adopt it yourself, because in large groups the political jockeying often allows less honest characters to rise into power, where they are able to force a “shortcuts-only” methodology on the rest of the group.

To the untrained person, the benefits of honesty can be counter-intuitive and hard to grasp. On the surface, almost every business and personal decision can be optimized by being a little bit sneaky. The Safeway executives are certainly happy to increase gasoline sales.  The plumber can definitely make a few extra dollars by exaggerating the number of hours worked on his customers’ projects. The tourist-trap operators have a good cackle when they count their profits from $78.00-per-adult admission prices and selling people overpriced photographs of themselves on the roller coaster.

Even I have been encouraged to be sneaky, by some of the companies that provide referral fees for this blog. “If you just write an article promoting this new credit card or that product, you’ll surely see your commission numbers go through the roof! No, it doesn’t matter if you actually use the product yourself – just write the articles and you will see!”

But there’s another way to do it, which is to turn down all the short cuts and try honesty instead. The bizarre thing about honesty, is that it actually makes you much richer than sneakiness, even while making you feel better about your work!

When the plumber or the tourist trap operator or the online writer turns down opportunities to sell out, they sacrifice some short-term profits, but they get something much more valuable (although not measurable) in exchange. The good will of their customers. At first, this good will is invisible. That’s the difficult period that loses most potential honest people. Then it might turn up in the form of a compliment or a smile occasionally. Gradually, it will manifest itself as repeat business from customers and referrals, or job promotions, and companies competing to hire you for increasingly desirable positions.

But after many decades of relentless honesty, the result will be nothing short of a small cult following. You’ll have an army of friends and colleagues who would trust you with their life, or their life savings. You’ll have the respect of your family. Most importantly, you’ll have the respect of yourself, which will be there for you whenever the external world takes one of its inevitable dumps upon your head. When you eventually expire, the story of your honest life will be your most valued legacy, as one MMM reader shared in Eulogy to a Great Dad.

Being honest with yourself can boost your productivity as well. The dishonest person is always in self-denial, blaming the world for his or her problems. “I can’t save more money and become financially independent, or physically fit, or happy, because the world has inflicted me with this or that problem, or it has forced me to live in this area far from my job, or it just has a grudge on me.”

There’s no doubt that not everyone is born with or given the same advantages. But there’s also no doubt that many people, with fewer advantages than you, have overcome them to achieve much greater things than you. So to be honest with yourself, you need to say, “I currently SUCK, compared to these more badass people. Sure, I’ve done some great things in my life, and I’m proud of them. But I still suck, which means I have an opportunity for improvement”.

The day you stop believing that you currently suck compared to your true potential, is the day you start blaming the rest of the world for not reaching it.

An honest company develops a cult following among its customers. They come back far more often, spend more, and spread the word much wider, than they do when they sense they are being duped. These companies tend to last for several generations, remaining highly profitable throughout the years, and close down only when the owners or their descendants decide to retire.

Meanwhile, I now avoid Safeway whenever I can, and mock it on this blog regularly – just because they have always had the big-company dishonesty about them. Besides the constant sales pitches, I’ll never forget the time they tricked me into paying $3.99 for a single red pepper by doubling the price overnight.  That move may have brought Safeway an extra $2.00 of profit in the short term, but it will cost them many thousands over the long run.

Although his fame has brought him a few critics, one of the most prominent honest people I’ve ever studied is Warren Buffett. Calmly and through many decades, he has simply told the truth, and avoided sellouts and shortcuts while practicing his natural talent of investing in and managing companies. Despite constant understatements of his own abilities and cautious downplaying of the future performance of his company Berkshire Hathaway, he has consistently blown the doors off of his less honest competition, in both company performance and in respect.

The honesty has created such a snowball of credibility that his words alone can save or destroy companies. A series of relatively small investments he made during the 2008 financial crisis helped to stabilize the entire world economy, simply by lending his credibility to the financial system.

Imagine being so well respected, that even your symbolic gestures can save the whole fuckin’ world*. That is the utmost expression of the power of Compounded Honesty.

Although the examples above can be intimidating, getting started in riches through honesty is easy. You just have to stop caring at all about short term gain, and develop the ability to downplay, rather than exaggerate your own abilities.

“Although I’d enjoy building this $25,000 kitchen for you, Mrs. Smith, I’d still suggest you consider some other options as well. You might get just as much functionality by just adding an island to your existing kitchen. And be sure to get quotes from other contractors as well – I’ve bid this one a bit high, since some of the work is new to me and will take me longer. Other carpenters may be able to beat my price if they are more experienced in this area”.

“I’m sorry about the bug in the latest software release – that was totally my fault because I failed to catch it when designing my test cases. I’ve now got it fixed – and a big part of that came from the help that Rakesh provided me late on Thursday night.

Once you adopt the policy of honesty, it is hard to go back. The reduction of stress you will experiencing from dropping all pretense and salesmanship will provide an immediate boost in your effectiveness. And far from being expensive, it’s actually one of the the most profitable habits you can develop.


* My use of the F-bomb in this sentence represents my best effort at being honest as well. I was initially tempted to censor it, thinking, “Hmm.. Honesty is also a common religious value, and who knows, this article might get forwarded widely among churchgoers if the Internet decides it shall be so. But swearing would very much decrease its popularity among that group.  Should I use a different word? No. Fuck it. The sentence sounds better with the wonderful expletive so I must be true to the Mustachians.


  • Shiznik April 11, 2012, 6:25 am

    Don’t ever censor yourself Triple M, we all love the random expletive sprinkled in and the general face punching writing style of yours! Besides, you censoring yourself would keep you from being honest to your articles.
    Another great feel-good article from Triple M.

    • Jesse April 12, 2012, 1:18 pm

      Actually, the swearing is the one thing that makes me not want to read, and refer my friends to, this otherwise wonderful blog.

      • Mr. Money Mustache April 12, 2012, 4:41 pm

        See? Told ya you can’t please everyone – that’s part of being honest. But you’ll end up surrounded by the people you are really meant to be surrounded by, which is great. I have a hard time relating to non-swearers anyway, so why change my writing style for that vocal minority? :-)

        • Kruidig Meisje May 22, 2013, 2:09 am

          I sincerely wish that everybody who used the word fuck (or its derivatives), would do that action with the same amount of love and respect I read mr MMM has about mrs MMM. That would make me feel a whole lot better about the world!
          I think mr MMM just uses this word because it so nicely uses strong consonants (like s, f, t & ck), which only serve to underline his strong feeling about the specific topic.
          I can condone gut-honest swearing like mr MMM’s far better than most politicians or corporate speak which is suave and “speaks with a double tongue”, as the natives used to put it.

        • Dave June 28, 2014, 5:02 am

          God damn Mr. Money Mustache! You have got to be the best, most relevant, fucking writer at this phase of my life! No bullshit when I say that you save lives.

      • Adrian M July 8, 2015, 12:03 pm

        That’s dumb. You’ve probably long left the blog in 2015, and I say good riddance!

