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Financial Lessons from Television Fiction: The Office

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Now that my new cable company is providing me with the works for less than $15 a month, including a digital video recorder, I find myself wasting more time watching television while doing other work.

One of the shows I can’t get enough of is The Office. While the characters are a bit exaggerated, there is a lot in their personalities that relates to real people in real businesses.

One of my co-worker’s favorite characters is Dwight Schrute. He’s a bit of an eccentric, but he’s the best salesman in the branch and he’s extremely loyal to his boss. He’s also completely ridiculous, and his philosophy on tipping is only one example.

Unlike the financial lessons from House, Dwight presents a multitude of examples of selfish and short-sighted financial decisions. On tipping:

Dwight drives a 1987 Pontiac Grand Am. He has restored the vehicle himself, a decision that might save him some money rather than going to a mechanic. On the other hand, his car reportedly gets only eight miles per gallon. His boss, Michael Scott, doesn’t appreciate the admiration that Dwight pours on. While Dwight thinks he’s doing the right thing, he’s a little out of touch with the interpersonal skills he needs in order to move forward at Dunder Mifflin.

michael-scott.jpgSpeaking of Michael Scott, he’s isn’t a shining example of a manager. In fact, he was one of the best salesmen at Dunder Mifflin, and that’s the basis on which he was made a regional manager. This actually translates well to real life: the best salesmen don’t always have the management skills. In The Office, Michael tries to lead by being a friend and using humor, but both types of attempts usually fall short.

He is also a bit selfish. For one holiday party, Michael organized a “Secret Santa” gift exchange with a spending limit of $20. He went above and beyond his own limit by purchasing a video iPod for his Secret recipient. However, when he was unsatisfied with the home-made gift from his Secret Santa, he decided to turn the gift exchange into a “White Elephant” (or “Yankee swap”), in which one person can “steal” the gift from another. Everyone obviously wanted the iPod, the only gift worth more than $20.

If there’s anything to learn from The Office, it’s not to be a selfish jerk about money.

Updated June 23, 2016 and originally published July 15, 2007.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

For my Internet, landline, and cable I think I’m paying around $160/month. Ugh.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

The best lesson is when Jim took the purse girl home with the Corolla. Lesson: When you’re cute and funny you can drive whatever you want.

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