Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ethics, SB, and the movie theatrer

My local movie theater offers a special each Tuesday night, wherein the cost for admission and a regular size popcorn/drink combo is about half price. Not a bad deal , all in all. However, I've also quietly noticed that they offer you the option at the snack counter to "up size" your popcorn to a large size for about $.50. Naturally, of course, this means you pay less per gram for your popcorn than the regular size, but in a way it's a bit of a scam, as no one in their right mind needs to eat even half of the popcorn that container holds. You just buy more than you will ever want or need, because you think it's a good deal.

But then I noticed something else. The large size popcorn comes with free refills. At first, I think it's a bit of a con, as no one could ever eat one large popcorn in a movie, let alone refill for another full bag. Maybe an evil teenage boy, but not me. But then I started to look at it differently. There was nothing wrong with me getting a refill-top up after the movie and taking home a bag of popcorn for future snacks, was there? After all, it says free refills, and it doesn't say WHEN I should take advantage of that refill.

But it wasn't much fun taking home the refill popcorn. It really is the kind of product that is best when it's fresh, and I personally really only enjoy popcorn during movies. This got me thinking. What if I didn't take my bag home with refilled popcorn? What is I just brought home the bag, and held onto it for the next movies? What if I reused the same bag for future movies, and future dates? Is this ethical, just plain tacky, or SB behavior at it's finest?

Here's how I think about it. I'm offered a bag that comes with free refills at a premium price. The company must know that it's not really an offer that more people take advantage of, aside from teenagers, and maybe some clever parents who use the free refill trick to distribute little cups of popcorn to their kids inside the theater. If I really, really, really loved popcorn and refilled my bag 2 or even 3 times during a movie, I would be well within my rights. And I do just that, I just don't refill it during the same movie.

Now, I do have limits. Usually I only use my bag for one future refill. At that point, the bag starts to get a bit wrinkly, and I only wish to be a minor scam artist, not a major one. I feel technically, I am not really doing anything too wrong, as there are no signs or fine print anywhere that I can see. However, I also know that the deal does not in any way mean that if you buy a large popcorn once, you get free refills of popcorn for life. Therefore, I rather think I am dancing around a bit of an ethical line, and I'm pretty sure that this is a bit more tacky than strictly SB behavior. But I don't let that bother me. I know this refill behavior encourages me to go to the movies a bit more often than I normally would, as I know that I can have the full movie experience, hot popcorn and all, for an overall reduced price than if I paid for a small or regular popcorn every time I sent. And, of course, every time anyone enters a theater, the company has accomplished their goal and made money and spread advertising. So I'm not terribly worried. However, it's not necessarily the kind of thing I brag about!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

SB wins 1st prize at local pot luck!

As you all know from previous postings, I have a love of the humble pot luck dinner - I love contributing, eating, participating in them, and they are a great exercise for an SB in training. When my local running store announced a pot luck party following a charity run, with the winner to receive a $25 gift card, I knew the prize must be mine.

I picked an easy dish that I knew I could make from memory (corn chowder), and jazzed it up to make it even more luxurious. The additional of real cream to the broth (stolen from my husband's coffee), and fresh corn nibblets grated directly off the cob made it fantastic. I mashed half the potatoes to make the texture even more creamy, and threw in a dash of nutmeg (THE ingredient to make any dish fantastic!). I have to say, it was my best batch of chowder ever. The ingredients cost a bit more than my usual batch of chowder (the cream, fresh corn, extra butter), but it was a worthy investment for a pot luck and didn't cost my anymore than if I had created a lasagna, etc... To top it all off, my husband made a cute sign on the computer for me, advertising it as a "creamy, Cape Breton style corn chowder", with the words spelled out with corn cob pictures. I poured it in the crock pot and brought along a bowl of fresh popcorn to serve as an alternative topping to croƻtons.

The reviews were rave! Mine was the only hot dish there in a sea of pleasant, but pizazz-lacking deserts. I was thrilled to win the $25 dollar prize and it was all well worth my efforts and cost, as I also filed up on donated bagels, nachos, juice, etc... Being the savvy SB I am, I volunteered to help clean up, and netted a case of juice, 2 doz/leftover bagels and (oddly enough), a case of laundry detergent samples that were a gift from a promoter.

