Personal Finance: Financial lessons to learn from texting fountain woman

Michelle Singletary
Thursday, January 27, 2011; 11:26 AM

At first glance, the recent viral video of a woman falling into a mall fountain may not seem to yield any financial lessons.

In case you've haven't heard about this woman or seen the video, Cathy Cruz Marrero was texting while walking and ended up tumbling into a water fountain at the Berkshire Mall where she worked. The Pennsylvania resident's big splash -- caught by a security camera -- was uploaded to YouTube, where it has been viewed more than 3 million times.

Marrero, 49, said in a "Good Morning America" interview that she was embarrassed by the publicity and was upset that someone posted the video and that security didn't come to her aid. She is considering suing the mall.

"Our investigation into this matter is continuing," Marrero's attorney James M. Polyak said in an e-mail. "To date, we have not received so much as an apology from those responsible for the releasing the video. Why a security professional would release confidential video footage of such a humiliating event is a question that remains to be answered."

But Marrero's story just keeps getting more interesting. Turns out in October 2009 she was charged with stealing a coworker's credit cards and using them to purchase more than $4,000 of goods at a Target and Zales jewelry store, according to the Reading Eagle.

The Reading Eagle also reported that Marrero has been involved in several other theft cases. According to court documents, she has four retail theft convictions. In the most recent case, one of Marrero's co-workers says she allowed Marrero to use her Target credit card to make a small purchase but did not give her permission to make other purchases. To avoid detection, Marrero allegedly changed the billing address so she would get the credit card statements.

So what financial lessons can we learn thanks to the texting fountain woman?

-- Don't let anyone use your credit card. As Marrero's co-worker found out, it can cost you to be generous. The co-worker initially tried to make payments on the charges Marrero made in an effort to maintain her good credit history. It seems Marrero had promised to make payments, according to the local paper. When she didn't, the co-worker went to the police.

-- Don't abuse your position at work. In response to the incident, the company which provides security for the mall at which Marrero fell issued this statement: "The security officer responsible for sharing the video of this incident has been terminated and is no longer with company. U.S. Security Associates does not condone this type of behavior and will work closely with the property owners to ensure processes are put in place to prevent it from happening in the future."

On the video, you can hear several people laughing in the background.

"So there she goes, and boom," a guy says after showing another angle of Marrero falling into the fountain.

I'm sure the security officer who got fired thought he was doing a harmless and humorous thing by posting the video. But giving others a chuckle couldn't have been worth his job in an economy where jobs are hard to come by.

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