Means to an end

pecan pieSome years ago, I worked with a woman who would invite me to lunch every so often. We weren’t particularly close, but a random lunch date helps keep things interesting, so I generally said yes. Silly me.

Following a decent meal and pleasant conversation, the awkward moment came with the check. We’d get the bill, check the total, and reach for our purses. While I laid in the cash, she would magically find a buy-one-get-one-free coupon to erase her portion of the bill. I left feeling annoyed.

Okay, so I was a slow learner; I shouldn’t have let it happen more than once if it bothered me. Even so, I went along with it a fair number of times over the course of a year.

The main reason I let it continue to happen was this: I didn’t think my reaction made logical sense. After all, I didn’t pay any more than I would have without her coupon. I was obligated for my lunch either way–why should it make a difference to me if she got hers free?

I felt used, that’s why.

Was she just looking for a lunch partner so she could exercise her coupon? Or did she really want to have lunch with me and the coupon was just a bonus? I didn’t want to be the means to an end; I wanted to be the main attraction.

Sure, logically the coupon didn’t change anything. With or without her, I still would have had to buy my lunch that day. But the icky feeling and nagging doubt I carried away with my full belly changed everything.

That situation taught me that not everything has to make (logical) sense to be real.  I also reinforced to me that the means is just as important at the end.

I’m still chewing on this one. Please let me know your thoughts.

16 thoughts on “Means to an end

Add yours

  1. I think you have good insight because you were invited to join HER for lunch. On top of that, it would have left you feeling special and wanted if instead she used the coupon to pay for your meal instead. After all, at the very least YOU would have split the difference so you both could enjoy the savings. She used the coupon without buying one meal to get the second free, you bought the meal. In a way she invited you to take her out for lunch. “Used” is a good word. It is also NOT logical either. As a friend it would have been exciting to say…I have this coupon…lets go get a good deal on lunch! Or….I’m really hurting for cash, would you help me by letting me use this coupon to pay for my meal. In either case you know up front the payment situation.

    1. Thanks, Debbie. I think you’ve captured what I couldn’t seem to articulate. It’s not the dollars so much but the feelings that matter here.

      I hope you guys are all doing well in TX!

  2. I’ve had this situation come up on a few occasions, and did feel used. One thing that helps me forgive those who use this coupon trick, is to assume that they don’t pick up on the social cues and implications of doing something that, to them, seems practical.

    If the tables were turned, I would at least offer to split the check. In fact, I apply this practice to gift cards too. We recently went to Casa with another couple. We had a gift card for $50. So when the check came we offered to pick up the whole bill, since we invited them and had the gift card to soften the blow. After a few polite volleys, they insisted we split the remaining check, and we all had a little more to spend on drinks later. Win, win!

  3. One time, shame on her – but two times, shame on you for not saying that you should split the remaining bill. Hard to believe that there are people like that out there, but we all know someone like that 😦

    1. I know, shame on me. I just didn’t believe it would happen twice. Regardless, I should have spoken up. We’d all be better off if we were honest about our feelings!

  4. I totally agree with Debbie – if she had been upfront about the coupon at the beginning, I bet it would have turned into a non-issue. But she didn’t, so you’re left feeling icky at the end of the meal. For what it’s worth, I would have had the very same reaction, logical or not!

  5. I agree that the timing made it suspicious. She was either embarrassed, or she had a consciousness of guilt that she was getting something over on you. It sounds like you sensed it was the latter.

    1. I have to bear some of the blame for not speaking up. I could have cleared the air but chose to bury the issue instead. Hopefully I’ve learned something! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

      1. If it makes you feel any better, I’m not sure I would have said anything either. I have been in situations where I didn’t feel right being angry unless I knew the person intended to hurt me. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what people intend; if they’re up to something they rarely admit it. She also could have had a story ready to go that would have made you look bad if you had confronted her. And yes, I think too much sometimes. 🙂

  6. So, did you ever ask her? (Not confront her.) Did you ever ask if she had a coupon and therefore how she felt about splitting the remainder of the check?
    I agree with your questions and agree about feeling used in these instances. I wouldn’t say shame on you, it just isn’t a ploy that you would employ (rhyme unintentional) so it didn’t occur to you.

    1. I’m sorry to say that I never brought it up. Today I probably would–nicely, of course–but back then I would have been less inclined. We all mature with time!

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