SBs - you gotta work it. Being an SB has many, many rewards

Taking it all too far??

There are not many occasions that give me pause for thought as a SB. However, being a bit of a SB when it comes to charitable events is a bit of a difficult situation. It's funny how so many folks are proud SBs when it comes to so many different aspects of their life, but when it comes to a charitable event, people forget to be even frugal or sensible, let alone an SB. They're worried they are taking it all to far. But take it from me, charitable events are MADE for an SB!

One of my favorite charities is the Tim Horton's Children's Camp program. My husband actually attended a camp as a child and, 20 years later when he returned for a visit, the staff director actually remember him! It was a fantastic experience for him, as it is for countless children in need of a great camping experience. As such, he used to drop in all his Tim Horton's change whenever he popped in for a coffee or a treat (which is quite often.) He would probably put in a few dollars there a week. Now, they are an incredibly deserving charity, but, as a clever SB, I thought of a better way.

I mandated that we start saving all our change in a big jar. Once a year, we can roll up all those pennies and dimes and submit a once-a-year cash donation to Tim Horton's, requesting a charitable receipt for income tax purposes. Even better, the key time of year to do this is in June. That is when "Camp Day" is usually held. At my local running store, they organize a free fun run/walk that ends at a local Tim Horton's to celebrate Camp Day. I happily submitted my (rather generous) donation, claimed the free T-shirts (good for around the house), completed the 3km run, and happily hung around the finish line, where Tim's graciously provided water, coffee, yogurt parfaits, and Tim Bits. I lagged around for quite some time, until the last of the runners came in, for the prize draw. A lot of people had gone home at this time, and virtually everyone who remained was awarded a prize. We got a $10 gift card. I also ate and drank so much, I didn't need supper, and took a yogurt home for work the next day.

A stingy person would have participated in the event without donating to charity. A bitch would have taken the lion's share of treats and taken off right away. But an SB cleverly plans, maximizes her donation power, happily remains behind to cheer on all runners, and is delighted to accept yet another serving of treats and is overjoyed to win a prize. It pays to be an SB.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

She may be stingy, she may even be a bitch, but she ain't no SB.

I grew up in a community where the potluck dinner was a fixture in our lives. As a small, rural village, the potluck featured prominently in every kind of fund raising activity and meeting you can imagine. And, more often than not, the ladies of the church would be called upon to contribute to a potluck to help ensure a successful event. And successful they were, for the culinary standards in the Maritimes, where I grew up, were very high. People would go all out and contribute such tasty treats as real, homemade chocolate cake, savory meatballs and rice, and delicious casseroles of every kind imaginable. Being an economically depressed area, I'm sure many of these terrific and generous cooks were SBs in disguise. Perhaps they always made their signature meatballs because their brother gave them a side of beef each year and meatballs were incredible cheap to (for them) compared to a plate of cupcakes. Or maybe they carefully make stock after each meal of chicken, allowing them to easily whip up a delectable vegetable chowder. The tantalizing temptations of the potluck remain a constant calling for me!

But their was one church lady who wasn't quite so clever or inconspicious in her SB attemps. Let's call her Anna, as that's her real name. Anna always contributed the same thing: scalloped potatoes. Now, I love scalloped potatoes, and I'm sure hers were acceptable. However, there's just no hiding how cheap it is to make a batch of scalloped potatoes. Any of the other women would have made a "cheesy potato bake" or "ham and creamed potato casserole". In other words, dishes that would have required only marginal additional expense and effort to take them from ordinary to potluck extraordinary. Not Anna. Same scalloped potatoes. All the time.

It's never good when they church ladies start to notice these things. It was bad enough that Anna didn't put in a good enough showing and was earning a general reputation for cheapness. Far worse, however, is what came after each potluck. These poor, overworked church ladies not only had to contribute to the pot luck, but clean up afterwards. And they were usually too polite to take things home with them. "No, YOU take the lasagna home, Elsie. You have your boys to feed." "No, I won't even hear of it, Elaine. Why don't you put some of these cabbage rolls in your dish.". Anna, however, would commit the horrible sin of volunteering to take things home. "I'll pack up some of these baked pork chops, Willie will be hungry when he gets in from the boat." Or "Willie would love some of this baked salmon".