  • Mr. Frugal Toque April 11, 2012, 6:28 am

    So much truth.
    The fact is that you can never have complete control over what people think of you. Try as you might, you will always have haters. The more widely your blog and your writings are disseminated, the more haters you will attract.
    What you and I and everyone else can control is our respective honours, which is what we think of ourselves.
    If you know you’re a decent person and that your time and work have real value, then you will treat with others fairly and honestly. You will have something of which to be proud, even when you make mistakes.
    If you think that your work and your time isn’t valuable, you will take shortcuts. You will think it is necessary to have special sales, coupons and other marketing tricks. You will slowly, gently descend into a hell of dishonesty, believing that success is not hard work but trickery and nonsense.
    Eventually, as you say above, the decency of the honest man will win over subterfuge of the dishonest one. Eventually, the reputation will grow to match the integrity inside.

  • Olin April 11, 2012, 6:33 am

    A common form of dishonesty from companies that I find is that a lot of companies are promoting their heritage for example I see many examples of companies that sell on being “Swedish” which should stand for quality and good design. However the products they sell are produced (and at times also designed) in the lowest cost location currently known and the minute the salaries in this location increase a little bit they move to another new low cost location. The problem with this approach though it gives higher profits short term is that in a few years who will by “Swedish” or “American” for that matter if it is produced somewere else and does not have a sustained high quality?

    • Brian April 11, 2012, 7:52 am

      Along these lines, I also notice that if part of the pitch is a direct reference to honesty, the person is either a little sneaky or on their way there.

      All the people that I’ve seen up close that say “I am all about honesty”, cannot be believed. The ones that display it quietly, talk about its importance but not use it as a direct part of the pitch (“I’m honest…integrity is in our name”), are the real honest ones. The examples you use are right on. Give the person the real deal and it will pay dividends.

      • Bill October 12, 2015, 2:42 pm

        Integrity was one of Enron’s “core values”.

  • The Keichi One April 11, 2012, 6:38 am

    I hate it so much when a cashier or sales agent spews out some marketing line that you just know they have been made to memorize. It’s not only dishonest but very creepy. Like the company has them on life support and if they don’t say these words they’ll be cut from the collective to wither and die like something from the matrix. It’s crazy how far this kind of “say it or die” speech has permeated retail.

    Honesty is the best answer not only for financial, but I find personal situations as well.

    Keep fighting the good fight MMM!

    • Fargles September 14, 2015, 5:13 am

      I fight back by repeating some of the silly lines as if I really meant them. For example when the rep asks me “How can I help you with your Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Visa today?” or whatever, I reply “Well, you can help me with my Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Visa by telling me…”. It dissipates some of the irritation and communicates that I know how stupid it is that they are forced to repeat this phrase every single time they open their mouths! Sometimes it gives them a laugh. My Safeway cashiers don’t use silly lines; otherwise I might have to come up with an equally ridiculous script to spout in response… It’s like being in a bad play.

  • Jill April 11, 2012, 6:43 am

    Ooh, this hit a nerve. I work at a pharmacy chain and I have to try to upsell a different product every month, ask if they want their prescriptions automatically refilled, ask for their rewards card, see if they want text messaging and try to entice them to take the survey printed on the receipt. It’s awful, I’d want to punch myself in the face! I get admonished for not doing it all enough but I know personally, if my pharmacy did this to me every time I walked in, I’d find a new one. I think it alienates many people, especially the older customers, but I need to work, so, it is what it is!

  • gestalt162 April 11, 2012, 7:12 am

    Great article MMM.

    One of my best friends has consistently been a paragon of honesty. He constantly downplays his own abilities (especially in college), spoke the truth to our fraternity when no one else would, and is honest and truthful in everything he says, never seeking to mislead or defraud others. For this honesty he has had a remarkable academic career, finishing in the top 5 in our high school class and graduating with a high GPA as a chemical engineer, works at a great and high-paying job, has bought a house with a roommate at age 24, and most importantly, has had a blast and made a lot of friends along the way. I am excited to see where his honesty will further take him.

  • Poor Student April 11, 2012, 7:26 am

    I interviewed to sell Cutco knives once, because I wanted the money. But I went to the first training session and ran for the hills.

    They give you a script that has you saying how much you like the knives even though you have never used them. They have you calling very distant friends of yours to see if you can talk to them, or their parents even! It was a very creepy process.

    During my rehearsal I tried to bring a little honesty by saying I never used the knives other than the demonstration. For this bit of honesty I got admonished for not sticking to the script. The money could have been great but I was not comfortable with them.

    That was instance I realized how dishonest most companies are.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque April 11, 2012, 8:07 am

      I sold those knives for a summer. Our pitch wasn’t that dishonest, so I didn’t feel too bad. We went for the “student paying his way through school. I get paid just to show the stuff, so no pressure!” angle.
      But you shouldn’t feel too bad, either, because the money was shit.
      The only good that came out of it was that I became better at approaching people, levelling up my Advanced Interviewing Skills proficiency at the cost of a summer’s worth of potential earning. A long term investment, I suppose.

      • Tanner April 11, 2012, 9:58 am

        I’ll never buy cutco, talk about a stupid company. My buddy took a job there and my wife and I wanted to check out the knives and maybe buy some. His “mentor” told him an emphatic “NO” he couldn’t sell to the 20’s age demographic because they wouldn’t buy anything. That we wouldn’t be counted as customers for his training. Well his mentor is right now, after hearing that I am never buying something from cutco and he quit after that.

        • Amicable Skeptic April 12, 2012, 3:27 am

          My brother sold Cutco the summer after he graduated high school. They definitely had a bunch of BS sales pitches which they forced him to employ, and seemed very skeezy as a company. That being said my mom bought a few knives from him and now over a decade of abuse later they are still like new and by far the best knives she owns so while their pitch is high pressure their workmanship quality is actually honest. I would go and buy Cutco if it was sold online like regular knives, but I don’t want to deal with a sleazy high pressure sales pitch (cutting pennies and other worthless tricks) in my home so I probably won’t ever get any.

    • IAmNotABartender March 19, 2015, 1:17 pm

      I did a summer “business management” internship with College Works Painting. They not only overcharge and mislead customers, but they also lie to employees (and encourage lying on labor reports). There’s a group of people I won’t ever trust.
      Also, we had a vacuum salesman ($1000 vacuum! Come on!) come to the door saying that he was representing a new house cleaning company and got paid to clean a room for free as a demo. I wanted to help him out, since free for me and him getting paid is nice, but that was just a pitch to get inside to sell the vacuum. Terrible; even if it were a magic vacuum that cleaned the house for me, I still wouldn’t buy it after that kind of deceit.

  • Shawn April 11, 2012, 7:42 am

    I really enjoyed this post. You touch on many of the ideals that contribute to most peoples financial and or health problems. (mostly misguided salesmanship and commercialism)

    I have recently become fixated on the mixing of greed and food production and the negative effects it has on our world as a whole. Mix in Madison Ave advertising and some middle management bait and switch, and we end up with a sugar and flour filled diabetic, sleep apnea nightmare epidemic that will be tough to wake up from.

