“You can’t put ‘thanks’ in the banks.”
— A former hospitality business coworker of mine.
I cannot tell you why they caught my eye, they just did.
I was in the ballroom in the Taggert Student Center on Utah State University’s campus. I was there to watch the football game between my beloved USU Aggies and the University of Washington. The game was being shown on the big screen in the ballroom with free pizza and Aggie Ice Cream available to those who came out.
I had a big lunch before going to campus, so the free food did not interest me. I was alone on that point. When the offer was made for all those in attendance to come to the tables for the grub, those present marched dutifully in unison like zombies closing in on a lame horse.
That is when they caught my eye—four younger people, two guys and two girls. I think it is appropriate to refer to them as “Mormon-y” especially since one of the girls was wearing a t-shirt with “LDS Institute” emblazoned on the front.
They each took a slice of pizza and a small cup of ice cream and sat down close to the back where I was standing. I could not take my gaze off of them. And, at the time, I had no idea why they piqued my curiosity. Then it happened.
Just as the game kicked off, the four of them got up and left the ballroom. They threw away their trash and never returned. They had no interest in the football game. They only showed up for the free food.
I read once that a bassett hound has over 250 million scent receptors. I have a working theory that the typical Utah Mormon has a similar neurological awareness that allows them to detect free stuff to be had from a distance of 20 miles away.
A stereotype is a perception of truth widely held by a large group of people regarding another large group of people. It is not based on nothing. As such, after 11 years of living in Utah, having befriended many members of the LDS Church, and being of a mind to take notes about the human behaviors I see exuded by people with common traits, I believe I can make the following statement emphatically and without fear of disaccreditation or the threat of being charged with libel.
Utahns, specifically Utah Mormons, are cheapskates.
Name me any group of people that goes out of their way to hold their wedding reception in a chapel that doubles as a basketball court to save money on renting a nice hall. Name one religious denomination other than Mormonism where a green bean casserole at a potluck social would not sit idly on the corner of a table unwanted, untouched and eschewed like an annoying second cousin at a family reunion. Produce empirical evidence that will counter my argument that Mormons bring their young children to movies and sporting events to save $20 on a babysitter.
You want another example? I aim to please.
Earlier this year, a new yogurt shop opened up in Logan. On their opening day, they offered free yogurt to anyone who stopped by. The line to get into that store was purportedly visible from outer space.
Many waited in a long line on a hot day for over an hour to get a free 4 oz. cup of yogurt. This unfortunate event was not outside of a soup kitchen during the Great Depression. This was not a bread line in the old Soviet Union. It was yogurt.
Do you value your time? I value mine. When I was 16 years old, I camped overnight in a line outside of the Philadelphia Spectrum to nab tickets for a Journey concert. I partied all night; and, in the morning, I was able to procure front row seats. The overnight vigil coupled with the proceeding concert was an event I will remember on my death bed when I am 99 years old.
Utahns wait in line to get a shotglass full of yogurt. Winner: Me!
I do not criticize the pursuit of all freebies. I am not disqualifying attempts to winning a sweepstakes that offers an automobile or a trip to Hawai’i. I am bemoaning the act of tracking down a sample of food so miniscule that an orphan from a Charles Dickens novel would lament its size. The way Mormons approach the free samples at Sam’s Club bears a strikingly eerie resemblance to a pride of lions homing in on an unsuspecting antelope.
I figured out long ago why the theocratic oligarchy that runs Utah has such strident rules prohibiting bars in the state from holding “Happy Hours” and disallowing bartenders from giving loyal patrons drinks free of charge. If they did, half the Mormons in this state would be incurable drunks.
Section 89 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants strictly prohibits adherents of Mormonism from indulging in alcoholic drinks. It also helps that most bartenders expect you to offer a gratuity when you buy a beer.
And on that note, you lifelong Utahns that are not followers of the “Dominant Religion” are not immune from my sneering rebuke. I used to bartend many years ago. If I was a bartender in Utah, I would hit half of you miserly apostates upside your heads with an empty bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Good and faithful Mormons tithe 10% of their income to their church. What’s your excuse for holding on to your money like it’s the last cannister of oxygen on the planet?
Allow me to draw a line at this point in my rant. I believe that frugality is a virtue. Looking for good deals on clothing, or clipping coupons is how smart people live on a budget. You do not need to spend money on expensive clothes to look good. My Uncle Marty once said to me, “It is not what you wear, it is how you wear it.” I am notorious for wearing frayed blue jeans and cheap sneakers. Yet, when I dress up I look damn sexy. And I do it economically.
Another consideration is that many people in Utah, Mormon or not, work jobs that do not pay much money. Many here are one calamity away from financial destitution. And too many Utahns are disposable to their bosses. Hard to ask for a raise when 50 people would step over your dead body to hand their resume to your boss begging them to take over your job before rigor mortis sets in.
For many in the Beehive State, being a skinflint is not an ideology…it is a necessity.
When do you step over the line? When you wait in line for an hour to eat a spoonful of yogurt; when you show up to a football viewing party to eat the free food and leave at kickoff; when you have seven siblings but never ask any of them to watch your three toddlers whilst you go on “date night” with the spouse; when you cut your wedding cake at the free throw line on a basketball court, then, you must know that frugality has turned into something ugly and pathetic.
Free stuff is not always free. Sometimes you pay for that slice of pizza with a big chunk of your dignity. And that server who got you that extra pickle on your cheeseburger does not pay her rent on the first of the month with her charm and ample cleavage.
Tip better. Pay for food. And for the love for humanity, stop eating rancid green bean casseroles at potluck dinners!