Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Funny, it doesn't taste like Grey Goose."

Breakfast Included, 2006

Roger is cheap. If he offers you a drink of vodka from a Grey Goose bottle, you can be sure the Grey Goose is long gone or carefully secreted away in another container and that Roger’s refilled the bottle with something cheaper. He does the same thing with wine; refills fine wine bottles with box wine. There's nothing wrong, of course, with either cheap vodka or box wine. But it's important to Roger that you think he served you the good stuff.

One of my friends who knows him says 95% of Roger’s personality couldn’t be nicer. But that other 5%, the really cheap part, pretty much wipes out any respect you might have for him.

Those of us whose parents came of age during the Great Depression know what it’s like to stretch a dollar. That’s honest frugality. But that isn’t what Roger’s about.

I honestly don’t know what Roger’s about. There’s probably some kind of diagnosis in the DSM IV that covers this. He doesn’t need the money. So my guess is that it has something to do with power or with the need to get something for nothing. If I didn’t know otherwise, I might speculate that Roger had a deprived childhood, or that his parents’ Depression-era frugality came through to him as greed.

Here, see if you can figure out what’s going on from a couple more stories:

Roger and his wife invited another couple, newcomers to the area, to dinner at a fancy steakhouse. Roger raved for weeks about the quality and flavor of the steaks at this place. The other couple didn’t take any offense when Roger repeatedly made a point of saying that each couple would pay its own way. What they did find curious was that when the waitress came to take their order, Roger had the poor girl go back and forth several times to see whether the place served beer on tap or by the bottle, whether it was cheaper to buy a beer in the glass or in the bottle, whether the price included tax, and which serving mode offered more beer for the money. All of this was tedious and embarrassing for the other couple to witness. But what really got the new couple’s attention was when Roger ordered fish instead of steak because it was two dollars cheaper.

On another occasion, Roger invited a neighbor to go with him to one of those investment presentations where they serve you dinner at an exclusive restaurant or club. A few days before the event Roger called to let the neighbor know he planned to stop first at a local auto dealer showroom to witness the unveiling of a new model. Roger had gotten an invitation in the mail that promised a $10 gift card to those who attended.

When they arrived at the auto dealer, Roger pulled a salesman aside and asked if he could just get the gift card and leave. The salesman explained that the idea was to have people present for the unveiling of the new car. Roger continued to badger the salesman, who finally said he’d talk to his manager when she returned in a few minutes.

After the first salesman walked away, Roger found another salesman and browbeat him into going into the manager’s office to look through her desk for the gift cards. Just as the salesman was getting ready to do this, the manager returned. She repeated the first salesman’s explanation of the purpose of the program. Roger would not be mollified and would not stop badgering the manager. Finally, she went into her office to get a gift card for Roger, perhaps assuming that he’d go away now. But instead, he continued to pester her and asked, “What about my friend who came with me? Don’t you have a card for him?”

When the manager recovered her wits she explained that the cards were only for those people who’d gotten letters of invitation to the presentation. Surely, Roger insisted, she had something else she could give Roger’s neighbor.

The manager finally reached down into the bottom of her desk and found a t-shirt from a previous promotion. It was pink and in a child’s size. But getting that additional gift was prize enough for Roger. He left the showroom and returned to his car, where he bragged about his exploits to the neighbor. (He did not, by the way, offer the t-shirt to the neighbor.)

At dinner, the neighbor reports that Roger had the steak instead of the chicken.


  1. OMG. Roger sounds like a gem. Sounds like he just likes the attention from all the haggling.

  2. Yes, attention seems to be the point. My guess is some kind of emotional deprivation in early childhood. Materially, he likely had enough. But he probaly did not get enough of what every child needs: to be the apple of someone's eye.

  3. We have a friend like that. Fortunately, he has enough charm to offset that beyond-frugal quality, so we tolerate it, but I step away when he starts to cajole people into giving him a discount.

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  5. I knew a Roger but his name was Ray. Man, was that guy ever embarrassing!

    Have to read what I type BEFORE hitting post!

  6. Pretty awful, and actually quite sad...
    And did you know? Richard Nixon did the same thing, the wine/ liquor swap thing.....