Charging For Extra Condiments At McSkinflint’s

Today, when Kish and I drove to Pittsburgh to drop off Richard’s stuff, we stopped at a McDonald’s for coffee and a breakfast sandwich. As we rolled up to the drive-thru window, I was amazed to see this sigh: “There will be an additional charge for extra condiments.”

IMG_1706Seriously? If some poor schmo wants to get an extra packet of runny catsup or crummy mustard, hoping to bring a little extra dose of flavor to their otherwise unbearably salty McDonald’s fare, McD’s is going to charge them an additional amount? How much do they charge for those little packets, do you suppose? It’s hard to imagine it would be more than a penny or two. Is McDonald’s really so desperate for a little extra pocket change?

And what sort of problem is being addressed by this new policy? Does McDonald’s think people are taking unfair advantage of one of America’s most ubiquitous companies by asking for extra condiments? McDonald’s makes a big show out of being a good corporate citizen. If struggling families are loading up on the extra condiments and taking them home to try to make their food budgets stretch a little bit farther, can’t McDonald’s just accept that?

As our readers know, I’m not a big fan of McDonald’s, but this sign left more of a bad taste in my mouth than the last crappy McDonald’s cheeseburger I bought. What a bunch of tightwads! Maybe they should rename that annoying clown Ronald McCheapskate.

Dissing The Sneads

During our recent vacation, Kish and Russell had high times making fun of these tennis shoes.  Kish said they looked like golf shoes and called them the Sammy Sneads every time I put them on.  Russell, on the other hand, shook his head and sadly advised that shoes made by Skechers are per se uncool.

IMG_4800I bought the shoes at Kohl’s.  They were on the bargain shelf and cost a small fraction of the other gym shoes.  I didn’t know whether they are socially acceptable or not, because I pay no attention to shoe fashion.  I didn’t care whether popular people wear shoes with square toes, round toes, or pointed toes, or whether stripes on the sides are “in” or “out.”

What I did know is that I rebel at the notion of paying more than $100 for a pair of gym shoes that I wear around the neighborhood.  The prices of such shoes seem ridiculous for mass-produced rubber, plastic, and cloth creations.  Obviously, people are paying for brands and status symbols.

I could care less about that.  I admit I’m a cheapskate.  I’ll go for low cost and functionality over “branding” any time.  I’m not a runner.  I don’t play competitive sports.  I’m not trying to make a fashion statement when I go for a walk.

Give me durable shoes that fit and leave money in my wallet, and I’ll wear them happily — “Sneads” or not.

Pondering The Penny Pick-Up

If I see a penny on a sidewalk, or on the asphalt of a rainy street, or on the grimy floor of my parking garage, I will stop and pick it up.  Always.

I’m not sure why this is so.  I probably am just extraordinarily cheap. I may also believe, deep down inside, that picking up a penny will bring me good luck.  Or maybe I was a panhandler in a past life and old habits die hard.

I guess I always thought that everyone would pick up a penny if they noticed it, because it just seems wrong to me to walk past money without picking it up.  I now know that isn’t true.  Many people apparently would not pick up a random penny on the street.  In fact, not long ago I did so and one of my friends said something like “Ewww, you picked up a penny.  That’s gross.”

After I recently stopped to pick up a penny I found on my path from the parking garage to my office building, I was thinking a professional killer could use a habit like picking up a penny to complete their hit without much risk.  If you knew your target’s habits and were aware that they were a penny-picker-upper, just coat a few pennies with some fatal poison that’s absorbed through the skin, sprinkle them on the path that you know the person will take during the day, and let their inner cheapskate bring about their demise.

Could someone have done that with me?  I considered it for an instant, then picked up the penny anyway.

Squeezing Into “Skinny Clothes”

Conventional wisdom dictates that, if you haven’t worn an article of clothing for a year, you should just get rid of it.  If twelve months have passed without it being taken off the hanger, the reasoning goes, issues of style or fit make it highly unlikely that you will ever put it on again.

I disagree with the conventional wisdom for two reasons.  First, I’m cheap.  Second, I think that, if you haven’t worn that jacket or pair of pants for a year due to weight gain, you should keep them around as a tangible reminder of how far you’ve let yourself slide.  Stepping on a scale, unpleasant as it might be, is an abstract exercise.  What difference does six pounds make, really?  But if you try to put on trousers that you haven’t worn since last fall and you realize the waistline now cuts off your circulation, you’ve got a powerful, concrete, and embarrassing indication of where you stand.

I have a sport coat that is about 30 years old.  I know this because I have a picture of me, UJ, and Dad taken in 1986, and I’m wearing it.  It’s been hanging in my closet since, donned with decreasing frequency until all wear stopped during the 1990-2010 interregnum.  At that point, my packed on poundage made any effort to struggle into the jacket look like the scene from Tommy Boy where Chris Farley rips David Spade’s jacket to shreds.  It was humiliating — but I resolved to keep the sport coat, anyway, as a reminder and a goal.

At the start of 2012, I decided the time had come to get back into “jacket shape.”  Nothing extraordinary — just trying to eat a little less, drink a little less, and exercise a little more.  I’ve made progress, and recently I took the plunge and tried on the jacket.  Happily, I was able to put it on without spraining a shoulder or sending a button rocketing into the bathroom mirror.  It’s still a tad snug, but I felt a real sense of accomplishment.  I’m glad I’ve kept it around.

Soap Stack

If you want to enjoy the small pleasures inherent in using things up — or, alternatively phrased, if you are a cheap bastard who wants to avoid spending any unnecessary buck — it takes some work.

Consider the humble bar of soap.  You use it, and at some point it becomes a thin shard of its former self.  It could still serve its cleaning and lathering purpose, but the mechanics make it difficult.  You can’t really grip it in the normal way, because the pressure of your fingers would break it into even smaller pieces.  If you try to palm it instead, the slippery remnants slide from your hand.  And what to do about the odd-shaped hotel soaps — the ovals, and perfect squares, and little circles, all exotically scented — that you have collected during your travels?  This is why most soap ends its life cycle unhappily, tossed into the trash in frustration or melting into oblivion on the shower floor.

The solution is the soap stack.  Through careful engineering and soap size matching, the cheapskate constructs a multi-bar creation that maintains the bulk and heft necessary to proper soap usage.  It takes patience, and some dry aging, for the soap tails to become welded together into a functional unit, leaving you with a riotously multi-hued object.  But when it works, the result is an immensely satisfying accomplishment for the practitioner of household economy.

Of course, it drives Kish nuts when I do this.