The Aggravation Tax and Transacting in Trust Currency

Cheat the taxman and avoid paying the aggravation tax.

If I were to provide readers with the blueprint on how to cheat the tax man, something like that could potentially land me in jail, but I am going to do it anyway because nobody deserves to pay the aggravation tax.  Fortunately, revenue agencies are not the “tax man” I am referring to, and the “aggravation tax” has nothing to do with their tax laws.  Rather, it is a “tax” that people with poor interpersonal skills pay when they interact with other people, and I want to help as many people as possible to get out of paying this pointless “tax”.

The aggravation tax is a term used to describe the cost that people who are aggravating pay, and it can be a financial cost but also a non-financial cost.  Simply put, there is a cost to pay for every interaction or negotiation that we take part in, and we want to steer outcomes to be as favourable for ourselves as possible.  What this involves is getting the other person to like you, or at least not dislike you.  From there, it requires you to have an understanding for them as a person as well as their situation.  The situation is what determines the costs associated with aggravating that person and it impacts everything from getting a better price during a financial transaction to being able to recover lost property.

Trust currency is equivalent to both hard currency and digital currency.

As someone who was lucky enough to get into digital currency over a decade ago and before it was even considered a “currency”, now exchangeable for hard currency, I would say that trust currency is just as valuable and important as the other two forms of currency, possibly even more.  Although every person is born into different financial circumstances, entirely out of anyone’s control, each person is born with the same amount trust currency, and it is our actions that dictate whether we go on to earn more of this currency or lose it altogether.

Society measures trust currency under different pseudonyms, one being a person’s credit score, which should be viewed as a trust score because financial lenders are looking at your history of living up to credit obligations.  In other words, if I lend you this money today, can I trust that you will pay me back under the terms of our agreement?  As important as trust is in business transactions, it is just as important in life interactions.  If people can trust you, rely on you and know that you will not embarrass them, then the outcomes that arise from those interpersonal interactions are far more likely to end in your favor.

Being aggravating can cost you at auction.

As an example, last summer there was a fundraiser auction that was organized by Ottawa’s outgoing mayor at City Hall, and it was a picture that he tweeted of a Team Canada baseball jersey that would be auctioned off that got my attention.  Baseball was the first sport that my first childhood friends taught me how to play when my family moved to Canada.  I loved playing baseball so much that by 9 years old I was playing overhand baseball games with kids many years older than me, and I was hitting dingers over 200 feet.  Simply put, I had to have that jersey.

At the auction, I was amped with excitement and far too much caffeine, to the point that my iWatch detected a heartrate of over 160 beats per second.  I met some of the other auction attendees, and we began talking items.  By the end of the first round, I would end up winning all the baseball items, and I was positioning to win a Team Canada Curling zip up sweater until a woman politely mentioned that there was someone who was really hoping to win that item for a specific reason.  Although I may be hypercompetitive, after hearing about why that person wanted that item, I stood aside and was happy to see them win that item.  Respect is a form of trust currency, and them being kind enough to pay me some saw it returned.

However, it was while I was paying for my items that someone seemed to be requesting that I charge them the aggravation tax.  As I was taking out the cash to pay for my items from a bank envelope stuffed in my man purse, a white-haired guy who was also in line and waiting to pay blurted out, “You probably have more of that in a shoebox.  Or do you keep it under your mattress?” It seemed this comment was meant to diss me, and the foodbank staffers quickly said something in an attempt to deescalate the situation, even before I could respond, but I always have impeccable control over my emotions, and he was never going to get an emotional reaction out of me.

Despite that this situation would have been perfect for me to apply the infamous “Johnson Treatment” and drop a clever one-liner, I already have somewhat of a MacGruber-like reputation at City Hall, which I was not trying to grow on that day, and I wanted to keep an actual low-profile, unlike MacGruber.  So, I went out and made sure to win even more items in the second and third round of auction, especially the items that the brash gentleman would walk in close proximity to.

Instead of trying to embarrass me, had the man approached me differently, perhaps we could have made a deal for him to get one of those jerseys and perhaps everyone else could have left with more items than they did.

Trust currency helped me buyback my snapback.

As another example, over the span of 48 hours, I had two of my baseball hats stolen at the budget-friendly gym, snatched from the top of the lockers.  The first hat that was stolen was a black Toronto Raptors hat, while the second hat was a grey Champion hat, which also happens to be my lucky hat and the one I always wear to auctions.

My relationship with the gym staff came in handy because they trusted me enough to show me the CCTV footage and we were able to identify the people who took my hats.  To get my hats back, I knew I had to have the perfect approach, and I did not want to give off the impression that I wanted to embarrass anyone involved or potentially further aggravate them.  I also knew that if given the chance, 99% of people will do what they can to right a wrong.

My Toronto Raptors hat was snatched on a Friday at 2:07AM by a kid in his mid-to-late teens, and what followed after he snatched it played out like something you might see on a Netflix show.  After snatching my hat off the top of the locker and into his coat, this kid’s friend picked up a sign from the front entrance that read, “Don’t Steal!”, and they were laughingly mocking him until he walked out the front entrance.  They then put the sign back on the front desk before leaving the gym.

When I approached the guy who had picked up the sign and made fun of his friend, I started off by introducing myself and politely bringing up the situation and telling him about what I saw on camera.  I mentioned how I did not think it was a big deal, that I hoped to get my hat back, and that I was not looking to embarrass anyone or make anything more out of the situation.

Two days later, the kid who took my hat ended up returning it, and all three of the boys came to me and apologized, but the kid who took my hat stated that he was embarrassed about the stupid decision that he made and that he did not want me to think of him as a petty thief.  I was quite impressed with him because he actually had the cojones to come back to the gym and hand deliver the hat, but also because of how responded to his actions.  Although he could have stopped coming to this gym and started going to another location, he had the courage to address his mistake head on.

I thanked him for returning my hat and I poked fun at the situation, assuring them that I have made far dumber decisions.  However, I also expressed my hope to not allow this situation to make things awkward because we all make short-sighted decisions sometimes and because we all go to the same gym.  And just like that, I made three new friends, in addition to getting my hat back.

The second hat, my Champion hat, was snatched on a Sunday at 3:31PM by elderly man whose appearance resembled that of Kris Kringle.  Even though Santa has never stolen, even Santa is not above accidently picking up something that does not belong to him as he looks around to see if he can find cookies and milk, and the CCTV footage showed him surveying my hat from different angles before snatching it off the top of the locker and stuffing it into his coat.

While I have no discomfort in interacting with anyone, I did not feel comfortable approaching this old man because I wanted to avoid the possibility of a “Karen-esque” situation.  So, I asked the female workers who already knew him well to ask him for my hat back by saying that my great-grandmother had bought it for me and that I was very sad since losing it, but I also told them that I would throw them a Starbucks party if they managed to recover the hat in one piece.  In the end, I got my Champion hat, and throwing that party cost me more than what I had paid for my it, but that was my lucky hat, so it was well worth it.

Everyone is better than their worst moment.

How everything played out should serve as proof of the inherent ability that every person possesses when it comes to righting wrongs and that everyone is better than their worst moment.  The only reason I was able to get my hats back was because I was able transact in trust currency while also avoiding the aggravation tax.  Furthermore, there is nothing about me and the way that I handled that situation that other people can not replicate or even do better.  So, as long as someone is willing to try to make things right, when that situation involves me, then I will always give them the chance to do so.  I hope others try to do so as well.