What’s Your “Frugality Tastefulness Line”?

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A few weeks ago, I was riding shotgun on a lengthy road trip with a friend of mine when we made a stop at Taco Bell. We ordered our food and sat down when I noticed that he had a small mountain of sauce packets on his tray.

I asked him whether his burrito was going to wind up swimming in sauce and he just smiled. “Nope,” he said, “these are going home with me.”

On our way out, he stuck about twenty five sauce packets into his coat pocket and then, when we were in the car, he tossed them into one of his bags.

When I asked him about it, he says that he takes them home and squeezes them into a hot sauce jar. He says it takes him just a few minutes and he can easily do it while watching something on television.

While I suppose that this is a way to ensure “free” hot sauce, something about it just didn’t feel right to me. After some reflection, I realized that I don’t like it when people abuse things that are clearly presented in a “take what you need” fashion.

I feel much the same way if someone tries to sneak food off of a buffet into their purse or something similar.

It just feels wrong to me.

This naturally left me wondering what other frugal tactics that might be completely legal and completely accepted by others cross some sort of personal “line” for me. I thought of a few.

I don’t like it when people haggle or call the manager over in department store checkout lines. I’ve seen people do this many times. They’ll flip out because their coupon isn’t accepted and rather than go over to the customer service desk, they demand that a manager come over right then and there, holding up the line for everyone else.

I don’t like it when people exploit a flexible return policy just to save a buck. All it does is abuse a system that’s very useful to the actual legitimate customers and, if it’s abused enough, the system will go away. When a business has great customer service, that doesn’t mean it’s time to milk it.

I don’t like it when people use their employer’s stuff without permission. Where I previously worked, we had blanket permission for “reasonable” use of the office printer, which meant that we didn’t need to ask to print off a recipe or something. On the flip side of that, it was pretty obviously inappropriate to print a book. The same thing applies to office supplies (pens, staples, and so on).

I don’t like it when people grab unused toiletries from the hotel. Sure, the stuff placed in your room is fair game, but the housekeeping cart in the hallway is not. Taking those items feels even stranger to me than taking condiment packets at a restaurant.

For many of these things, I think what it comes down to is that when someone offers you a little bit of something and you take a lot, you’re crossing a line. You start to slide down the slippery slope between smart frugality and minor theft.

Of course, everyone sees the world differently. What I consider over the top might be normal for someone else. Still, I consider these to be lines that I won’t cross and I would consider it awkward for someone in my family to cross them, too.

What lines are you uncomfortable crossing?

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