Some 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.