Last week, Lazy Man and Money ran the post “Frugal or Cheap: Using True Orange at a Restaurant?”
He thinks soda prices at restaurants are ridiculous, and he doesn’t want to drink plain water. Instead, he wants to use a packet of drink flavoring called True Orange.
It’s discreet — about the size of a sugar packet — and keeps the water clear. The waiter wouldn’t know, and he still gets his non-water drink with water that he’d have been given anyway. And since the restaurant doesn’t offer it, there’s no harm. If it were on the menu, he would buy it.
Reactions were mixed, but several of us said it was Cheapy McCheapy-face.
One person argued that he’s hurting the waiter, who depends on sodas to pad a bill. Counterpoint: That extra money could go to a bigger tip.
Another said he was hurting the restaurant, which depends on high profit margins for soda. Counterpoint: If soda is what keeps the business afloat, as it were, that restaurant has some real problems.
Me? I just feel uncomfortable with the whole idea and a little suspicious of his arguments.
1. If he’s not willing to pay $2.50-3.50 for a soda, would he really be willing to pay “a couple bucks” for a True Orange? Especially because the packets cost him five cents each.
2. No one will see/know. If that matters, I think he already has his answer. He argued that he wanted to avoid the explanation to the waiter about healthier alternatives. But he also admitted that he thought others would find it cheap, which would bother him a bit. Which just reinforces my argument.
3. The restaurant doesn’t offer it; but the restaurant doesn’t offer a lot of things. If he were a die-hard Diet Coke fan, would he bring a can to a restaurant serving only Pepsi products? I’m guessing he wouldn’t cross that line, but it’s also an off-menu item. And either way he wouldn’t buy a soda. Why is one okay and not the other?
All of that said, I started to rethink my position after someone compared this to movie theater snacks.
After all, people sneak candy into theaters all the time. I’ve certainly done it, and I don’t feel any shame about it. Comparatively, I’d be embarrassed if Tim brought True Orange to a restaurant.
And yet I imagine a movie theater relies far more on candy sales than restaurants do on soda sales. Plus, the markup on candy is still significantly less than the markup on soda.
So why do I consider one frugal and the other cheap?
Maybe because my mom always brought her own snacks to the theater. It was a norm for me. Water additives are not. More likely, it’s just an arbitrary delineation. Either way, I can’t defend it with any real form of logic.
The fact is, the drink additive seems cheap; outside candy seems frugal.
So maybe we should heed some of the other comments. Yes, it’s cheap — but who the hell cares?
Where do you come down on this issue? Including whether anyone should care?