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Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel Reviewed

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Secrets of a  Stingy Scoundrel

Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel

I really need to do one of two things: A) Stop reading books or B) Learn the art of skimming. Phil Villarreal, who you might know from the The Consumerist, asked me if I'd like a copy of his new book Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel. I have taken a special liking to the Consumerist since they posted my fight against MonaVie. Getting back to the book offers I get in general, I often accept them, because, well, "Hey, free book!" I never think about the fact that I'd have to spend hours of my life reading every... single... word, because I've never to properly skim books . The words in this case are quite good (save for the typo on page 167, where it should read "takes a Jedi-like influence" not "take a Jedi-like influence" - see told you).

I started reading the book minutes after Delta Airlines put me in a bad mood. As I got through the first few pages, I started thinking of how stupid it is. I didn't care for the section of home remedies... and I'm not even sure if they are remedies or things Villarreal made up. Then the next page, he writes about his college friend Smiley, which just seemed irrelevant to me. I realized I was reading the book for the wrong reason. I was hoping to get real personal finance insight from it, rather than entertainment. You don't want watch Pauly Shore expecting to come out smarter than when you in. Once, I got my mind in the right place, the book was much better.

The Good

There were a few great tips. Before I get into a couple of my favorites, I want to start out by saying that at least 95% of what Villarreal suggests is either immoral or illegal. So instead of "great" tips, think more "thought-provoking."

  • Netflix Switaroo - Got a scratched DVD? Order the same DVD on Netflix and stick them with the scratched version keeping the nice one for yourself. Also good for upgrading to the latest remastered versions of movies.
  • Waiter Tipping - Why base your tip on percentage of the bill. Villarreal makes the point that a waiter has to do the same work to bring you a salad or a steak - one shouldn't garner more tip.
  • Great One-Liners Such As... - "I see no purpose in buying random trinkets, for people I'd never buy stuff for under normal circumstances, in exchange for random trinkets bought by people who would never buy stuff for me under normal circumstances.

The Bad

Really there were only two bad parts to this book:

  • As previously mentioned, the book really stretches moral and sometimes legal grounds to the point of not being a personal finance book.
  • Villarreal has to update his tastes in adult web sites. One website that he mentioned was a college friends' favorite over 10 years ago. Not that I ever went there... or would know anything about that.

I did find a couple of problems with the concept of the book. Mr. Villarreal bills himself out as the cheapest SOB on the planet. Page 1 should have started with him telling the reader to not buy the book and instead read it in the library or borrow it, right? I guess he conveniently missed that one. The book is also printed on glossy paper with color photos and rounded pages. A real Stingy Scoundrel would put it on course pages, sans photos, with pages that give you at least papercuts every time you pick it up.

I'd also like to add another tip. Start a personal finance blog so that authors of books will send you books to review for free. If the book seems interesting, read it and review it. If not, throw it on Ebay for some quick cash. The author will lose a sale, but it's not a big deal. He/She is selling so many books that one more won't make a difference. The publishers are the ones who make the majority of the money of the book anyway. Mr. Villarreal will surely approve of you getting weeks of his sugar-mellow cereal milk from the sale.

Posted on October 5, 2009.

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18 Responses to “Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel Reviewed”

  1. “Page 1 should have started with him telling the reader to not buy the book and instead read it in the library or borrow it, right? I guess he conveniently missed that one.”

    Actually, on The Centsible Life, Phil commented that he did indeed have info on how to get the book for free, but his publishers made him take it out.

    “I’d also like to add another tip. Start a personal finance blog so that authors of books will send you books to review for free.”

    Hey, Phil – I’m not a PF blogger, but I do review books from time to time (really, I do -> http://www.observingcasually.com/category/review/books-and-authors/ ) so if you’re looking for another reviewer …

    This is the third review I’ve read for this book in the past few weeks. All have been positive … might be time to buy the book.

    (Wouldn’t the remastered DVDs have a different unique ID, btw?)

  2. Lazy Man says:

    I don’t think Netflix looks at the DVD itself too specifically… maybe they just want to make sure that the next person doesn’t complain too much about the last person. So maybe you don’t want to pull this trick too many times lest the next person point their fingers back at you.

  3. NatalieMac says:

    I’m all for saving money, but I’m not about to rip someone else off or stick someone else with my faulty product in order to do it.

    As a former waitress, I’m also not going to cheat a server out of a tip they’ve earned. Don’t assume that all a server does is bring your food. Servers also prepare a lot of the food – it’s pretty standard for servers to be responsible for preparing drinks, desserts, and salads. At an Olive-Garden-like restaurant where I worked, servers were also responsible for preparing and baking the bread sticks. While what’s on the plate might not make carrying it more or less work, the server doesn’t just carry the plates. Tip your waitstaff. In many state, they’re earning $2.13/hour. Seriously.

  4. Lazy Man says:

    Let’s say that the Olive Garden does have that kind of advanced responsibility. What about eating at steak house where I ask for only water (not much preparation) and an entree. My bill will probably say that I should tip the steak house waiter more than the Olive Garden waitress despite the fact that she does more work.

    That leads to the point that I think that Villarreal is trying to make – the system of using a percentage of the bill is flawed.

    I know a waitress who drives 45 minutes to a bar because the tips for the work are much better there than the 150+ or more places that are closer.