  • Chris April 11, 2012, 7:51 am

    Word. Pretense and salesmanship are laborious. On the other hand, I enjoy working with people who shoot straight. I cringe every time I walk into a store and I get that fake greeting or a poor soul tries to get me to “save money” by signing up for a credit card at the register.

    When you’re a slave to money, it truly corrupts you.

    When you’re the master of your money, freedom follows you.

  • smedleyb April 11, 2012, 7:51 am

    Is honesty compatible with ruthlessness? If not, cross Buffett off your list.

    • rjack April 11, 2012, 8:19 am

      How is Buffet ruthless?

      • smedleyb April 11, 2012, 9:15 am

        Because you don’t get to 40 billion picking stocks and drinking cherry cokes.

        You get there by learning how to swoop in on unsuspecting companies, gobble up their bonds, put management’s balls in a vice, and impose your will on the company.

        • rjack April 11, 2012, 10:05 am

          I’ve read all of Buffet’s shareholder letters and his Snowball biography.

          From everything I’ve read, Buffet doesn’t work that way. He mostly buys companies from owners/founders on the condition that the owner/founders stay in place and run the company. The owners/founders usually approach him first. I don’t know of any case where he has attempted a hostile takeover.

          He interferes very little with the management of the company and instead spends most of his time trying to figure out how to invest the cash that his companies generate.

          • GBR April 11, 2012, 11:19 am

            I’ve found the same. I don’t know where these random Buffet haters come from, but I really wish they wouldn’t bring this up on MMM for the sole purpose of criticizing the guy.

          • Esteban April 29, 2013, 4:31 pm

            What you say about how Buffet acquires and runs his companies is generally true, and his criteria for acquisition are widely known. You can read his speeches at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meetings which have been compiled in a book. After you read 5 or 10 speeches you don’t need to do much more because the themes are all generally the same. He is very consistent.

            MMM may be technically correct that Warren Buffet doesn’t lie. He is quite open and honest about the performance of Berkeshire Hathaway, as SEC regulations require of course. But the companies in his downstream operations are some of the biggest marketers and advertisers in the world. So, if all this contemporary big company marketing bullshit is a pack of “lies” designed to get you to part with your money for stuff you don’t need and which complicates your life and makes you unhealthy, well then Warren Buffet is in it up to his eyeballs. Maybe he doesn’t do the lying, but he sure knowingly allows it to go on at the companies he owns and happily vaults away the money it produces.

            And, MMM, don’t make Warren Buffet out to be some kind of saint who “saved the whole fucking world.” Come on, man. His moves were designed to improve the position of his company and nothing more. Read some of his shareholder meeting speeches and you will hear a constant refrain – be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful. That was what he was doing in the crisis of 2008, being greedy when others were fearful. Nothing more, nothing less. If that inspired others to regain confidence in the system, well that’s a fine positive externality for all of us, but don’t credit Saint Warren with that as his plan.

            Saint Warren is also not above manipulating the levers of power to which most others do not have access. Take the Keystone Pipeline. Now I know MMM hates fossil fuels but leave that aside for a minute. Warren Buffet has consistently lobbied to block this project with his considerable influence which derives mainly from his enormous wealth. Is that because he is such a green environmentally friendly vegan and hates fossil fuels too? Hardly. His company, Burlington Northern Railway, owned by Berkshire, makes millions transporting the oil and gas from the fracking fields of the USA, and the new pipeline would cut out a large share of Burlington Northern’s transportation profits because those producers would use the pipeline instead of Warren’s trains for at least part of the product transport. Approximately the same amount of fossil fuel product flowing, so environmentally neutral. The only difference is who gets paid to move it. Warren uses his influence with the US government to tip the scales and so far the US government has sided with the Buffet position and against those who want the pipeline. Is this complete honesty in the spirit of MMM’s fine article? You decide.

            Apart from this bit about Buffet, whom I admire for what he is, this is an excellent post and I couldn’t agree more with this aspect of MMM’s philosophy.

        • The Masked Investor April 11, 2012, 10:05 am

          I don’t think he ever claimed to do what he does out of the goodness of his heart. One of the reasons people respect him is because of how good he is at what he does.

          Oh, and Mr. Buffett also has a fiduciary duty to his investors. If he were simply Mr. Nice Guy all the time he would be forsaking his duty.

          • Mr. Money Mustache April 11, 2012, 11:36 am

            Yup, Rjack is right, and Smedley is over-grumpifying things here. You MUST read the Snowball and the shareholder letters to understand how the man thinks.

            He really did get his wealth by sipping cherry cokes and buying shares… and influencing people, and making shrewd decisions for decade after decade even when people said he was wrong.

            You have to understand, the man is unbelievably intelligent in his area of specialty. One of the smartest people ever born. Much like a mathematical prodigy sees things plainly that a regular math professor needs to five blackboards to prove, Buffett understands capital allocation better than most investors. And, he’s freakin’ ancient, meaning things have had time to compound.

            • smedleyb April 11, 2012, 3:05 pm

              MMM, I never claimed Buffett wasn’t a genius. He clearly is. But his primary investment vehicle — BRK — is an old t-shirt company turned investment shell which strong arms its way into “undervalued” corporations for the sole purpose of creating “efficiencies and synergies” to boost profit; that and he peddles insurance.

              I’m not a hater but an observer, and the old folksy charm of Mr. Buffett conceals a pretty ruthless and aggressive investment style. There’s a reason nobody rejects Mr. Buffett’s advances. What Warren wants, Warren gets. You don’t say no to the don of finance.

              As far as his stock picking track record goes, very little of BRK’s income is generated through investment returns, which have been very weak over the past couple decades due to some big holdings like USB and WFC getting crushed. Unless you call that deal by Goldman back at the peak of the financial collapse to pay the Oracle 10% return on an “option” to buy GS stock! But that’s not stockpicking, that’s parlaying a reputation into easy money, like Trump the Chump.

            • hickchick April 11, 2012, 10:37 pm

              I’m also not a Buffett fan. I just can’t have any respect for a man that would live with his girlfriend while still married because a divorce would be too expensive. I’m sure the dude is brilliant, but it sounds like money controls him, not the other way around.

              I say this as a very proud Nebraskan.

            • Chad April 12, 2012, 9:48 am

              I’m seeing a lot of claims with no evidence backing them up. Find me one hostile takeover by Berkshire that would suggest strong arm tactics?

              “Unless you call that deal by Goldman back at the peak of the financial collapse to pay the Oracle 10% return on an “option” to buy GS stock! But that’s not stockpicking, that’s parlaying a reputation into easy money…”

              So, using what you created, in this case it’s his good reputation that he has earned over years and the amount of money he manages, to get a great deal from a company that may be on the verge of not existing without the influx of your capital is bad and you say he didn’t earn it. How did a he not earn his reputation and his money? Please explain.

              Also, please name the sources you used to come to your conclusions.

              The fact that someone sleeps with someone else while still married, in and of itself is not a bad act or deed. It’s only bad if the person you are married to is unaware and being lied to.

