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Posted: February 05, 2014

The 3 percent scam

You do the work, we'll split the profit

David Sneed

Dear American Consumer,

I have a way for us to make some good money together, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. It’s all legal, of course, but you’ve got to be a little bit selfish. Be willing to screw over your fellow man a tad.

Are you down with that? You’re still reading, so I’ll take that as a ‘yes.’

But before I get into the details, know this: You’ll do most of the work, and we’ll split the profit 50-50. By reading further, you agree to these terms.

Okay, good. Here’s the thing. We’re going to go to the barber shop. And the hardware store, and the dry cleaner, and the local pizza joint—and we’re going to swipe 3 percent of that guy’s sales. And by ‘we’, I mean ‘you.’

It may not sound like much, three percent, but consider how many stores are within 20 miles of you. Three percent of all those sales equals a pretty tidy sum…and you get half of it!

Now I know what you’re thinking: Why would I take from a guy who lives and works and hires in my own community—just to send half the cash to you?

Simple, Sally—because he won’t miss it. He’ll actually be happy to see you come through the door. And don’t worry: he’ll raise prices to cover the difference so you aren’t even taking from him; you’re taking a very small slice from all his other customers. And half goes to me because I’m bringing you in on my scheme.

Simple enough? Good. Let’s get down to the plan.

Right now you pay cash for things, right? You do it that way to keep money in your community and I applaud your thoughtfulness—but it’s holding you back. You need to think about yourself first. Well think about me too; I also have to feed my kids. Of course mine eat caviar and yours eat chicken strips, but still….

I digress, sorry. You want to know your role in this money-maker.

All you have to do is buy things with my cash-back credit card. For every dollar you spend with it (money you would spend anyway) you’ll get a cent-and-a-half “back.” Of course I get a cent-and-a-half too.

Now while you’re doing it, I’ll hire millions of other go-getters with this same deal. Each of you will get “cash back” and I’ll be getting billions of cents-and-a-half. Economies of scale and all.

And even better is that when businesses raise their prices…we’ll get 3 percent of inflation prices too.

What? You would rather get ‘miles?’ Okay, I suppose I can convert your pennies into ‘miles’ for you. Or I can do magical ‘points’ if you want, and then you can trade these ‘points’ for things in a catalogue from a store I own.

All I ask is that you please, please, stop using folding money and throw away your checkbook.

If we siphon a measly 3 percent from the billions of dollars spent every day, we (I) can become very rich and (you) can afford another value meal. Thank you, my friend.


A Nigerian Prince (for Capital One Bank, NA)

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss– The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company." As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at

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Readers Respond

Some years ago, a friend gave me invaluable advice: Never use a CC for anything you wear, eat, burn (like gas for your car), or watch (like entertainment). Took me a while to embrace this, but for the last 15 years or so I have followed this mantra and have stayed debt-free. Like some of you, I do have my CC with me when I travel, but use it sparingly. Cash is king. By Vicki on 2014 02 07
Sorry - quick follow-up. I still do and probably always will use a credit card for car rentals, hotels, etc. (as another reader mentioned was necessary), but carry cash for regular purchases, especially independent shops like my local dry cleaner, barber, stationery store, etc. By Josh on 2014 02 06
We had a cash back card like this - and although we didn't realize the economic impact at the time, once we were on the retailer's side of the transaction we learned how destructive this scheme is to people trying to succeed in business. Good on you for bringing some attention to this. I'm not anti bank or anti profit by any means, but this is predatory behavior, and they oughtta be ashamed of even having the idea. By Josh on 2014 02 06
I know you're right, WIYW. I guess what I was pointing out was that those purchases aren't enough for our Nigerian Prince. He wants EVERYTHING bought with credit, and we should be aware of why that is. It's because 1 cent from every dollar spent makes him a very rich man. So, kids, buy your big macs with a credit card and leave your cash in the bank where it belongs. I'll give you free money! By David on 2014 02 05
Although your heart is in the right place rooting for the little guys, credit cards are mandatory if you ever wish to leave Mayberry. Have you ever booked a flight, rented a car, or stayed in a hotel without one lately? Paying with a credit card can actually protect the vendor for damages, added expenses (mini bar?) and "insurance". Everyone has to pay to play! By What's in your wallet? on 2014 02 05
I only have two credit cards (one for business, one for personal). Your column makes me want to cut both of them up. Just as important, this really makes those store credit card come-ons ("You can save 20% today just by filling out this application for our credit card!!!!!") REALLY onerous. By Vicki on 2014 02 05
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