Frugal... or just plain wrong?
You know what I love? Getting something for nothing. Oh, it's rare. It's also sort of greedy and raises all kinds of ethical questions. How far would YOU go to save, or make, a dollar or two?
Here are some examples of 'something for nothing' that fall into a morally gray area. I'm not endorsing, advocating, recommending, encouraging, or promoting any of these, but I'm curious as to how our readers feel about them. Like taking an extra piece of candy from the porch bowl in Halloween, everyone probably has a different perception of what constitutes right or wrong.
Where would you draw the line on these examples? Would you...
1. Sneak into a movie? I've done this before, but it's been a while. Like the first time I skipped class, I remember it being a very thrilling experience. But is it ethical? If the movie that you sneak into has been in the theater for a while, and barely anyone is going to see it, would that be better than sneaking into a movie that might sell out (and thus, robbing someone of their paid seat)? What if you went to see one movie, and bought a huge tub of popcorn and a large drink and candy (that's, like, $30 right there). Does the theater OWE you a decent movie at that point? What about sneaking your own candy and pop into a movie theater?
2. Download music online? For free? Is it stealing? Are artists suffering? The big production companies want you to believe that when you download a song from a peer-to-peer site, you are wrenching a sandwich directly out of Sheryl Crow's hand, but is it really such a big deal? Or is it the principle of the matter?
3. Freeload of your neighbor's TV channels? It can be done, and is done. But is it wrong?
4. Siphon your neighbor's wireless internet? Hey, if your neighbor can't be bothered to put rudimentary security into place, such as WEP or network passwords, they're just begging to have their bandwidth used, right? Right?
5. Keep the incorrect change? You gave the cashier a ten, and she gives you change for a twenty. Do you say anything? Or take the money and run?
6. Underpay if you are undercharged? You buy something at a store or at a restaurant, and realize that you were charged for something much, much cheaper. Do you go back and try to sort out the mess? What if you've already gone home before you realize that a mistake was made? Do you go back and try to correct it, or is it too much of a hassle?
7. Take the money that your bank accidentally deposited in your account? Do you withdraw it and buy some kick-ass jeans? Is it worth the risk? The bank might eventually figure out what they did wrong. But you've always been a good customer, so are you entitled to benefit from someone else's mistake?
8. Scalp tickets? Sure, you were planning on going to the (insert hip band name here) concert, but turns out it's the same weekend as your cousin's wedding, and you are technically in the wedding party, so it's bub-bye to those hard-won tickets. Shouldn't you stand to profit just a little from them? Especially seeing as how SO many people want to go see the (hip band name) concert, and are WILLING to pay you much more than you paid for them - hey, that extra $100 can go towards the wedding present! Or is that wrong?
9. Accept freebies for listening to a timeshare spiel? This one was covered well at Queercents. Is it OK to accept an all-expenses paid trip in exchange for listening to a sales pitch for something that you have no intention of purchasing?
10. Expense a non-business dinner? You just got back from a business trip and want to take your significant other out for a nice dinner. Since your better half dropped you off AND picked you up at the aiport (thus saving the cost of a cab or long-term parking), should your business foot the bill for your dinner out? You just got back. AND on the trip, you only ate at Subway. So, they can put out for two steaks, can't they? They're a big corporation?
11. Treat the medicine cabinet at work as your own free pharmacy? Hey, those pills will expire if someone doesn't use them, and Advil is kind of pricey. Plus, if work wasn't causing your ulcers, you wouldn't need to use all of those sample antacid packs, right? No?
12. Fudge coupon codes? There are many, many coupon codes that are easy to fake. Like those codes that you get when you complete a customer satisfaction survey. Or those codes that come in Suze Orman's books. If you can fake it and get away with a free burger every day, should you?
13. Go grocery sampling? My dad can happily feed himself for free just walking around Costco, tasting the various creations that are hawked by kindly hair-netted grandmothers. He never buys any food, because that's Mom's realm. Is Dad out of line? What about the people that sample non-sample food, like trail mix at Safeway?
14. Cut-n-buy? I really like fennel. And carrots. But when it comes to buying these things by the pound, I fantasize about cutting off the tops of these damn things, because I can't eat the tops, and they cost me extra. Is it OK to yank the greens off the tops of the carrots or hack the fennel down to the edible part before weighing and paying?
15. Take home office supplies? It sounds clichéd, but who hasn't taken a mechanical pencil from the supply closet? Or some Post-its when they run low?
16. Read all your magazines at Barnes and Noble? I used to do this as a poor student - oh, how I longed for a subscription to French Vogue, but the price was just ridiculous. But, for the price of a latte, I could spend a Sunday afternoon flipping through pages of couture.
17. Sell your neighbor's garbage? No, I'm not talking about celebrity personal belongings auctioned off on eBay, but this happens a LOT where I live. We have one guy in particular who spends a lot of time sifting through our trash and taking what he thinks he can sell. My garbage can, with it's doggie poop bags, is probably disappointing, but the huge apartment bin across the alley is a veritable treasure trove of resellable goods. On one hand, he's reusing stuff that might otherwise go into a landfill. On the other hand, he's digging through my damn garbage can.
18. Pick your neighbor's fruit? That almost sounds dirty, doesn't it? I used to live next to someone who had a tree growing part way into an alley. The tree produced really nice fruit every spring, and the neighbor never picked it, just letting everything go to waste. I would walk by and occasionally take an apricot or two. It never occured to me to ask until someone pointed out to me that what I was doing could be considered stealing. I became slightly paranoid, and never plucked an apricot again. But was it such a big deal?
19. Be a cheap-ass at Starbucks? Order an espresso shot. Go to the condiments counter, fill the rest of your cup with milk, and take it home and nuke it.
20. Lie about your income to get cheap medical services? Planned Parenthood is remarkably lax in their rules for assessing a person's payment options on a sliding scale. Tell them that you're only making 12K a year, and your reproductive needs are taken care of for much less than it would cost anywhere else. What if you don't have insurance? What if you make a donation to Planned Parenthood years later to compensate?
(Photo by Alejandro Forero Cuervo.)