Solar Powered Jets, Hittler and Houseboys

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Hawaiian Airlines credit card

As I’ve shared before I worked in the online brokerage industry for a number of years. While it allowed me some insight into the investing minds of many people – some of which I would be inspired or encouraged by, others simply left me shaking my head. Mind you, these weren’t always insanely stupid investing decisions – like the client who said “let it ride with another $10,000 in that penny stock after losing all of her previous $15,000 balance in the same penny stock, but individuals that simply made my day a little more amusing because of the conversations I had with them.

The Solar Powered Jets


You’d be amazed at how long many people will talk to you on just about any topic. Or the location they’d be in when having said conversation with you – like some clients who would call in from the “facilities” completely blitzed and wanting to talk about their investment portfolio.

While those were always interesting discussions, it was the calls from left field that made me wonder. Like the conversation I had with a lady who spouted off for a little over an hour about trying to use solar powered jets.

Now I know, there have been some strides made in this sector (at least so I read) – but she was saying that we needed to have jets that had solar panels on the roof of the plane. I am not talking being on small planes, but 767’s and 777’s.

When I asked her what would happen if the jets could not be powered on a particular day due to cloudy weather or why would we introduce this technology to passengers right now she exclaimed well if it doesn’t work then they can “just take the damn train.” After making the mistake of asking what she was doing for her retirement planning she went off about how the government was secretly taking money out of our retirement accounts.

In my world, that’s simply picking a losing investment – though logic seemed to be missing with this call.



Not all clients were crack pots, some I honestly felt sorry for. Too many times to count I spoke with investors who worked for years at a job, did nothing in terms of saving for retirement and counted on their nice pensions – only to have them not be there when they were ready to retire. There were also, sadly, many cases where I would be speaking with elderly clients who were bamboozled by their children and had nothing to their names.

One of the sad calls that took the cake though was my call with Hittler – yes Hittler with an extra T. I saw the name pop on the screen and I thought instantly “oh boy, this is going to be a doozy” and it was. As a matter of practice we were required to have clients pronounce their last name. Let’s just say that it was painfully obvious that Mr. Hittler was no fan of doing this.

That set the painful call on an even more sour note. After getting berated for doing my job Mr. Hittler went on a tirade about something going on in his portfolio. I don’t know if it was because he was a gruff man by nature, or if it was because of the ridicule he had been inundated with throughout his life because of his name (total assumption there) but he was not a pleasant man to speak with. That said, the man knew what he was doing with his investments and was sitting on a nice little sum in his account.



I was often amazed at what many clients would say on a knowingly recorded phone line. I had numerous clients tell me that they were purposely trying to keep assets from their soon to be ex-spouses because they did not want them to get their hands on the cash.

Then you had the clients who seriously were looking for ways to keep what they had a secret from the IRS. At first I thought these guys were just pulling my leg, but after looking through notes of previous interactions, the clients would get upset upon finding out the government taxes our trading activity in most non-IRA accounts. Apparently that was our fault and was on us to figure out a way for them to hide the money.

The ones that always made me wonder though were the few times I was asked if I could be a “house boy” for some older woman. There was one lady in particular that was a delight to talk to, though she did seem a bit tipsy, and was in need some of genuine investing help. After walking her through some things she could do and some different investment strategies she could consider she was extremely appreciative of the assistance I provided.

Truth be told, I enjoyed calls like those as I had the opportunity to help someone that needed some direction and my inner geek got to come out when talking about different strategies, but she apparently was turned on by my assistance. Taking a look at the portfolio she was certainly sitting pretty well and was on a course for a nice retirement.

Then, she lowered the boom. She continued the conversation and went on to ask if I’d ever consider working as a “house boy.” Trying not to laugh, I asked what she’d view as the responsibilities of a house boy and she went on to say that it was to care for her whims…to which I got to respond that I was flattered by the offer, but that I was happily married with a family. After a short, albeit awkward silence, I asked if there was anything else I could do and she went on her way.