            • nd April 12, 2012, 9:06 pm

              He’s famous for picking stocks because he is a terrific stock-picker. As he’s gotten more and more money, he’s had fewer and fewer stocks to choose from and his returns haven’t been as good. But I’m sure if you look at all his picks over his lifetime, he’s killed the the Dow. If you look when he was younger and owned a hedge fund, he beat the market by 20% a YEAR on average for 10 years in a row without ever trailing the market and without ever having a down year and by using very little leverage (for his smaller arbitrage ideas). After he bought Berkshire, he continued to get great returns, but like I said they’ve slowly come down as he got more and more money.

            • smedleyb April 12, 2012, 10:12 pm

              Chad, a couple quick points:

              a) last year, Buffett made a hostile bid for a company; but the bid was hostile because you don’t say no to the don of finance. (I know, I know, I’m being circular…)

              b) Goldman Sachs paid Buffett for Buffett to say he may buy some GS sometime in the future; he invested no capital.

              c) I stand by my claim Buffett is really just an insurance salesman.

              b) MMM was right when he said I was being overly grumpy.

              I respect Buffett. He’s a legend. I don’t profess to have as much finance knowledge as is contained in his pinky finger.

              That said, I think his time is over. When we emerge from our current economic malaise, Buffett will be old news as the prior leaders are displaced by new blood.

            • Chad April 13, 2012, 4:30 am


              a) Ok, what company did he do this dastardly deed to? Plus, a link to information on this “hostile” takeover would be nice. Until then the argument just doesn’t hold up.

              b) Buffett did invest capital. He purchased $5 billion worth of preferred stock that paid a 10% dividend and gave him warrants to buy GS shares at $115. Yes, the majority of people wouldn’t get this deal, but it’s not in anyway unethical.

              c) Ok? So, what?

              Of course, his time will be over after we emerge from this economic disaster…he will probably be dead.

    • Entity325 April 11, 2012, 8:48 pm

      Honesty is entirely compatible with ruthlessness. It’s ruthless to tell someone “I hate you and wish you were dead,” but at least it’s honest.

  • Critical Financial April 11, 2012, 7:57 am

    Honesty is always the best policy! And I agree, don’t censor yourself MMM, you sound much better uncensored, and your whole blog just seems more bad ass.

  • The Masked Investor April 11, 2012, 8:15 am

    There is a corollary to honesty which you hint at in your post: make sure you are generous in sharing any credit that comes your way. I think Abraham Lincoln said it best:

    “The path to success is broad enough that two may walk abreast.”

  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple April 11, 2012, 8:17 am

    Even in the corporate world this works. When I make a mistake, I own up to it.

    The flip side of that is to tell the truth without being a “tattle tale”. We had a couple of people who were just not up to par. I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt and extra time to learn the job and start to perform, and give them credit for what they DO do correctly. However, this comes back to bite me when they are kept on for too long. (Meaning: I end up doing their work and mine.)

    • Lea April 11, 2012, 1:21 pm

      So true. I remember the first time I made a big mistake at work – I had probably been at the company for about a year or so at the time. I thought someone else was handling something, and when a month later it hadn’t been done, I looked in my email history and realized that I misread an email and I was the one supposed to handle it. I was so petrified that my boss would be furious. One of my friends told me that I shouldn’t admit any fault, which was kind of tempting, but I decided to own up to it. The result? My boss wasn’t mad at all – we just ended up having a conversation about how I would remedy the situation and agreed that in the future I would handle all work of this type so there wouldn’t be any confusion. So in the end I got my boss’ trust and more responsibility at work.

  • Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple April 11, 2012, 8:56 am

    Honesty truly is the best policy.

    Admitting your mistakes takes a whole ‘nother level of honesty and I think it builds an even deeper level of trust than simply not lying. It takes a lot of courage to own up to what you have done and courage is not a quality you find in a lot of people.

  • Geek April 11, 2012, 8:57 am

    I worked at the movie theater as a teenager, and they watched us like hawks for “upsells” and “suggestive sells”. Since soda and popcorn cost practically nothing (and candy is marked up about 200% from drugstore prices), it’s the main way theaters make money.* Although I avoided robot mode when possible, definitely when conversing, and was known to “This is the part where I offer you a larger size for x cents more… :)”.

    On the occasions I go to a movie (usually for a morale event with coworkers, so I’m not paying), I tell the poor guy behind the counter “nice upsell, but no thanks” when he offers large soda for just 50 cents more. A little sympathy is nice for these poor roboticized kids.

    *A huge portion of ticket sales go to them movie production companies. Some more than others. Not that Mustachians pay for movies anyway when they have netflix/amazon prime/whatHaveYou.

  • fiveoh April 11, 2012, 9:09 am

    I HATE those grocery store cards. I stopped shopping at Randalls and Kroger because of those and only shop at HEB. They dont have those stupid things. I also detest Micheals and Hobby Lobby because they CONSTANTLY offer 20% off coupons(or any other store that does this)… which leads me to believe all their products are ALWAYS 20% overpriced.

    • Val April 11, 2012, 10:53 am

      I feel the same about Michael’s constant coupons! I almost never buy anything there because of that.

      The overprice is even higher than the discount: If a product’s real price is $80 but they mark it at $100 and then offer a 20% coupon, it means that the product is actually 25% overpriced! (20/80 = 0.25)

      • Matt G April 11, 2012, 12:59 pm

        MATH is POWER

      • Johonn May 3, 2012, 5:52 am

        But you still get back down to$ 80 after the 20% discount. The key is 20% of *what*?

  • Paul O. April 11, 2012, 9:29 am

    Thanks MMM. Keep that good stuff rolling!

  • Jan April 11, 2012, 9:49 am

    This post reminded me of a temp job long ago working commission at a large retail clothing store – we were “challenged” to open X number of new store credit cards each month. Ugh – couldn’t bring myself to do it.

    I think that embracing a mustachian lifestyle grows one’s integrity in many areas of life – I feel far more free now to give an honest opinion or reflection at work because I can “afford” to, now that my debt is completely gone. I have gained a lot by having less to lose, so to speak. And that honesty has spread to other areas of life – not only has it made me a better and happier employee, it’s made me a better sister, friend, spouse. I still suck at many things, always a work in progress, but I have noticed the positive impact in my life.

  • Ron April 11, 2012, 10:28 am

    Very nice to learn I’m not the only person suffering from self-induced Safeway corporate zombie bullshit. At mine, in Olympia, WA, employees also have to say “hi” to every customer they’re within reach of and the checkers have to say “Thank you Mr. Last Name” after finishing up with each person. They almost never pronounce my last name correctly so I’ve thought about getting a special Safeway-only credit card with a made-up easier to pronounce last name. “Thank you Mr. Shaft.” Then I pimp walk out with my almond milk and broccoli.

    • Dorothy April 11, 2012, 11:08 am

      I no longer have my physical card for Vons (our Safeway store round here) so I input my home phone instead, and they invariably thank me as “Thank you Miss (ex roommate’s name)!

