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 formative years.

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.

/rant off.