If You Wanna Play, You Gotta Pay
(or, Eventually "The Guy Who Dies With The Most Money Wins")
If there's one thing that makes me so furious I could
explode, it's people who venture out to places of relaxation, conviviality
and sometimes stupidity and for some peculiar reason consider being a
cheapskate a sporting event instead of boorish behavior. This kind of
behavior, sad to say, is all too common today. And I wonder why.
One thought that occurred to me is that perhaps some of my peers grew up in
households steeped in Depression-Era mentality. Even if
they're pulling a mid-six-figure salary, these poor souls haven't been able to
shake their childhood training in frugality. Well, there are some times when
frugality becomes stupidity. It takes a lot of exposure to persons of a generous
nature for these people to "un-learn" what was drummed into them in their
There is absolutely no excuse for a person who's been trained by
example (e.g., the family dined out a lot) to engage in the game of Penny
Pinching (can you spell c-h-e-a-p?).
I Didn't Order That
If you're in a group and, let's say, you're going to a movie, it's hard to
squirm out of paying for a ticket. If your group goes to a casino and sits down
for a game of blackjack and you just stand there (no, they won't let you take
a seat and watch), things get boring fast. And should you ask a friend
who's betting $25 a hand to order one of the complimentary cocktails that are
given generously to players, in all likelihood you and your friend will
at the very least get a scolding from the pit boss. Go out to a diner after an
evening's activities and you're going to look like a heel if you sit there
drinking your ice water whilst your friends feast on burgers, club sandwiches
and the like.
Thirty-four years in and out of the restaurant business has exposed me to
some of the worst examples of poor spending behavior in social situations. The
first is a large group, typically requesting separate checks. When the bill
comes the miser of the group points at his bill and asks the server, "hey;
what's this item for $7.95?! I didn't order that!" When the waitress
points out it was for the Stuffed Jalapeno Appetizer and then
points to the empty plate upon which the Jalapenos in question were served (often
also saying "well, somebody ate it and you ordered it") the
tightwad usually grumbles, often using obscenities, and will even occasionally
ask for a manager. The manager will more often than not remove the item from
tightwad's bill. In the short run, tightwad's "won." In the long run, he's
probably caused more than one of his party to be embarrassed; doubly so if that
individual frequents the restaurant where this has gone on.
Another more brazen version of this trick is gobbling up half of an entree
and then calling for either waiter or manager and complaining that it either
tastes no good, was poorly cooked, or some other concocted excuse (people use
hair all the time to pull this off). Savvy managers can spot a cheapie miles
away and will do anything from telling them that it can't be sent back after
it's been eaten substantially, or even better, telling the perpetrator that
they'll "take care of it right away." Then the bill arrives and they're charged
for the half of the entree that they ate.
Oh, This Drink Just Ain't Right
These days alcoholic beverages make up a considerable portion of the cost of
dining out, if one imbibes. Now, a restaurateur worth his salt has eyes in the
back of his or her head. I have witnessed people who suck down 3/4 of a cocktail
and then pour their ice water into the glass. Then, of course, a the perpetrator
summons a server and complains that they "took a sip" and found that it's either
weak (oh, dear Lord do I hate people who beg for alcohol) or just "doesn't taste
right." It's easy to do with either a clear cocktail, or something exotic served
in an opaque ceramic device instead of glass. It's much harder with amber stuff
like Scotch or Bourbon.
The first time I saw this I seriously thought that the customer just was
hesitant to bother the server for ice. Well, they bothered the server alright. I
was seventeen years old and supported the server's story to the floor manager.
However, this particular place was so expensive that the right thing to do was
to replace the doctored drink with a fresh one without question (and keep eyes
on the table for the rest of the evening). Despite the watchful eyes, two lovely
pewter bread and butter plates managed to make it out of the restaurant along with the
couple, who paid cash and stiffed the waiter.
The Bottom Line
If people who try to spend as little as possible do it merely for the fun of
it, they're either sick or were brought up by a parent who taught them
everything they knew (and said parent may very well be doing five to fifteen in
a penitentiary someplace). Why their "friends," especially polite company, put
up with this I have yet to find out.
The moral of this story is that parting with a bit of cash is necessary
etiquette. And etiquette, distilled to its essence, is merely making the people
around you feel as comfortable as possible. If a lack of funds is the case,
there are many ways to have a good time on a shoestring. You just ain't going to
have that good time at, let's say, the local country club.