Frugal

One of my favorite gambling authors is Jean Scott who goes by the nickname the Queen of Comps and wrote the book The Frugal Gambler and a subsequent follow up book on the same subject. Jean shares the ins and outs of being a frugal gambler and teaches you how to get value while gambling in Las Vegas. She and her husband Brad have actually moved to Las Vegas where they live semi-retired and play video poker on a near full time schedule taking advantage of the promotions that are offered by the gambling industry in Las Vegas. I have followed the advice of Jean Scott and consider myself to be quite frugal in my gambling.

I think where the lines get blurred is when people cross over from being frugal to being cheap. I catch quite a bit of flack about my writing on how cheap engineers tend to be. I am an engineer and I work with a few hundred of them so I have to be careful how much engineer bashing I am going to do. To me there is nothing wrong with working the system and taking advantage of deals and using coupons. Where I start running into trouble is when you try to get out of paying your fair share or you start stiffing the help like waitresses and bellhops.

I have to share a few recent examples where I drew the line and called somebody out for being cheap. The first was a promotion where a restaurant offered a free meal for your birthday. A friend of mine took the time to go to three different restaurants in town and order his free dinner. Each time he would eat a little and box it up and leave. To me this absolutely wrong and he was being cheap. I fully believe in going to the restaurant and having the birthday dinner and that is being frugal and using the promotion. When you go multiple times and you are taking the food home to eat later, I have a problem with that and you are being cheap.

A second example I would like to share has to do with Costco and the free samples they offer on the weekends. I was complaining about people bringing their whole herd of children to Costco and making it a lunch buffet. These little creatures were running wild in the store and grabbing samples as fast they could get to them and I had no idea who any of them belonged to. As I was ranting my fellow engineers began to discuss the merits of the free samples and how much they took advantage of the free samples. One of my good friends said when they have something good he goes back and gets multiple samples. I called him out for that and he defended his action by saying he had a cart and was spending a hundred dollars in the store and the samples are there for people to try. I tried to point out that one sample was fine and even one sample of every single thing in the store was fine. I do not believe multiple samples of the same thing are intended.

The third example is certainly one that is less clearly defined by my own moral compass and I share it in hopes of hearing from others. The local Trader Joe’s has samples every day and usually has a coffee sample from one the products they offer. One of my friends admitted to swinging into Trader Joe’s and grabbing a morning coffee sample with no intention of ever buying anything and the reason he gets the sample is because it is free. I felt this was over the line and the samples were for customers. My bank offers free coffee but I would never consider stopping there for a free cup of coffee.

The best part of all the cheap versus frugal arguments is how strongly the engineer’s defend their actions and how much they hate to be called cheap. Of course it is just my opinion.

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