Don’t Offer Her Your Two Cents; She’d Take It

, , , , , , | Working | September 24, 2020

I worked in retail in the late 1980s. One of my coworkers was an unbelievably stingy woman. Amongst the many examples I can give you: she would pay in exact change for anything, would walk a mile in the rain to save two cents on groceries, go to thrift stores or haggle to buy clothes for her children — and always at least a size too small, I noticed — and would wear the same outfit every day until it fell apart or she really needed a shower. Speaking of which, she would use soap from the employee bathroom during breaks instead of buying her own. Here are some memorable instances of her penny-pinching.

When we were being given a raise of $3.50 a day, she asked, “Could you possibly give me this week’s money in advance? I need to buy extra gas.”

My boss asked, “Why?”

She replied that her daughter needed a new Girl Scout uniform. When he said he couldn’t do this, she said, “Fine, I’ll sort it out myself.”

When I saw her daughter delivering Girl Scout cookies, she was wearing a uniform with a massive tear underneath her armpit and dried mud on the hem. I asked her why and she shrugged, saying, “Mom said she can’t afford to sew it up.”

Now, my family wasn’t poor by any stretch of the imagination. True, my coworker worked in retail, but her ex-husband earned more than enough to pay alimony checks. I asked why she hadn’t asked him for more and was told that she didn’t want to spend money on a stamp.

Another example is when we were holding a Christmas celebration. I had brought in a box of chocolates, as everyone was bringing their own food. There was quite a bit leftover, and even a quiche that had been out-of-date; the person who had brought it in had misread the label and threw it in the trash. Guess what happened to the leftover food? That’s right; my coworker took it all home. She said to me, “Why waste going to the grocery when this perfectly good food is enough to feed me for at least a day? Roughly three meals, to be exact.”

I had never heard of anyone who ate crackers, chicken Kiev, or quiche for breakfast, but there you go. She also took half my box of chocolates, in case you’re interested.

But what really took the biscuit didn’t happen at work, specifically. I was carpooling my own kids to soccer practice and had offered to take my coworker’s son, as well; I promised that I would give him a uniform as my own kids had outgrown theirs. I arrived back at the house with its overgrown front yard and saw that my coworker had stapled the curtains together in the front room and duct-taped cardboard over her kids’ window.

When I asked why, she told me, “Why bother getting a blind when this is much cheaper?” or something like that.

My coworker lived in a two-story house with excellent plumbing and heating and in a good area, but she washed laundry in the bathtub, sometimes after her children had been in it, collected bottles and cans that the family used and sold them to a recycling plant — not that that is a bad idea in itself — had oranges on forks as an after-dinner treat, made her daughter give her all of her babysitting money when she grew old enough to go on a regular basis, let a graffiti mark on the ceiling stay there for ten years, gave her son a Barbie backpack for high school because it was going for cheap at the retail and made him keep it for four years, and broke the handle off the freezer door and never got it fixed.

However, she died ten years ago at a relatively young age and left each of her children $70,000. So I guess that’s something.

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