But where do you draw the line between being frugal and being unethical?
Today, I went with my dad to a customer appreciation lunch at a local automotive parts store. Now before you start calling me unethical, I am a customer there as that’s where I buy all of the oil, filters, and windshield wipers for my car, and my dad is an even bigger customer there since he’s a farmer and has lots of vehicles and machinery to buy parts for.
The lunch they served wasn’t fancy, unless you consider shredded pork with a little bar-b-que sauce on a store brand bun with store brand potato chips and the cheapest kind of soda you can find fancy, but it still tasted good and it was free.
My dad and I are reasonable people and we each had one sandwich with a few chips and a can of soda. After getting our food, we went and sat with my uncle and cousin to eat. None of the three guys I was having lunch with are small guys, they are all over 6 feet tall and pretty broad too. But I thought it was a little bit ethically questionable when my cousin immediately asked if he could get a second sandwich, after all this is a free lunch that this store doesn’t necessarily have to provide to you.
This incident got me started thinking about the ethics of frugality and what is and isn’t okay to do to save money. Here are a few things I’ve seen or heard of people doing to save money that I don’t think are ethical.
Returning Used Merchandise
One of my college roommates bought several sets of plastic drawers at Walmart to store her stuff in when we lived in the dorms. I noticed that she never took the plastic tags with the UPC off of them, but didn’t think anything of it after witnessing some of her other lazy habits. But then after the school year was over and she was preparing to move home for the summer, she boxed up all the stuff she had stored in the drawers and went to Walmart to return them after she’d used them for the last eight months! I tried to convince her that was unethical, but she was convinced that it was an okay thing to do.
I’ve also heard of people doing this with clothes, especially with dress clothes they will only wear for one or two occasions. Lots of girls I know would go buy a new dress for a college or sorority event and then return the dress the next day after wearing to the formal event. They didn’t usually try to return their shoes as they had obvious wear marks on them, but they’d just hide the tags of the dress so they wouldn’t have to remove them at all.
Taking Lots of Freebies
When stores or companies give out freebies or giveaway items and it’s something you know you won’t use, don’t take one. By taking one you are just creating clutter in your life and costing the company money.
Even if the giveaway is something useful, you shouldn’t take a handful of them when they offer you one. Remember, just because it’s free for you someone has to pay for it!
Attending Events for Free Food
At least in my first example my cousin is actually a customer of the auto parts store, but there are plenty of people who attend events like those just to get the free food and not to actually help the store celebrate its anniversary or other occasion.
Just like taking too many freebies, attending events just to get free food doesn’t cost you anything but it does cost someone something.
What other unethical things have you heard of people doing to save money?