      • cdub April 12, 2012, 12:20 pm

        I am still using my late wife’s safeway card phone number at their gas station. Discounts from beyond the grave…

  • Wink April 11, 2012, 10:45 am

    So how is the Safeway cashier dishonest? or even Safeway? Use the card and you pay x, dont use the card and pay y how is that dishonest

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 11, 2012, 11:21 am

      The cashier is definitely not dishonest in this story. I feel sympathy for her. The COMPANY is being dishonest, by forcing its employees to behave in a less-than-human way, and treating its customers in the same way.

      It’s not dishonest in terms of breaking any laws, just being dishonest in the sense that the people creating those rules know that the employees and the customers don’t enjoy the process, yet they do it anyway since the numbers show it makes them more money.

      • Lea April 11, 2012, 1:28 pm

        How is the gas savings part dishonest though?

        Yes, it bothers me that with a free card that anyone can get, you get access to “savings,” but I don’t see what’s dishonest about offering gas savings. I have a commute to get to work, so I need to drive, and therefore need to get gas. I also need to buy groceries. So I get a discount on the gas that I would have had to get anyway for buying groceries that I would have bought anyway. What’s the problem with this?

        • mario August 4, 2015, 4:10 pm

          the problem is that you have to jump through hoops to get those savings. In reality, the food prices are inflated to cover the gas savings you get. Wouldn’t it be better for society if we didn’t have to waste time with all those rewards cards? The answer is yes, and the Company knows that, but they still make you get the damn things to draw you into their brand. It’s a waste of resources for all parties involved, just so the people who came up with the idea can look good on paper, as coming up with a new successful marketing campaign. That’s how they are dishonest.

  • LadyMaier April 11, 2012, 10:48 am

    Preach it MMM!!

    Oh, and if you’ve never read the Bloggess, she’s got a fabulous page set up to respond to “some of the [sneaky] companies that provide referral fees for this blog”….it’s fantastic and I think you’d appreciate it.


    PS – I am not affiliated with the Bloggess in any way, I just simply appreciate her wacky sense of humor, and I thought you might enjoy her writing as well. She’s not a financial blogger, and far from Mustachian, but she is very honest and swears about as often as you do…more, actually.

  • joe @ Retire By 40 April 11, 2012, 10:57 am

    I think a big company can’t do this. It’s all about short term profit for the executives who are running the company. The higher they can spin the stock, the more bonus they will get. Customers, share holders, workers, ethic, are all secondary to personal gain or else they wouldn’t be an executive in the first place.
    That’s why I am completely jaded about working for a corporation. I think a private company has a lot better chance to be honest and aim for long term good will.
    I am trying to be more honest and only promote products that I use, but it’s tough to turn down short term monetary gains. It will take time, but I’m getting more honest everyday.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 11, 2012, 11:29 am

      Great point, Joe, and I’ve often wondered the same thing about private companies. While I embrace the idea of capitalism and free markets, I see some deeply anti-mustachian ideas in the idea of taking a company public:

      – the main motivation is often for the current owners to get a quick wealth boost since they are large equity holders at the moment of IPO

      – the company loses autonomy as soon as it is public, becoming dogged by more regulations and the desire of shareholders for short-term results

      – the only benefit is a source of cheap capital. But a highly profitable private company doesn’t care about capital – it manufactures its own by making a profit each year and not overstretching

      – when you own a company, and it’s making a living for you, you already have Enough. The only reason to expand it further is if you want even more than enough, or you want power (or in rare cases, if your mission is to make the world a better place and you are making a socially beneficial product). So a disproportionate number of people who seek IPOs are likely to be the “I want more than enough” type.

      Even so, there are benefits to very large companies as well (including the availability of shares for investors like us), so I’m not wishing away the entire capital market system. I’m just saying, you’ll never see me taking one of my own companies public!

      • joe @ Retire By 40 April 11, 2012, 4:53 pm

        I’m just saying, you’ll never see me taking one of my own companies public! – Ahh, I see. You might change your tune if someone offer you enough money? Everyone has their price right? :)
        Corporations are a good things in general. They give us many great products, but the benefit are not distributed equally. In a private company, the worker and customers have more voice. It’s good that we have both private and public companies.

        • Mr. Money Mustache April 11, 2012, 9:51 pm

          I’m not sure if I have a price any more, now that I’ve realized that I don’t have much use for WAY more money: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/04/02/what-would-you-do-with-way-more-money/

          I’d still accept and try to responsibly use the way more money if I stumbled across it, but now it must come without compromising on quality of life.. and having to run a publicly-traded company, compared to a fully autonomous private company that I loved and had built from scratch, would be a huge drop in life satisfaction for me.

          On the other hand, if I was bored with the company, and really wanted it taken off my hands, the IPO could be a good way to go as long as I was allowed to retire immediately afterwards :-)

          • Olin April 12, 2012, 2:28 am

            The listed company also many times has a very spread owner base and as such is run by the administrators (also called executives) that have been choosen to run the company. They often have incentive programs that give them large pay outs for short term success, they are less interested in the long term as they are not the main owners. This is not capitalism at its best and is many times negative both for the owners of the company that are in it for the long term and the customers that get influenced to buy more ‘crap’ to boost short term profit.

        • newbie April 23, 2012, 11:37 am

          I’m not sure workers or customers have more say in a private company. I’ve worked for both, and unless the owners of the private company take a long term view (i.e. honesty), I see very little to no difference at all.

      • Mike July 13, 2015, 9:53 am

        Have you read Sam Waltons book? In it he states that his wife never forgave him for taking Wal-Mart public.

  • 3rd Generation April 11, 2012, 11:05 am

    Another typical Warren Buffet fanboi (look it up).

    So sad, So pathetic. You should hear yourself.

    I’ll be leaving (permanently) now. How’s that for honesty?

    Keep up your Pied-Piper Buffet routine.

    Maybe he’ll invite you over for lunch (you buy) or not ?

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 11, 2012, 11:18 am

      Huh? I don’t get it. Does this guy dislike honesty?

      I looked up this “3rd generation” guy in my comments moderation system and it looks like the only other time he has commented is to recommend a specific brothel in the Reno, Nevada area (on my Lake Tahoe post).

      What do you think, readers? Do we delete this comment, because it adds nothing and risks causing a flare-up, or do we keep it for entertainment purposes?

      • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple April 11, 2012, 11:27 am

        keep it!

        • Bakari April 11, 2012, 11:36 am

          keep it +1

          • Mr. Money Mustache April 11, 2012, 11:55 am

            OK, kept it is.

            By the way, I just looked up “Warren Buffett Fanboi” just for fun, and the fourth result in Google is our friend, UK financial blogger, and fellow reader the Monevator (http://monevator.com/2011/03/03/buffett-family/). Nice work!

            Monevator admits to being a fanboy of the world’s occasionally-richest person as well, in case anyone wants to visit his site and leave nasty comments there :-)

      • Plastic Kiwi November 15, 2015, 7:16 pm

        Ha! I remember that comment I was all ‘is this guy in the right blog?!’ It was confusing!

        I’m glad you kept it, for the entertainment value.

