There’s frugal, there’s cheap and there’s cheap and rotten…

Miss Thrifty8 September 12, 2008

UPDATE: If you are visiting from MSN Smart Spending, welcome to Miss Thrifty! My passion for fashion knows no bounds, but neither does my craving for saving…  Bargains ahoy! I update my blog daily with all the latest frugal tips and red hot discounts. Please have a look around; if you like what you see, subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for stopping by  – Miss T.


David at MoneyNing has posed a question for his readers: would you do something immoral to increase your wealth if you knew you wouldn’t get caught?

A friend of his regularly phones the customer service department of a certain company to complain, because she knows that she will get a 15 per cent discount coupon every time she does this.

He writes:

In many levels, I felt that it was wrong but couldn’t exactly point out to her at the time why I felt that way because she did get bad service.  Was it because of her motivation for the call or was it more because it’s not the first time she’s done this?

I know what he means. When you’re paying down debts or piling up nest eggs, it gives you a great buzz and it’s very tempting to get carried away…

I like to stretch the boundaries, but I’m really careful not to cross the line. This is because I have learned that when you grub around for money like that, other people usually suffer. Karma is a bitch, huh?

Here’s an example:

As many of you know, I am the proud owner of the much-loved Thriftymobile. Last year I was driving to work along the backroads, and pulled up at a queue for a roundabout, behind a big shiny SUV. A few seconds later there was a deafening THWACK, the sickening sound of crunching metal and my car jolted forward, bumping the car in front. Fortunately I had the handbrake on and it was only a light bump; the vehicle in front wasn’t even scratched.

I got out of my car, and found that I was sandwiched in the middle of a four car pile-up! The two vehicle behind me were little old bangers too. They were both crumpled write-offs. (Hurrah for the Thriftymobile, which escaped with a cracked rear light and a modest car-shaped dent in its backside. Seriously: this car is the auto equivalent of Mumm-Ra, The Ever Living.) Two girls climbed out of the two written-off cars and burst into tears. An impeccably groomed woman and her impeccably groomed daughter climbed out of the SUV at the front, surveyed the scene, said that everyone was fine and that was what mattered, then hopped back into their monster truck and drove off.

I waited with the girls until their dads showed up. One told me that she worked as a shop assistant; the other worked in a local call centre. When I finally got to work, my co-workers told me to put in a claim for whiplash, quick sharp. I phoned my husband; one of his co-workers came on the phone, telling me to put in a whiplash claim and get some cash. I phoned my mother to let her know what had happened; she pretty much demanded that I put in a whiplash claim.

“Everyone does it”, they said. “The doctors can’t disprove it. It’s what you do. You get money!”

But I didn’t have whiplash. I was fine. What’s more, I knew that if I did put in a fake claim then the girl whose car had bumped into mine, who was no more at fault than I had been, would have to pay a raised insurance premium. She wasn’t rich. And anyway, it would have been wrong.

The next day, I had a call from the police. The impeccably groomed daughter from the fancy SUV, whose mother had driven off with nary a pause, had – you guessed it – filed a personal injury claim. For whiplash.

At the time I was really angry. Because my car was the one that had collided with theirs, I had to take unpaid time off work to go to the police station and give a full statement. My insurance company’s solicitors had to get involved, if only to prove that I wasn’t the driver at fault (as you can probably guess, the culprit was the girl at the back). I had to fill in several ten-page forms for various parties’ insurance companies and solicitors. It dragged on for the next eight months. And after I was finally exonerated, the poor girl in the car behind mine had to go through exactly the same drawn out process. When I came to renew my car insurance, the premium had jumped because a personal injury claim had been made against me. (And before you ask: yes, I did shop around! Got a great deal in the end, but finding it took time.)

So a scrappy little whiplash claim may have turned a fast buck – or in this case, which dragged on forever, a very slow buck – but it went on to cause an awful lot of time, money and trouble for the innocent people who were (literally) caught in the middle. I wonder if the SUV duo knew that when they filed their claim?

I don’t regret not filing though. It might have boosted my finances but overall, I would have lost more than I gained.

UPDATE: This post was selected for the 143rd Festival of Frugality, hosted by Living Almost Large.

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8 Responses to “There’s frugal, there’s cheap and there’s cheap and rotten…

JB says:

There’s more to life than money. Self worth, dignity, integrity.

Some things aren’t worth it.

JBs last blog post..Create Your Passion

September 12, 2008 at 2:25 pm

Kirsty says:

I’d have done the same as you. I just couldn’t be fraudulent about something especially if it would affect someone else. I believe too strongly in Karma for one! Good for you 🙂

Kirstys last blog post..Emergency funds

September 12, 2008 at 7:59 pm

FruGal says:

I am with you – I could never do something I wasn’t comfortable with just to make a quick buck. It’s all about the karma… the other day I dropped £60 in the street somewhere (I was having a really bad day and didn’t even notice), and was so mad with myself, but my only consolation is that I hope someone who really needed some good money karma found it! I’m sure it made someone else’s week, but it certainly didn’t do much good for mine 🙂

FruGals last blog post..Is frugal the new black?

September 16, 2008 at 5:34 pm

rida says:

I’d did the same as you. I simply couldn’t be fraudulent about something particularly if it would affect someone else. I believe too strongly in Karma for one! Healthy for you

March 31, 2011 at 7:56 pm

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