Loose lips sink eel squealers

It would have been hard to resist.

A man comes in to the emergency room in Auckland, New Zealand, last year with an eel stuck inside his buttocks. He is treated successfully and released, according to a Huffington Post report.

But forget the eew factor about this eel story.

If you treated the man, how could you resist a show-and-tell with co-workers? And if you told your colleagues, it would only be a matter of time before someone got the idiotic idea to post the story online.

Fast forward a year: More than 30 employees at Auckland City Hospital were reprimanded, and some lost their jobs, for taking a peek at the radiology images of the man and his eel.

“The x-ray of the eel stuck in the man was the topic of hospital gossip after it was emailed out, in what was a major breach of the patient’s privacy,” the New Zealand Web site Stuff.co.nz reported.

The patient didn’t complain, but the hospital moved to make the point that it’s vital that staff respect people’s privacy.

Okay, let’s jump back to the United States. In another story about an employee behaving badly, a North Dakota news anchor was canned this week after uttering a few expletives at the beginning of the station’s live evening newscast, according to the Associated Press.

A.J. Clemente’s first day in the weekend anchor chair at NBC affiliate KFYR in Bismarck was his last. Clemente said he was reading over his script when he uttered the words and didn’t realize his microphone was on.

After the broadcast, Clemente tweeted: “That couldn’t have gone any worse!” He apologized, also by tweeting: “Tough day,Thanks for the support,We all make mistakes. Im truly sorry for mine. I’ll try my hardest to come back better and learn from this.”

The station has gotten some backlash for firing Clemente, the Huffington Post says.

The fired anchor is getting his 15 minutes of fame, appearing on a number of TV shows, including “Today” and “Late Show with David Letterman.” After the latter, he tweeted: “Paparazzi Frenzy at Letterman..... So thankful for everyone’s support. Biggest mistake to biggest blessing. Just walked past @selenagomez

People who think the young anchor’s punishment was too harsh are showing support on Twitter under #keepaj. Here are a few tweets:

“I would love someone to dig up dirt on those who decided to fire AJ and see what mistakes they’ve made in life,” wrote @LYNNHERNANDEZ.

@1duffer tweeted, “#keepaj Everyone deserves a second chance…be a good Boss hire AJ!”

The Color of Money Question of the Week

So, there’s the eel story and Clemente’s firing, giving us two questions of the week. 1. Should the hospital have fired employees for not being able to resist telling the world about a definitely titillating story? 2. Should the station have fired Clemente? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state. Put “Loose Lips Sink Eel Squealers” in the subject line.

Live Chat Today

Do you need a mid-week financial pick-me-upper?

If so, join my live online discussion at noon ET.

I offer money advice that will help you get your mind and money straight. Send your questions in early to colorofmoney@washpost.com.

More Wealth for the Wealthy

A recent Pew Research study found that during the first two years of the economic recovery the gap between the have and have-not’s continued to widen, reports The Washington Post’s Michael Fletcher.

The upper 7 percent of American households saw their average net worth increase 28 percent, while the wealth of the other 93 percent declined 4 percent.

From 2009 to 2011, the average net worth of the nation’s 8 million most affluent households jumped from an estimated $2.7 million to $3.2 million, according to the report, “A Rise in Wealth for the Wealthy; Declines for the Lower 93%: An Uneven Recovery, 2009-2011,” by Richard Fry and Paul Taylor.

For the 111 million households that form the bottom 93 percent, average net worth fell $140,000 to an estimated $134,000, the report said.

“The uneven recovery has only accelerated a decades-long trend of growing wealth inequality in the country, despite rising popular and political awareness of the dynamic,” Fletcher writes.

What’s different about how the wealthy handle their money and how the rest of America handles theirs, according to Pew?

The wealthy concentrate their money in stocks and other financial instruments, while the not-so-wealthy invest in the value of their homes.

Didn’t both stocks and home values get hammered during the recession? , you might ask.

Yes, they did. But, as Fletcher points out, “in the recovery, stock values have rebounded nicely and have reached new highs. Housing values — particularly for those living in nonexclusive areas — have stayed mostly flat, although there have been some stirrings of a recovery in the past year.”

Courting With Coupons

When dating, when is the right time to bring coupons into your relationship?

Kiplinger Magazine’s Cameron Huddleston puts that question to the masses in response to a survey by coupon Web site Coupon Cabin, which found that 26 percent of adults have used a coupon on a first date.

But 12 percent of survey respondents said that if a coupon were used on the first date it would be the last date. Three percent said they would be offended if their date used a coupon, and just 1 percent said they would walk out and leave the date, Huddleston reports.

Natalie McNeal, editor of TheFrugalista.com, tells Huddleston that “you shouldn’t take a date to a restaurant that you can’t afford without a coupon.”

Instead choose a place with prices that fit your budget, McNeal advises. Check out her tips for coupon dating.

I’m curious: Would you walk out on a date if the guy or woman used a coupon? If so, why?

Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “Courting with Coupons” in the subject line. Be sure to include your full name, city and state.

Michelle’s Mailbag

Did you get a chance to check out my responses to last week’s questions for Michelle’s Mailbag?

If not, click here.

The new online feature allows me to answer the questions I couldn’t get to during the live chat and to respond to questions you send by e-mail (colorofmoney@washpost.com), Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary.com)

Family Financial Fights

I am still looking for family financial stores.

If you need advice on how to solve a money issue with a sibling or if you’re a newlywed trying to figure out how to merge finances, send your stories to colorofmoney@washpost.com.

Please include your full name, city and state. Be sure to put “Family Financial Fights” in the subject line. I’ll need your personal information only if I have additional questions. Because of the sensitivity of the situation, your personal details won’t be disclosed.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name and home town; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

Follow me on Twitter at @SingletaryM, or connect with me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary.com.

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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