Sunday, August 26, 2007

Thrift or Theft?

I regularly read the AOL tightwadding boards. It's not all about how to crochet popcan rings into a heating pad or throwing every leftover crust of bread into a freezer bag to later grind up for crumbs (although the latter DOES work!). Right now, the discussion is about what mutual funds are best in today's roller-coaster market.

But one issue comes up often. Someone will ask for the "best tightwadding tips" and there will be a score of replies that are less about saving money and more about stealing it.

Most common will be the suggestion to buy one small drink at a fast food restaurant and have everyone share it via the free refills. Another is to ask for water cups but fill them with soda. Considering that one generally goes to fast food restaurants with children, how is this a good idea? Do we really want our children to see theft as an option?

My daughter is a manager at a mall multi-plex. One of her duties is chasing down the folks that pay for one movie, but attempt to stay in the theatre all day watching a number of movies. When they are caught, the culprits are seldom apologetic. They point to the high price of the tickets as though that excuses their theft of services.

Then again, I am not exactly blameless on the movie front--my daughter gets me in free, so I feel obligated to pay for my poporn. But in my younger years, I was often guilty of hiding candy and soda in my purse in order to avoid the theatre's high prices. I can't say exactly why, but this still feels less like theft to me than some of my prior examples.

There is a certain thrill to frugality--a sense of being smarter than those poor schmucks who paid more for the same product or service.

But the line between thrift and theft is thin and easily crossed. I stay precariously on the thrift side, trying not to fall over onto the theft side.


Unknown said...

I applaud your article. Most people, including myself, don't want to think that their actions could be construed as theft. But there are a number of frugal lifestyle choices that border (and even cross) that line. We have to remember to keep eachother honest.

Anonymous said...

I also applaud your article.
Especially if you have kids, you
need to be a good example. If you
steal, you're a thief, even if it's
from a big company.

Unknown said...

What would you say to your daughter if her manager caught her letting you in the theater and she got fired?

Grace. said...

I would never (I think) take advantage of my children that way. Where my daughter works, Theatre employees are allowed to sign family members in for free. They can also sign in friends if they don't abuse the privilege. They only get in trouble if they don't sign in non-paying guests, or if they let family into sold-out shows.

SAHMmy Says said...

Great post! I would include reading books at Borders with no intention to purchase, stockpiling condiments/napkins from fast food establishments, grabbing extra coupon inserts when you buy the paper.

Unknown said...

I think this country's sense of entitlement is the main cause of the feeling that "I DESERVE to get it cheap, and if I can't, I'll get it free". I prefer to vote with my feet. If I can't afford something or don't want to pay for it, I DO WITHOUT. If enough people decide it costs too much, then prices will come down, or a different business model (i.e. online movie rental) will arise.

If you don't want to pay the $10 for a theater visit, hit Blockbuster or Netflix. Or - GASP - DON'T WATCH THE MOVIE. Funny how morality is relative; it's immoral for someone else to steal from us, or for someone else to steal in a different way than how we steal, but it's okay for us to steal in certain ways.

Angel at Aduladi' said...

The popcorn issue is a big one with me. I just went to a movie with a bunch of friends and three out of the four of them had snuck in drinks or candy.

I jokingly rebuked them since I did not feel comfortable seriously giving them grief, but I think it is wrong. Our theater has a sign on the door that clearly states, "No outside food nor drink". That is their policy and if I want to be in their building I need to abide by the rules, even if I hate them.

My other option is not to grace them with my presence and stay out!

Petunia 100 said...

My least favorite "tip" is the often recommended theft of condiments from restaurants.

I have been posting on AOL's tightwad community since about 1996 or so (it has changed site address once or twice). Do you ever post, or do you read only?