I know there is no real point in today’s post, other than to say that it definitely takes all types of people to make this would go ‘round. That said, many of them know a thing or two about what they’re doing with their money and others had bigger fish to fry.

Have you ever had an unbelievable experience happen to you at work? If so, what did it make you wonder?


Photo courtesy of: Poorna Kedar

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.

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  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    Haha I don’t think I have anything that compares to your experiences, John, as I am pretty removed from external customers, but I definitely have had a number of unbelievable experiences at work. Mainly, people not understanding things or being confused about things when you’ve explained them 100+ times (or at least it seems it’s been that many times). It seems like some people don’t even try at work…amazes me how they got where they are.

    Also, is Lucifer an actual name people have? I had an advertiser contact me with the name Lucifer. It just seems like something people would avoid?? Am I missing something or does it sound as strange to you as it does to me??

    • John says:

      I think that internal customers can be just as bad, if not worse, than the external ones. You’d expect them to be willing to work and understand things, but sadly that is rarely the case.

      As for Lucifer…WOW! It sounds like someone’s parents didn’t love them. πŸ˜‰

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    Wow, John, you had some doozies to deal with, didn’t you? I think naked-drive-thru guy when I worked as a bank teller was about as weird as we got, although that was weird enough for me. πŸ™‚

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    “I know there is no real point in today’s post, other than to say that it definitely takes all types of people to make this would go β€˜round.”

    There really doesn’t have to be a point. It’s your blog! And, I think you would make a great houseboy!

  • MMD @ My Money Design says:

    I can’t believe you didn’t take up the last caller on being a house-boy. That seemed like it was a great opportunity and a good way to earn cash under the table πŸ™‚

  • Matt Becker says:

    Haha, your time at the brokerage was certainly eventful! I haven’t had the pleasure(?) of anything quite so strange at my job, though I am quite a hit with the older ladies, haha.

  • AverageJoe says:

    Take the damned train! She has a point, dude…..

    I think you’re in the wrong business, John. You could have been an escort. How many cougars wouldn’t love having a well informed family man as a house boy?

  • Budget and the Beach says:

    I think phone calls with random people probably bring out a bit of the crazy (or whatever they were hiding) because you probably won’t ever meet. If I was that one guy I’d so change my last name. Without question!

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    You could probably be retired by now if you’d taken that houseboy job. Have you seen the movie Bernie with Jack Black? You also could have ended up like that!

    I’ve had many interesting encounters with the public. It is amazing how many people are drunk before 10AM, or maybe they never sobered up from the night before. The best was the one who wanted me to fix the spiders. I asked when she saw spiders, thinking it was maybe floaters in her vision. She said the ones that were crawling all over my face. She knew they weren’t really there, but she still saw them and hoped i could get glasses that would fix that. No, sorry. they don’t make those, but she did get a psych referral.

    • John says:

      Lol, I know I probably could’ve. I’ve not seen that movie, we’ll have to check it out.

      Wow, that’s a bit on the odd side. πŸ˜‰ I wish I would’ve had the power to give out pysch referrals – more than a few needed it.

  • midlifefinance says:

    Heh heh, I’ll skip the solar plane for now…

  • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says:

    Wow, John! I think you found yourself a nice new side hustle opportunity – house boy! LOL! The things people will say and they aren’t even anonymous. πŸ™‚ Since I meet my clients face-to-face, they tend to be a bit more circumspect but then again, some just air all their dirty laundry for everyone to see.

    • John says:

      I know, if I was only thinking more entrepreneurially maybe I could’ve made it work. πŸ˜‰ Yes, it is crazy what people will say and how much dirty laundry they air.

  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup says:

    I used to have these types of conversations multiple times a day when I was a mortgage debt collector. Those were some of the best stories ever.

    • John says:

      I bet you did Grayson. I usually had a few of these each day. At least they made the otherwise monotonous day go by a little faster.

  • Jacob | iHeartBudgets says:

    I like the Solar Powered Jet lady. Seems like she knows what’s up.