        I’m reading through from the beginning of time and you, MMM, are highly entertaining! The smackdown replies are my favourites! (I really laughed out loud at the mental image of Mrs MM reading Debbie’s comment the other day).

        Like you, I’m not American, and therefore don’t need anything sugarcoated – I love the way you tell it like it is and find it funny when people complain you are insensitive!

  • Bakari April 11, 2012, 11:35 am

    The last regular employer type job I had was for a relatively small (dozen or two locations) mid-level liquor store (Beverages, & More!)
    Once a month we would go around with newly printed price tags and update the prices on maybe 100 items or so.

    I noticed a pattern: One month a particular bottle of wine would be marked up by $2. Then, two months later, the exact same bottle would be marked back down to it’s original price – except now it was called a “sale”!!

    So, once I got fired – for posting a letter in the employee break room calling out the manager for being an ass and listing the contact info of the relevant union – or as they called it “insubordination” http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2012/02/number-3-in-which-manager-is-replaced.html – I began working for myself.

    And I have said the “I could do it, but I’m not that experienced at that particular type of job, so it might be cheaper to go with someone else” to clients, as well as charging on a sliding scale, and using biofuel (even though it is more expensive), and just generally putting my real life values into practice in my business.
    Exactly as MMM suggests, I have a very loyal customer base, so that after the first 2 years I had enough repeats and referrals to not need any advertising.
    I regularly have clients hand me the key to their house and leave – or even give me my own copy – and say “lock up when you leave” and no one ever questions the total charge I tell them.

  • jlcollinsnh April 11, 2012, 11:46 am

    now this is a great line:

    “But there’s also no doubt that many people, with fewer advantages than you, have overcome them to achieve much greater things”

    I think I’ll have to steal it.

  • Jackson April 11, 2012, 1:00 pm

    I also hate when cashiers do their marketing spiel; I don’t want to hear it. So when I was a cashier years ago, I used the “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” motto and would never say the marketing crap to customers, despite being told to by managers.

  • Tanner April 11, 2012, 2:09 pm

    The worst was when I worked for a bank disguised as a credit union. I got a job as a personal banker hoping to help people with their finances. But that was strictly forbidden. My only job was to upsale lines of credits on checking accounts sell people auto loans and then expensive warranties and GAP insurance on top of that. My manager hated me because my numbers were so low while customers loved me for not shoveling the sales pitch. But I ended up never getting raises while the “sleazy” bankers made out with large commissions. This was in college and quit soon after thinking there was no one giving good financial advice until I came across this blog 7 years later.

  • GayleRN April 11, 2012, 3:35 pm

    Wage review many years ago.
    Manager: You have to start asking the customers to sign up for our credit cards or I can’t give you this 5 cents an hour raise.
    Me: So you are telling me that if I give up 2 dollars a week in pay I don’t have to annoy the customers and try to sell them something I don’t believe in anyway. Thank you.
    I not only got the raise but a desk job shortly after that.

  • Amy April 11, 2012, 5:41 pm

    Dear Mr. Mustache (and Mrs. Mustache!)
    I just wanted to say thanks for your blog – I read the entire thing today and I am so inspired – my husband and I don’t own a car but occasionally use ZipCar. I had a doctor’s appointment today and instead used our free city shuttle, saving $24 in the process. I told my husband, “I don’t want to be a Hasslehoff” and we had a good laugh :)
    So thanks!
    p.s. would love more Mrs. MM articles on not spending money on manicures, beauty products, books, etc!

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 11, 2012, 9:46 pm

      Yeah Amy!! You are an amazingly dedicated reader! .. if you like, you may capitalize on that honor by creating a Mustache-themed logo for yourself at gravatar.com as some of the other entire-blog-readers around here have done.

  • mike crosby April 11, 2012, 5:42 pm

    Case in point: Bought a recliner 8 years ago, but a rod is broken. My wife wanted to throw it away and buy another. I refused, to her consternation.

    The company “Lane” required a model # for the chair. I told them I had no model #, but sent them a photo of the chair.

    Five minutes later (this happened today), I received their email telling me my model #, the part most likely wrong with the chair, and that I would receive the part free along with free shipping within a week.

    Think they’ve established some good will?

  • Joy April 11, 2012, 5:59 pm

    I bought a vitamix over 3 years ago.
    It comes with a 7 year warranty.
    A few months back I started having trouble.
    Every time I used it, the gears would get hot and, start smoking.

    I called the company and, explained the trouble.
    I was asked if I had put the container in the dishwasher.
    I answered, yes. I was told that it clearly states in the instructions
    not to put the container in the dishwasher.

    I had read the instructions in the beginning of ownership. However,
    as time passed I had forgotten that bit of information.

    Vitamix replaced my container free of charge. :) I was surprised.
    The replacement was in my hands in 3 business days.

    My vitamix works perfectly now. Nice :)

  • Ryan April 11, 2012, 6:57 pm

    Sam Harris recently wrote long essay/ very short book basically arguing that you should always tell the truth except in extreme circumstances, e.g. when the Nazis come you can lie, but “do I look fat?” gets an honest answer. http://www.amazon.com/Lying-Kindle-Single-ebook/dp/B005N0KL5G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334190490&sr=8-1

  • Yorkville April 11, 2012, 7:08 pm

    How would this approach work in a job interview? If I had been 100 percent honest about what I know and don’t know, I don’t think I would have gotten any job offers.

    To be honest, I would love nothing more than being honest all time. However, if everyone inflates his capabilities during interview, the honest one is likely to be left behind.

    I can see this approach working slighly better once you get the job. Now there is a longer time frame for you to demonstrate your true capabilities. But even then, there is a good chance you end up behind someone less capable as they can jump into a higher position by being less honest during an interview.

    • Brian April 11, 2012, 8:16 pm

      I only have one example so I don’t know if this is completely true. I interviewed for a job I didn’t care about at first and did the straight shooter to see what would happen. They asked me if I knew anything about what was a third of their business I would sell and I said I had zero experience but that I was excited to learn and I felt I could learn it quickly with some help. They loved it and I got the job.

      I think since everyone is bsing in an interview, you can stick out of the crowd for not. Just follow up with something positive if you’re interested in learning.

    • GBR April 11, 2012, 8:37 pm

      I still recommend complete honesty. Actually, a few months ago, I beat out some better qualified candidates for a very well paying position simply because I was honest about what I did and did not know and the company valued that. Honesty is always the best policy. If a company wants to hire a bragger or liar instead of me then I consider it their loss.

      • Mr. Money Mustache April 11, 2012, 9:43 pm

        I’m with both of these guys – I’ve never exaggerated even slightly in a job interview, and yet I’ve always gotten every job. I think the honesty was an advantage rather than a weakness.

        • Arbor April 12, 2012, 6:05 am

          I have to agree as well. When I interviewed for the job I’m currently working, they asked me my GPA from college. When I told them, they asked why it wasn’t higher. I immediately said, “This probably isn’t something I should say in an interview but I want to be honest with you”. I then explained how I rarely did homework and just performed really well on tests. They liked it and I felt good for having not formed a relationship based on a lie. Needless to say, landed the job. People just don’t like to hear bull…

          • ErikZ April 16, 2012, 10:05 am

            My favorite honesty interview moment:
            “Won’t you be bored here?”
            “Of course I will. It’s a job, you deal with it.”

