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Squaring the Economic Circle
Humorist Art Buchwald Examines the Multiplier.
WASHINGTON— The recession hit so fast that nobody knows exactly how it happened. One day we were the land of milk and honey and the next day we were the land of sour cream and food stamps.
This is one explanation.
Hofberger, the Chevy salesman in Tomcat,Va., a suburb of Washington, called up Littleton, of Littleton Menswear & Haberdashery, and said, “Good news, the new [Chevrolets] have just come in and I’ve put one aside for you and your wife.”
Littleton said, “I can’t, Hofberger, my wife and I are getting a divorce.”
“I’m sorry,” Littleton said, “but I can’t afford a new car this year. After I settle with my wife, I’ll be lucky to buy a bicycle.”
Hofberger hung up. His phone rang a few minutes later.
“This is Bedcheck the painter,” the voice on the other end said. “When do you want us to start painting your house?”
“I changed my mind,” said Hofberger, “I’m not going to paint the house.”
“But I ordered the paint,” Bedcheck said. “Why did you change your mind?”
“Because Littleton is getting a divorce and he can’t afford a new car.”
That evening when Bedcheck came home his wife said, “The new color television set arrived from Gladstone’s TV Shop.”
“Take it back,” Bedcheck told his wife.
“Why?” she demanded.
“Because Hofberger isn’t going to have his house painted now that the Littletons are getting a divorce.”
The next day Mrs. Bedcheck dragged the TV set in its carton back to Gladstone. “We don’t want it.”
Gladstone’s face dropped. He immediately called his travel agent, Sandstorm. “You know that trip you had scheduled for me to the Virgin Islands?”
“Right, the tickets are all written up.”
“Cancel it. I can’t go. Bedcheck just sent back the color TV set because Hofberger didn’t sell a car to Littleton because they’re going to get a divorce and she wants all his money.”
Sandstorm tore up the airline tickets and went over to see his banker, Gripsholm. “I can’t pay back the loan this month because Gladstone isn’t going to the Virgin Islands.”
Gripsholm was furious. When Rudemaker came in to borrow money for a new kitchen he needed for his restaurant, Gripsholm turned him down cold. “How can I loan you money when Sandstorm hasn’t repaid the money he borrowed?”
Rudemaker called up the contractor, Eagleton, and said he couldn’t put in a new kitchen. Eagleton laid off eight men.
Meanwhile, General Motors announced it was giving a rebate on its new models. Hofberger called up Littleton immediately. “Good news,” he said, “even if you are getting a divorce, you can afford a new car.”
“I’m not getting a divorce,” Littleton said. “It was all a misunderstanding and we’ve made up.”
“That’s great,” Hofberger said. “Now you can buy the [Chevy].”
“No way,” said Littleton. “My business has been so lousy I don’t know why I keep the doors open.”
“I didn’t realize that,” Hofberger said.
“Do you realize I haven’t seen Bedcheck, Gladstone, Sandstorm, Gripsholm, Rudemaker or Eagleton for more than a month? How can I stay in business if they don’t patronize my store?”
Source: Art Buchwald, “Squaring the Economic Circle,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, Feb. 22, 1975.
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