I’m often puzzled when, in an effort to help someone else save money, I’m looked at like some sort of criminal or crazy person. Here’s an example. This week I had a coupon for $5 off at TGI Friday’s. The coupon explicitly stated that it could be used multiple times or given away to friends. So I printed one off and went for dinner. After we had eaten and paid, the waitress gave the coupon back to me and said, “You get to keep this. Come back tomorrow or give it to a friend.” Well, the coupon expired the next day and I knew I wouldn’t be back.
Rather than throw it away, I decided to be nice. On our way out the door I spotted a young family with three kids just coming in the door. I offered the coupon to the mother, explaining that we wouldn’t be able to use it again and that they could have it if they wanted. She gave me a look like I was insane, then started coming up with all kinds of excuses why she couldn’t take it and didn’t want it. I said, “Okay,” and went to put it away. As I was putting it back in my purse, the husband comes over and drags the woman away, muttering about “solicitors” and “people looking for handouts.” I was shocked. All I’d done was offer the woman a coupon.
This isn’t the first time I’ve done something like this and been treated like a lunatic. Sometimes if I’m in the grocery store and I see someone with an item in their cart that I have a coupon for, but know I’m not going to use before it expires, I’ll ask if they would like to use it. When we’ve gone on trips, I’ve sometimes ended up with attraction tickets that have one extra day left on them that I know I can’t use. I’ve been known to offer them to people who are just arriving. I’ve seen people drop change (dollars included) at the register and, when they don’t realize it, I’ll pick it up or point it out and say, “You dropped that.” Sometimes people are grateful for these acts of kindness. But more often than you would think, people look at me like I’m insane, get rude with me, or insist that they have no use for the item or that they didn’t drop it. Some clearly don’t trust what I’m offering and back away as if I’m offering illegal drugs.
If you genuinely don’t want or can’t use whatever someone is offering, a simple, “No thank, you,” is sufficient. You don’t need to get hostile or treat the person as if they are offering you something dirty or illegal. Just say no thanks and walk away. I know that it’s a scary world we live in sometimes and that not everyone has your best interests at heart. But someone offering you a simple coupon or your dropped change shouldn’t generally be cause for alarm, unless that person seems sincerely crazy or you’re in an isolated area where you could be distracted and then mugged or something.
Someone offering you a coupon in a crowded store or restaurant should be cause for thanks, not fear. What’s the worst that can happen? You accept the offering and it turns out to be expired or invalid. The restaurant or store says you can’t use it and then you pay full price. You’re no worse off than you were before. Chances are, however, that what you’re being offered is legitimate and you will save some money.
If you’re serious about saving money, sometimes you have to accept the kindness of strangers. Not everyone is out to harm you or put you in an awkward position. Sometimes they just want to help you by offering something that might save you a little money. Sometimes they just want to share a little of their bounty with others. If you’re so wealthy that you don’t need to save, then good for you. Feel free to decline all offers from people who are trying to be kind. But if you are like most people and you need to save money, be grateful when someone offers you something that you can use and then try to pay it forward if you have the chance.
Oh, and I did find someone to use that coupon. After the husband practically pushed me off the sidewalk, an elderly couple that was coming in just behind them stopped me and the woman said, “I hope you don’t think this is too forward, but I heard what happened just now. If you don’t mind, and if you’re still offering, could we have the coupon? We could really use it.” I didn’t mind at all.