  • Anthony April 11, 2012, 9:04 pm

    “The executives surely had their on-staff statistical analysts run some numbers, which indicated that customer conversions from grocery to fuel sales increased by 3.12% in the 90-day period after adding the fuel points reminder, and that Safeway discount card usage increased 5.55% due to the reminders about the fake savings. ”

    Although it’s true that it was cooked up by marketing teams meet statistics (Google Dunnhumby to see the granddaddy of this area), the benefit of the loyalty card program to the company is different than you conjecture. In fact, adding the fuel points reminder and therefore raising redemption rates actually costs the company money. The average retail profit on gasoline is usually less than 8 cents per gallon, after taking out overhead expenses. By increasing awareness and therefore redemption rates of the (usually) 10 cents per gallon (or more) reward, the gasoline itself becomes a loss-leader. In exchange for absorbing that loss, they gain customer loyalty (don’t wanna lose the chance at that subsidized fuel!), as well as regional data to better target marketing materials to the demographic of the store, instead of generalizing. All in all, it works out as a win-win; the customer gets subsidized fuel and marketing materials for items pertinent to them, the store gains customer loyalty and don’t waste money marketing and discounting items that don’t perform at a specific store.

    As well, the savings isn’t as fake as it seems. Stores price the goods at MSRP, then with the discount card they charge a price below MSRP. So the fake savings is really the difference the store is absorbing below MSRP. Now, the fact that the MSRP is usually set arbitrarily higher than necessary and only convenience stores actually sell at it does make the savings fairly artificial.

  • Chris O April 11, 2012, 10:05 pm

    Right on MMM. I’m a pharmacist. We once topped the list of most trusted professionals. Now, our roles (at least in retail pharmacy) have been reduced to zombies in white coats who push meds. The whole “big pharmacy chain” business plan revolves around increasing efficiency and pushing prescription refills. This means only hiring the minimum amount of part-time help (to avoid paying benefits) at minimum wage and refilling medications automatically that people don’t need or want anymore. Honest interaction and care doesn’t provide a direct profit so it is penalized. I absolutely hate working in these conditions. This motivates me to reach my mustachian potential and retire as early as possible. However, it has also given me conflicting opinions on investing. Investing is obviously the way to financial freedom… I just have guilt knowing that my investments are helping these dishonest, society-destroying companies.

  • DaftShadow April 12, 2012, 4:03 am

    There was a recent Forbes article talking about Buffett’s early life. Here’s my favorite quote:

    “The thing is, when I got out of college, I had $9,800, but by the end of 1955, I was up to $127,000. I thought, I’ll go back to Omaha, take some college classes, and read a lot—I was going to retire! I figured we could live on $12,000 a year, and off my $127,000 asset base, I could easily make that. I told my wife, “Compound interest guarantees I’m going to get rich.”” ~Warren Buffett

    Now, obviously Warren’s a little better at this investing stuff than any of us here (9% withdrawal rate and STILL expecting his capital to grow?!? My goodness!)

    Yet, instead of sitting around retired, when people started coming to him saying “please invest for me” he finally just said “OK… we do it my way.” And people started crossing the country to do just that. Sounds pretty mustachian to me.

    ~ DaftShadow

  • steveinfl April 12, 2012, 4:03 am

    ” after many decades of relentless honesty…
    You’ll have an army of friends and colleagues who
    would trust you with their life…You’ll have the respect of your family. Most
    importantly, you’ll have the respect of yourself, which will be there for you whenever the external world takes one of its inevitable dumps upon your

    Beautifully said. I work in a big corporation where there is a lot of politics and much less straightforward honesty. I’ve been surprisingly successful following a few principles suggested by a mentor to me about 8 years ago when I was 36 years old after the world took a few too many dumps on my head:

    1. Tell the truth. (this includes not embellishing or exaggerating)
    2. Ask every day “how can I be of service today?”
    3. When angry or afraid or agitated, pause and ask myself ” how can I be helpful here”? Then take a few deep breathes and take the action to be helpful.

    I didn’t expect that following these principles would make me a better salesman, a better manager, or get me promoted 4 times. I needed to become a better man.

    I also found there are many good people who act like this “naturally” and have
    been this way since they were children! Some are my coworkers, some are
    neighbors, some are friends and many are strangers. By acting this way I
    tend to cross paths with more of them everyday.

    The peace of mind and self respect has been reward enough. The rest are just fringe benefits.

  • Brian April 12, 2012, 9:58 am

    Wow, fantastic article. I have been reading your blog and have been inspired by your story. I reached your blog through theat MSN story, and have been reading ever since.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the honesty, where companies today only care about increasing shareholder value with short term decisions. Yes, by laying people, it makes the stock rise temporarily, but hurts the company in the long term. A company only wants to pay you the smallest salary you are willing to work for.

    Anyway, I would like to comment on your comment, MMM “When the plumber or the tourist trap operator or the online writer turns down opportunities to sell out, they sacrifice some short-term profits, but they get something much more valuable (although not measurable) in exchange.”

    I have personal experience in this area – I used to work for a company that used to pride itself on customer service, where “customer service is state of the art” Circuit City stores. in the 80’s and 90’s, this was a fantastic place to shop and work for, where everyone cared. They had a toll free number called “Answer City” that you could call for free and get help for FREE about any product you bought at Circuit City. This provided valuable, but immeasurable service to customers, and after many years of providing this service, some lame brain executive said – well this place is actually losing money, since we have to hire all these people to help customers for free… so they closed that department down to make a short term profit.

    The problem is that companies do not undertand that honesty and treating customers with respect and helping them will win customers over for life. One bad experience, and they will tell everyone they know how awful you are. Same goes for you working at your company – even though you will see others get ahead by taking shortcuts, the network you will build will help you ten fold, and will keep you on a great working track for life. Every job I get now is from a former co-worker who recommends me for a postion that never even gets advertised. Honesty is truly the best policy.

    Nice, MMM

  • Tanya April 12, 2012, 10:27 am

    For me, your content, like’s today’s post, stands admirably on it its own without the “f-bombs.” I interpret expletives as a release of negative energy, and as such try to refrain from using them myself (though I absolutely admit that sometimes I fail, usually when I’ve bashed a finger or some other painful body part).

    It is your blog, and therefore you get to choose 100% what content to include, but that’s my 2 cents worth on the “f-bomb” topic.

  • lurker April 12, 2012, 12:19 pm

    Buffett beat us all to Mustacheville!!!!! Now ain’t that a delicious punch in the face!

  • George April 13, 2012, 9:45 pm

    Interesting point you bring up MMM, I definitely know what you are talking about.

    The worst examples of Corp BS, like your Safeway example, are with large companies that dominate a market in near monopoly status.

