Penny Wise (for others), Pound Foolish (for ourselves)

One evening, when I was with my customer in his office, a peon entered the room and asked for permission to get the office bicycle tyre tube replaced since it got punctured very often, leading to waste of time. He said it would cost Rs. 120. My customer replied, “We’ll see after a few days.” After the peon left the room, my customer spoke about the need to make people realise that money doesn’t grow on trees.
My customer had just received a huge order that morning, so he invited me to join him in a small celebration at an exclusive hotel nearby. After we ordered our drinks, the waiter recommended the Grilled Jumbo Prawns, which my customer accepted. There were 4 prawns, which we polished off in about 2 minutes. When the bill was presented, we realised that the Grilled Jumbo Prawns cost Rs. 750! This time, my customer did not speak about money not growing on trees!

Another day some years earlier, my friend invited me to accompany him and his mother to my neighbour’s jewellery store to buy silver items to be gifted to some of their relatives on their 60th Birthdays, which were coming up in the next few weeks. Within a few minutes, my friend’s mother purchased 4 items for a total of over Rs. 16,000. As we waited for the items to be gift-wrapped, I remarked to my friend that his mother was a very generous person as she had exceeded her stated budget of Rs. 12,000 without any hesitation. My friend winked at me and whispered, “Ha! This morning, Amma was screaming at the maid. I thought the maid had tried to murder Amma, but it turned out she had only asked for a raise of Rs. 50!”

During most visits to restaurants where tipping is expected (but not mandatory), I notice that many persons order food and beverages without thinking too much about the prices, but are quite tight-fisted when it comes to leaving a tip. (In all fairness, I must state that I have also come across generous tippers, though these are much fewer in number.)

Why are we generous or even lavish to ourselves and to our near and dear ones, but overly cost-conscious when we spend on others?

(This post was originally published on July 18, 2013.)


7 thoughts on “Penny Wise (for others), Pound Foolish (for ourselves)

  1. These remind me of old proverbs that make for more sense. Not replacing the punctured tube can only result in “For want of a nail the battle was lost”!

  2. This is so true,…Even I resist this behaviour, except for the tips, that is a contentious issue for me, as I dont believe in tips, but otherwise I never bargain with fruit and vegetable sellers, or haggle with them for tiny amounts and never ask for free green chilly and coriander (a permanent freebie asked for).

  3. True, this behavior is so common. I have seen this behavior even when people are gifting others. They buy such poor-quality, thoughtless and silly things as gifts and as a result we have cartons of useless gifts viz weird photo-frames, mini- table lamps which will give no light, tacky flower vases, small and extra-small jewelry boxes, large and extra-large paintings and idols of Gods, keys holder, flashy cuff-links… and this is when both the parties know each other’s tastes in home decor and general life-style!

    • Sometimes, gifts are so ridiculous that the receiver would have been much happier receiving nothing. What happens often is these useless gifts are preserved by the receiver and ‘gifted’ to somebody else!

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