    “Take the damn train”


  • Todd @ Fearless Dollar says:

    These conversations are hilarious. John you could create an entire blog around crazy conversations with clients and I’d read it all day!

  • Ankit | Getting Money Wise says:

    John, you sure had an interesting time working in the online brokerage industry. The solar powered jet conversation commanded some merit till she mentioned the ‘take the damn train’ πŸ™‚

    • John says:

      Yes I did Ankit, interesting is a very good way of putting it. Yes, her train comment sort of derailed (no pun intended) her argument. πŸ˜‰

  • Lance at Money Life and More says:

    There are some strange people in this world. I am glad they at least had a sane broker on the phone with them πŸ™‚

  • E.M. says:

    These were interesting stories John, thanks for sharing – especially about the proposal to be a house-boy. That is too funny. Having been a receptionist, with my duty being to filter all the calls that came through, I definitely had my fair share of interesting phone calls, including dealing with some threats. I once answered a call and the person was referencing one of our sales agents as some guy in the mafia. He wanted to report him to the police for sounding “sketchy.”

    • John says:

      I know, it was rather amusing. I would imagine you would’ve dealt with some very similar calls in being a receptionist. I had my share of threats as well and no police – but I was threatened to be sued numerous times.

  • Kevin @ Credit Bureau Insider says:

    Thanks for making my laugh! Truth is definitely stranger than fiction.

    My oddest work experience was an extended discussion with a support person at my company. She kept telling me why I had to fan the papers I was trying to fax her before putting them in my machine – because hers kept getting jammed.

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    What an entertaining post. I’ve had so many similar experiences working in service.

    When I worked as a singer on a cruise ship I had one guest who continually propositioned me to give a private “concert” in his estate room. He said he’d give me twice my annual salary. Yeah, it was awful. He was on the ship for three weeks and I couldn’t hide cause I had to work!

    • John says:

      Oh wow. Man that just sounds incredibly uncomfortable to say the least. Sorry you had to put up with that for three whole weeks.

  • Brian @ Luke1428 says:

    Great experiences John! As a school teacher for so many years you can imagine the incidences that I’ve come across with teens. Senior boys doing donuts in their jeep on the soccer field; listening devices being placed by some students above the ceiling tiles of the girls bathroom; a frozen Lean Cuisine lunch left in a locker for a week that stunk up the entire hallway…just to name a few.

  • KK @ Student Debt Survivor says:

    You had me with the title, I was like “oh boy I have to find out what’s going on here” lol. Some of the stuff that happens at work (I work in a supportive housing residence for low-income people and for people with mental illnesses) you wouldn’t even believe (If I hadn’t seen this sh*t I would never believe it). Some sad, some funny, some horrible.

  • ChanceCallan says:

    As an office Manager, I was preparing for a visit from one of the top out of town executives one day when the temp receptionist walked into the office with a huge straw hat with a red scarf draping down one side and a gigantic paper flower on the other. I was amazed until she took her seat at reception with her coffee and settled in for the day…with the hat still on! I don’t know about your opinion on dress code but the hat had to go. First I complimented her in the hat and then asked if she had forgotten to remove it in the locker room. Nope. The big wig was coming and she wanted to be ready. Politely asked her to remove the hat and she flatly declined – she thought it was entirely appropriate for the visit. She was gone before the visitors arrived.

    • John says:

      Wow, that sounds crazy! I understand if it were maybe for a costume day in the office, or something like that – but when a head honcho is coming in you need to be professional. I’d think the pay would be much more important, not to mention doing what was asked of me, then wearing something like that.

  • Chad | The Stock Market and I says:

    My two favorite calls as a discount broker was the little old lady who had such a wonderful grocery shopping experience with Ma and Pa General store. So much so that she wanted to invest in the business. She became unnerved when I mentioned that she could not because they were not a listed company. The second was the socially responsible person looking for socially responsible investments (this was before they had caught on as an investment group). My advice to them was to invest in Phillip Morris and right a check to their favorite charity from the dividend payout.

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