I'm sure she still does it to this day. And I know that not one of those polite church ladies have ever said anything, although they've been know on occasion to 'hide' a particularly lucrative item (like a pan half-filled with chicken stew), otherwise "Anna will take it all home to Willie". Anna is exhibiting bad form. She makes no effort to really contribute, yet blatantly tries to scoop up all the goods at the end. She probably tells herself "waste not, want not". She and Willie are no more sad and poor than the rest of the community. She was being stingy, she was maybe being a bit of a bitch, but she ain't no SB.

A real SB would have taken those potatoes, made potato salad, and jazzed it up with some tomatoes a friend passed on from their garden, the capers in the fridge from a long lost dinner party, fresh herbs from her own garden, and some great feta cheese dressing, with the cheese coming from the leftovers of an office catered meeting deli tray. A real SB would then say "Elaine, why don't you take home some salad for your lunch tomorrow. Why, yes, I would love to take home a slice of your incredible chocolate cake."

Stingy Bitch - or Office Savior?

I recently had the good fortune to acquire a rather large amount of cereal cups - you know, the individually sealed, single sized portions of Cheerios, Chex, and the like that are good for lunch boxes, travel, and so on. Actually, good fortune had nothing to do with it. I saw them being given out as samples and I simply asked if I could take a case - in charming, gracious, SB fashion. Irregardless, it was free, healthy, and tasty.

Being the proud SB that I am, I knew that while I myself did not really like cereal too much, I quickly realized it's potential. I easily found a great recipe online for homemade Nuts and Bolts (or Bits and Bites, as some of you might know them) at Mennonite Girls Can Cook, which is a fantastic site:
I very quickly turned my free cereal into a great, big, tasty bowl of treats. It was extremely inexpensive, quite easy to make, and overall looks rather impressive.

But an SB takes it one step further - I brought these yummy treats into work. My co-workers went crazy for them!!. I received endless praise for my cooking talents, and everyone remarked that it was just what they needed to get through the difficult day. No cost and full credit - that's the SB way.

And I've set off a chain of events that benefits me even further. Now some co-workers are also starting to bring in treats to share. Not being SBs, they're happily contributing baked goods and savory fare to the office with little regard for cost (like the delicious organic, high end tortilla chips, store made salsa dip, and guacamole). Haven't felt a twing of guilt yet.

Are You A Stingy Bitch?

Everyone knows what a stingy bitch is like. Or at least they think they do. The coffee shop gal who didn't put enough foam on your decaf cap - stingy bitch. The great aunt who always hinted that you would inherit her ruby broach, only to learn your sinister sister-in-law now sports it - stingy bitches. The friend who always suggests dinner but is always just a few dollars short of her share of the tab - short enough that only you will notice - stingy - well, you get the idea.

The truth is, while all these experiences are unpleasant - and you feel everything from mildly ripped off to somewhat violated - the truth is that there is only one stingy bitch here. And baby, that better be you.

To be a stingy bitch, it takes more than just being frugal, cheap, aggressive, or brash. It takes real balls, 'cause there are few labels as mean and unflattering as SB. And yet, the SB life is one of the most rewarding you can live. Few people are as liked and admired as a clever and couth SB. An SB is in fact often generous, kind-hearted, and charitable. She will often pick up the tab at coffee, make something gorgeous for the office bake sale, and go out of her way to support a charity event. But she'll do it on her terms - terms that are smart, cunning, and honed towards success and survival.

Ever present a friend with a birthday gift of flowers - after scrounging through the discount 'n' dying (D'n'D) bin, removing the roughage, and jazzing it up with a bespoke bow? Ever have a barrista remake your latte because they forgot the vanilla in the first one - then take that very same unacceptable (to you!) latte in to a tired co-worker as treat? Do you smile sweetly at their happy surprise and bask in the glow of your somewhat dubious behavior? Congratulation - you're a Stingy Bitch - and it feels great!