By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"We get those types in here sometimes," the tattooed owner told me, as she affixed little yellow letters to my shirt. "They pull up in a Mercedes, walk in and ask for a job application." She laughed. "You drive a Mercedes, but you want a job application?"
It is a fine example of the sad state of $30,000 millionaires' financial affairs. Bottle service at any local ultra lounge starts in the hundreds of dollars for one night of partying. Add that to a car payment—figure at least $300 to lease a low-end BMW—and $650 in rent on the smallest available Uptown or Knox-Henderson studio apartment. Pile on designer clothes, and the expenses go up. You might be able to get away with one or two pairs of $150 jeans, but even shirts from Banana Republic or Diesel, if the $30k-er is slumming it, will run $50 each. And he'll need several.
That's thousands of dollars a month in clothes, booze and flash. The catch: Anyone who can be seen partying five, six or seven nights a week, as Homo sapiens douchebagus is known to do, can't possibly maintain the kind of 9-to-5 job necessary to cover those expenses. How do they do it?
"We're not talking three or four credit cards," debt counselor Bettye Banks tells me, when I go to her to find out how these exorbitant lifestyles are funded. "We're talking five or six credit cards." Banks is the senior vice president for education at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas, and if anyone can confirm the existence of debt-plagued Homo sapiens douchebagus, it's her.
"They are the reason I have a job," Banks says, a sad smile on her face. Dallas-Fort Worth consistently ranks among the lowest nationally when it comes to credit scores. Experian, a company that tracks credit, estimates DFW's average score to be 667 as of October. The national average is 692. Texas' average, 666, is the lowest in the country. We are maxed out.
Banks calls credit cards "C-4," as in plastic explosive.
"It's that bling-bling attitude" that makes credit cards so tempting and dangerous, she says. "Everything's got to be shiny. That's the millionaire outlook, only on a $30,000-per-year income."
Being a $30,000 millionaire is a high-stress job in itself. Debt collectors call every day, but the pressure to act like you're shitting cash doesn't go away. No wonder these guys can't stop bragging about their cars and their clothes—it's all they have to go on, as I learned when I took my "I $30k Millionaires" shirt out for a spin.
Time: 11:30 p.m. Friday
Location: Wish Ultra Lounge, off Knox-Henderson
Research team members: Two faithful co-workers, self
Target: Blond guy in a faux-hawk and black sport coat
Wish skews younger than other ultra lounges, toward the college set, but this guy is older than most in the crowd.
"Hello, love," he whispers in my ear. I've been left alone with my tank top by my co-workers in hope that I might seem more approachable. He's half-drunk, and his British accent is as faux as his faux-hawk.
"Hi, there," I say, turning to face him. This is Jeremy, and he is behind the white half-wall that separates the plebes from the swanksters with bottle service and booths.
"I've been watching you all night," he says, and I refrain from asking what he thought of the Lean Cuisine I'd eaten for dinner. "You're really hot."
"Thanks." I do a little shoulder-wiggle, wondering how it's possible that this guy isn't (1) staring at my boobs and (2) commenting on the shirt.
"Do you come here often, love?"
"No, it's my first time."
Silence. I'm the one being hit on here, right? This should be where he swoops in with yet another brilliant, clever follow-up line like, "Are your feet tired?"
I force the conversation to plod on. "What brings you here?"
"Birthday party for my friend," he explains. More silence. I ask him what he does for a living.
"Mortgage banking." Riveted as I am by our conversation so far, I'm anxious to get to what I need to know: Is he or isn't he a $30,000 millionaire? I reveal that I'm a journalist, writing about nightlife in Dallas. Is he familiar with the $30k-ers?
"You're really cute."
I thank him for his time and head to the bar.
Results: Not nearly enough game for a $30,000 millionaire. Homo sapiens douchebagus has a nearly unparalleled ability in the field of bullshit.
By the end of the night, I find myself relaxing on an outside futon with a musician and a doctor—Wes and Joe, respectively. Recent Dallas transplants from Memphis and Kansas City who happen to know the club owner, they're miffed by the douchebaggery that surrounds them.
"There's nothing like this in Memphis," Wes says. Joe, the quiet one, nods in agreement. Musicians and doctors make terrible $30,000 millionaires because of the inherently cool nature of their jobs and, for doctors, the fact that saving lives limits the amount of time they have to chug bottles of Grey Goose with Justin Timberlake remixes playing in the background. I enlist their help in drawing out a key behavior of Homo sapiens douchebagus: peacocking.