  5. anonymous says:

    This sounds like a book I’ll be skipping. It infuriates me to read about people ‘saving’ money by sticking others with the tab.

    I’m a firm believer in frugality. Consume less. Save more. Etc.. But from the review it sounds like this guy is trying to consume more, and get everyone else to pay for it.

    Much like the folks who check out CDs from the library, and then rip them into iTunes. It amazes me that people don’t see the harm in these types of actions.

  6. While I believe it is morally wrong not to tip because of the way things currently stand, I’m certain that if everyone stopped tipping it would force the industry to change.

  7. I’m still confused as to how the cost of the waitstaff has been largely shifted from the employer to the customer. I do tip, often generously, but take this example …

    I had a catalytic converter replaced on my car several months ago. The bill was $600ish, including labor. I pay the bill and leave – I don’t tip the guy who did a great job on the car (and I don’t think it is customary to do so, unless I’m missing something).

    Should the place have quoted me $522 instead, with the assumption that I’d tip the employee 15% ($78, bringing the total to $600)

    I play the game, but I don’t understand the origin of the rules.

  8. Grammar Police says:

    Lazyman says: “save for the typo on page 167, where it should read “takes a Jedi-like influence” not “take a Jedi-like influence”

    Earlier in the same paragraph: “because I’ve never to properly skim books.”

    Glass houses, Lazyman…. Glass houses. ;)

  9. Lazy Man says:

    Kosmo, that’s a point that I think Mr. Pink makes in The Reservoir Dog, which Phil Villarreal points out. I might have written about the famous scene in the distance past as well. (If not, I meant to).

    To confuse things more, if you go to Australia and try to tip, the waitstaff will chase you down the street with your money. Some consider it insulting and it’s not part of their economic system.

    Phil Villarreal’s view on tipping even goes a step further, which I think, you, Kosmo, may have insight on. Uncle Sam assumes certain tip for waitstaff and taxes based on that – whether you actually received that tip or not? I may have to read more into the argument again, because there’s a high chance I got that wrong.

  10. Lazy Man says:

    Grammar Police, there’s a large difference between a blog and a published book. My point was more to poke fun of Phil’s editor AND point out that I do read every word of the nearly 200+ page book. Being such a slow reader is the reason why I’ve posted my book review about a month after others have appeared on the web.

    I, on the other hand, have stated numerous times, that I’m not a writer (software engineer), I have no editor, and my content is free to access.

  11. Lazy Man says:

    Anonymous, the book is clearly labeled as belonging in the humor section of the bookstore, not the personal finance one. I don’t think you’d take this advice much more seriously than you would take George Carlin’s (RIP).

    George Carlin was a funny guy, who sometimes made a lot of sense, but he would have been the first to tell you he’s joking if you tried to take it too seriously.

  12. Regarding taxes:


    “As an employer, you must ensure that the total tip income reported to you during any pay period is, at a minimum, equal to 8% of your total receipts for that period.”

  13. Some of those stingy things are ok.

  14. david in norcal says:

    Anyone who chooses to save tipping $$$ this way should be paid only for the cheapest form of labor they do at their job during any given day. Answer a simple question on the phone (say they ask your company’s address). Whatever rate of pay that requires (very little), that’s what you get paid for all your hours. After all, you are just talking and doing stuff –it’s not actually more work.

    Then tip the waiter for the steak based on the salad price.

    Here’s what I was responding to:
    “Waiter Tipping – Why base your tip on percentage of the bill. Villarreal makes the point that a waiter has to do the same work to bring you a salad or a steak – one shouldn’t garner more tip.”

  15. Little House says:

    What a refreshing book review. I don’t have much time to read books, other than assigned reading for classes, and this is one I think I can skip.

    I also agree, with an earlier commenter, that saving money is great, but not if it is at another’s expense. I love Netflix, by the way, and even though they are a successful company, I don’t think it’s okay to advocate ripping them off.

    thanks for the book review-
    Little House

  16. Lazy Man says:

    David in norcal,

    I suggest you read the whole book in context. Remember it’s humor. And he’s not looking for waiters to be paid less, he’s more looking at a system like what I described in Australia where your employer pays you for the work that you do and tipping isn’t done.

    I walk into a Dunkin Donuts and they have a tip jar. I walk into a McDonalds and there is no tip jar. How much do those jobs really differ and why is the Dunkin Donuts’ employee more deserving of a tip? Can’t each employer just pay the employee fairly for what they do?

  17. Jessica says:

    As a former waitress myself, I find it insulting, even if it is supposed to be funny. Waitstaff work hard, and yes, our system is stupid and unfair to them. People who think it’s wrong have three choices: write their congress-person, eat out only at fast food places where tip jar tipping is optional, or move to Europe. Plain and simple. I polished your silverware and fetched everything your heart desired while you were eating. Either tip me or don’t show up.

    That being said, you are also supplementing an hourly wage, which I think is part of the reason why it’s based on price. Eating a quick salad doesn’t take as long as eating a steak and sides, two people together will be at the table longer, and thus their higher check creates a higher tip. Also ordering an appetizer and a dessert mean you are their longer, and also mean a higher check. The longer you sit, the more the waitress must do for you, ergo the more you tip. It’s not perfect but the math generally works out.

  18. Jessica, the point of my book is to command all waiters and waitresses to move to Australia. Once you read it you will understand, never expect a tip again and move immediately.

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