    Take comcast and verizon as an example. Both offer horrible customer service, yet people still line up in droves to get their services. Its mostly because these are capital intensive businesses with few competitors (how many companies have the money to run wires to every home to compete?)

    I have found that its actually the investors or leveraged buyout deals that make these dishonest creations of companies where honesty has become forgotten. Before comcast, there were thousands of smaller cable companies, however, comcast through outside investor funding started buying up every single small company and merged them all together as one large behemoth beast of a creation.

    Like safeway and comcast, often the offender is large, publicly owned, and run as a corporation. Ussually the company has grown way out of size and is too large, or has bad management.

    Many of these places started out as honest places but somehow lost their way over the years. You can minimize these nasty companies in some areas of the market especially if there is a lot of competition. For example, for grocery stores, you should be able to find alternative, or even a farmers market to do some shopping. The worst is when you shopping for high speed internet service and the only games in town are comcast or verizon.

    One great thing about the Internet is that everyday people can now more effectively communicate to spread the word about a good company verse a bad one. Honesty with customer is always a big factor in these reviews. Online user reviews, if available, help a lot for when shopping for services. Good job on dropping safeway!

    • Bakari April 14, 2012, 8:12 am

      “The worst is when you shopping for high speed internet service and the only games in town are comcast or verizon.”
      I always thought they were the only options too, but it turns out for many places (including mine) they aren’t!

      See this thread in the forum: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-isps-voip-cell/

      For what is probably the most complete list of alternatives ever compiled – and get better customer service while saving a couple hundred bucks a month on your cell phone, home phone, internet and entertinment

  • Nurse Frugal April 15, 2012, 10:59 am

    First I have to say, I feel a little out of place since my picture is one of the few without a mustache ;( Secondly, I am so glad that MMM brought up how people tend to be dishonest with themselves. There’s nothing worse then hearing someone you know throw themselves a pity party, blaming the world for their problems and why they can’t get a job, pay off debt, save more money, etc. It’s called personal accountability! If people stopped blaming everyone else, a lot of their problems would be fixed. I see it everyday. So many of my coworkers are up to their ears in debt, and there is always an excuse: “I have to pay for my kids college, pay for daycare, I HAVE to go on vacation, I HAVE to buy that brand new Mercedes…” the ridiculousness goes on and on and on! Get it together people, what happened to the days when credit cards didn’t even exist? I feel like nowadays people wouldn’t know how to survive without them.

  • Carl Avery April 17, 2014, 5:47 pm

    Dear Mr. MM—

    Do you know how many times the word “fuck” or variations thereof appear in the average Stephen King novel?

    Answer: a lot. But has that prevented Stephen King from being one of the most popular novelists in history, if not THE most popular? Hardly! In fact, one of the things that makes King’s novels popular, I believe, is that he portrays people talking the way people really talk– i.e., if a carpenter whacks his thumb with a hammer in a Stephen King novel, he doesn’t say “Oh, drat!” or “Oh, criminey!”, he says what most real carpenters would say: “Oh, fuck!!”

    So, don’t worry about your “language.” If someone is such a prude that the appearance of a fine old Anglo-Saxon word would offend him so much that he doesn’t read what you have to say, then he doesn’t deserve to receive the wisdom you have to offer. He’s like the fool who would throw away a perfectly good apple because it has a speck of dirt on it.

  • Lorrie July 22, 2014, 1:47 am

    I have worked at Safeway for 7 years. I started as a Courtesy Clerk and am now trained in 3 different departments. I understand what you mean by this “Zombie” that Safeway has created. I too am told to say the same thing everyday. My boss even told me to write a number 5 on the receipt to elicit higher scores on the survey for our store. I did not do this because I felt it was dishonest. There are many things I have been asked to do by management over the years that I felt were dishonest. As a courtesy Clerk I was asked to promote our reduced priced potatoes (dripping with mold). I instead told each customer that we have a money back guarantee and to double check their potatoes. I was also told by a manager that the elderly and blind are “monopolizing” my time when they come in the store asking for extra assistance. I instead helped the customer with what they needed. I notice when I sincerely take the time to help customers and fix their problems that the customers keep coming back. I don’t feel that Safeway will fully understand how to treat customers right until they understand how to treat their employees right. We just had a service meeting that involved 3 different stores about this very subject. So far Safeway seems to understand that Zombie approach is actually going to reduce the amount of sales. It will reduce the amount of sales because the Zombie approach is very insincere. In the meeting a district manager was talking about how Safeway is about to change their whole approach. Over all I thought that they are heading in the right direction but so far have failed to implement this new direction for the Company. We’ll see how it goes…

    I always joke with the customers about how I wish that we had “bike repair rewards” or “shoe rewards” Since I don’t own a car =)

  • Dan August 24, 2014, 7:24 am

    Hello, if any of you fellow mustacians are looking to flex your honesty muscle check out a book written by brad Blanton called “radical honesty”. I read this book and took many good and interesting point away with me to use in my own life, to fully put in practice what is written has been challenging because you must be radically honest with everything and everyone! (Still wouldn’t recommend telling the wife she looks frumpy in that dress,but luckily she doesn’t, psssst she’s sitting beside me)
    Mr.blanton claims that being radically honest relieves the burden of stress and can help create and maintain intimate relationships and be a gateway for real creativity.

    Mmm love the articles!


  • Teltic January 21, 2015, 4:04 pm

    I know this sounds weird, but being ethical is the hardest thing for me.. Being honest… I just recently sold an iphone 5 screen to someone on craigslist, turns out the screen isn’t functioning properly… I could give him a refund and talk to the seller on ebay and get a replacement one… But I also have a desire to just never text him back, to give me less work.

    I’m unethical I know. I have problems.

  • ann February 26, 2015, 12:40 pm

    Had to laugh at the whole F-bomb thing. My family going back to the turn of the century is southern and we don’t swear (not because of religious reasons), because it is not polite in a public setting. That is also why the military officers do not swear in a public setting. I guess that is just one “religeous” person’s thoughts. But I loved your article and pretty sure Jesus would have thought it was right on too!

  • Seth T March 24, 2015, 2:49 pm

    The honesty policy didn’t work too well for JC Penny. They tried to get rid of promotional pricing completely and only sell things at the price the company considered the true retail value. Customers fled, profits plunged and the company returned to its old methods.

    You could make a case that they didn’t hold out long enough, or maybe they had saddled themselves with those silly people who like being lied too, but either way it didn’t work for them.

  • bfraz April 29, 2015, 12:19 pm

    Re Safeway:

    The Safeway checker, a man in his late fifty’s, commented to me that life was to short to comparison shop at other stores. Being much younger and being retired, I knew then why he was still at work while I am retired.

    Sherm’s Thunderbird Market, a mom and pop operation in SW Oregon is an honest store, with an almost cult like following for exactly the reasons you describe. They do exist.


  • Rick July 14, 2015, 7:25 am

    One big issue I have with putting Warren Buffet on a pedestal is his significant investments in multi-level marketing companies like Pampered Chef. These companies are built on misleading a lot of people into thinking that they will be able to make money by becoming sellers whereas only a few percent ever actually do.


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