Can Frugality Trump Honesty?

Accusation | Source: h.koppdelaney on FlickrHave you ever lied to get a deal? Even just a little white lie or a fib? This is a topic that has always fascinated me. To what lengths is it ok to go in order to get a deal or save some money? What is taboo and what is acceptable? What am I talking about? Why are all my sentences in the form of questions? Sorry, I got carried away there for a second. Let me give an example.

After my first go-round in school came to an end, I realized that my student card didn’t have an expiration date like many student cards did – rather, my school printed the date issued instead. Even though I was no longer a student, I occasionally continued to use my student card to get student discounts on merchandise and admission costs. If anyone asked, I was a graduate student. I figured that gave me about 9-10 years from the date issued on the card before anyone could really put up a huge fight.

Gasp | Source: Ian Kobylanski on FlickrIs that bad? Are you all recoiling in horror right now at my inhumanity? I will admit, I always felt a little pang of guilt when I did it, particularly when I was getting a discount from some kind of independent store or organization that could probably benefit from the money. And  sometimes I got questioning looks or grimaces of unhappiness that would stick with me for a while. But that guilt was often quickly wiped away by the knowledge that my own personal finances were a little bit better off because I’d saved some money. Sometimes it wasn’t much, maybe a dollar or two. Sometimes it was as much as $50-100.

Self-Preservation Trumps Everything

I think, in the end, human nature sets us up for self-preservation. Is it my prerogative to be honest and not use my student card when I’m not a student, or is it the prerogative of the person issuing the discount to thoroughly check my student card for its legitimacy? Both parties are, in the end, interested in self-preservation. Now that I’m actually a student again, I can use my student card guilt-free, but come the fall, I will be back to my non-student ways. My student card was now issued five years ago (I went back this year to the same school I was at before, so they didn’t reissue me a new student card). The other day, I actually thought to myself that I should claim I lost my student card so they can issue me a new one, with a new Date Issued.That way, I can keep using it for another 5-10 years.

Oh Come On! Haven’t You Learned Anything?

Yes, yes, it seems my conscience is catching up with me. That thought actually did feel wrong. And yet, I’m still in inner turmoil because I can do it and because no one would stop me. Why does anyone do anything they know they shouldn’t? Many times, its because they think can without getting into trouble. So they do it just to show themselves that they can do it. That they can game the system. Because it feels good sometimes to beat the ‘man’. The same way it feels good to win money at a casino. You went in expecting to lose and you came out a winner against all odds.

I’m Just Playing the Game

And it is all just a game after all, no different than a casino. The ones who are willing to play the game stand the best chance of success. The nice thing about the deals game though, is you can rarely lose. If you play the game to try and get a discount, the worst that can happen is you get denied and pay the same price as everyone else. A few years ago, I had cable TV, internet and a home phone, all through Rogers, one of the communications monopolies here in Canada. Rogers, like all the other big telecoms in Canada, plays a game with their customers. The people who don’t play the game pay full price for the services. The people who do play the game stand to get discounts. So one day I called them up and told them that my friend was getting a laundry list of discounts from Rogers and that I wanted the discounts too. At first, they said no. So I called back a week later. The person who answered the phone was in a much better mood. I didn’t have any friend with Rogers getting discounts, but after the call, I was saving over 25% off my bill every month.

I Can’t Be The Only One!

Surely, I can’t…can I? That guy in line in front of at the drug store didn’t look 65, but he asked for a senior’s discount. That woman at the table next to me the other night at the restaurant said it was her birthday. They brought her a free dessert, but they never checked her ID. Was it really her birthday? Can I really be the only one who’s told a little white lie to get a deal? I really don’t think so. If I think this way, others must think this way too. At least, that’s what I tell myself when I go to bed at night.

And no, I won’t be getting a new student card. Sadly, its time to end the student discount. Readers, am I alone here? Do you tell the occasional white lie to save some money? Or do I just need a lesson in morality?

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16 thoughts on “Can Frugality Trump Honesty?

  1. I guess the student discount is not really that bad. The cost did not just come from you but that amount may still be claimed as a tax credit by the merchant concerned.

  2. You could be doing a whole lot worse! I used my student ID for about 5 years after I graduated to get a $2 discount at the movies. When they charge an $11 admission, who is really ripping off who????

  3. If you want to be strict about things, pretending you’re a student when you’re not is a slight form of fraud. ;)

    However, the world isn’t always black and white. If you can stick it to Rogers, I say do it! They have received far too many benefits and privileges, and we need more competition here in Canada. The government is finally making some right moves by allowing small companies to raise foreign capital to compete. What do you think?

    • Well then its a good thing I’m blogging anonymously! :)

      I think I’d have to think about it on a case-by-case basis. I understand the desire to keep the money in Canada. But in the case of the telecom industry in Canada, I’ll all for it. Robelus have a monopoly going that isn’t right and the competition is sorely needed. It would be near impossible for a Canadian company to enter the market against Robelus without foreign capital and survive. Mobilicity is trying and struggling. I have since ditched Rogers in favour of Wind, one of the new entrants that got in on foreign capital, and I couldn’t be happier. Wind seems to be doing really well, and I find my service has improved over time as they become more established.

      • This is exactly it! Barriers against foreign investment are equivalent to granting a state-sponsored monopoly to the big companies. There is nothing Canadian about doing that.

        I need to ditch Rogers myself. I still have a plan with them from the corporate days, and I’m considering a jump to one of the upstarts. I want to avoid Chattr and others since they are owned by Robellus as well. :)

        • Yup, most people don’t realize that Koodo, Fido, Virgin Mobile, Chattr, Solo, they’re all just spinoffs of Robellus. Wind and Mobilicity are really the only competitive options right now for a non-Robellus company. I plan to do a review of Wind at some point, but for now I can say that I think the service is great and well worth ditching Rogers for.

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  5. I’ve done the ‘pretend to be a student’ thing. Got away with it as long as I could.

    Ashamed to say I also once hacked my monthly train pass to be used in other months. Was a piece of card where they punch a hole over the corresponding month. Mine wasn’t punched all the way through so the next month I punched a new hole through the next month, pushed the loose bit of paper back up to fill in the gap in the spot where the previous month was, and simply held out my card for checking with my thumb over the line where the partial mark was over the old month. If that makes sense.

    • I was shocked when I learned that not paying your train fare was a criminal offence that goes on your permanent record. I guess it makes sense in a way (taking candy from a store is still stealing), but I remember when an old coworker of mine had to explain that away during his interview (apparently he had paid for his fare, but he had paid for the wrong zone!)

    • See, that’s something I would be tempted to do if I could get away with it! The commuter trains here in Toronto are very, very strict on ticketing though, so I wouldn’t dare try it. They would see my thumb over the ticket in an instant and ask to see the ticket closer. I’ve seen lots people get kicked off trains with massive fines, or worse, as Invest It Wisely said, criminal offences. Eek!

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