Are You a Cheapskate?
I’ll be honest, I’m a tightwad. Mostly this is a necessity due to my always being broke. It may also be partly genetic. When I was a kid, I remember my dad getting into a fight with the owner of the laundromat over a quarter. Yes, a quarter. The laundromat guy came out and told him the timer was broken on the machine, and after a half-hour he needed to pay another quarter. My dad got mad, called him a crook, and we ended up leaving with all our wet laundry soaking through the laundry basket into the backseat of the car, which was gross. (Now, personally I’m not big on trusting people where money is concerned either, but I also think if you wanted to shake someone down you’d be after more than .25. Who the fuck tries to screw someone out of a quarter? Even in the nineties you couldn’t buy much with a quarter.)
Anyway, my point is I’m a cheapskate. So I got to wondering how much other people care about pinching pennies this weekend at Sam’s Club. (I’m too cheap to spend fifty bucks on a membership, but my parents have one and I use their card.) I don’t shop there often because you can buy in bulk, so I don’t need to. I usually buy the big container of Skippy Natural peanut butter (40 ounces), which they sell in a convenient two-pack for about nine bucks. Or they used to. It was a cheaper price than Wallyworld and other discount stores, and the two pack lasted me more than six months.
But I’m starting to get low on my peanut butter so I go to Sam’s, and I see the Skippy Natural has been replaced by Member’s Mark Natural for about the same price. I don’t like this, but the ingredients list is the same so I go ahead and try it. Then I get a two-pack of strawberry jam and my big box of Nature Valley granola bars. I also find a 12-pack of Malibu Vegan Gardenburgers for $10.98, which is an awesome price, and onions are far enough down on the ingredients list that I decide it isn’t going to taste all oniony and gross like how I remember the original Gardenburger. At that point I seriously regret not taking a cart, so I finally head to the front to check out.
So there’s a line at all the checkouts. Like, all of them. Most of them ten-deep. Then I see all these empty self-check lanes and I go over to see if they’re out of order. I mean, I figure they’re out of order because why the fuck would you be standing in line for an hour to avoid checking yourself out? But they’re not out of order, all those idiots are just waiting in line for nothing. I watch them, figuring someone’s going to notice how smart I am and there’s going to be a stampede to get to the other self-check machines before they’re all full, but no—no one moves from the line.
Okay, maybe a few of them have to pay cash, but ALL of them? And some of these people probably have hundreds of dollars worth of stuff in their carts. Who carries that much cash? (I typically have zero cash in my wallet.)
I don’t mind checking myself out, although as a cheapskate, it does bother me that I don’t get a discount for doing so. After all, Sam’s (or Walmart, or Target, or any other store with self-check) is saving money on overhead when I check myself out. And with Walmart/Sam’s Club, they’re always bragging about how they’re saving money to save YOU money—for example, Sam’s doesn’t have plastic bags, although there’s a pile of empty boxes up front you can pick through. Supposedly, they’re passing on the saving to customers, right?
So why can’t they pass on the savings of employing fewer cashiers to customers who use the self-check? Why isn’t there an instant discount of .1% or something every time you use the self-check? This seems unfair. I’m perfectly happy to check myself out, but I feel like the savings should be passed on to me.
That being said, I am not quite enough of a cheapskate to wait in line for an hour at Sam’s just to stick it to them for not giving me a discount. So I reluctantly use the self-check at stores that have it, even though I feel that I’m paying more than I would at the regular checkout for the same items, because the self-check line is always so much shorter.
I feel like I’m not being a good cheapskate here, even though I use coupon apps and always make sure stuff rings up right and never buy an item I know is cheaper elsewhere if the store won’t price match. But, sometimes I just don’t have an hour to wait in line.
So, why don’t stores offer discounts to customers who check out their own items? Especially club stores where everyone already has a trackable member card? Maybe they could give you a discount after you spend so much money at the self-check, or every tenth purchase or something. It seems to me that since no one does this, if ONE store did it, that would be a really good way to build customer loyalty and keep people coming back to that store, especially since people already want to use the self-check because it’s more convenient.
How much of a cheapskate are you? Would you wait in line for a long time if it meant sticking it to a company that wasn’t passing savings on to you?
W. T. Fallon is the author of Fail to the Chief, a political satire in which the presidential election is carried out via reality show, which is almost as bizarre and far-fetched as our current reality.