Squirreling Gone Wild #18: The Extractor

Do you ever complain about bad service at a restaurant? Do you contact a company if you purchase a product that doesn’t live up to your expectations?

If so, maybe you just want to let the business know your thoughts, or perhaps in some cases you want a refund. This edition of Squirreling Gone Wild will focus on a unique type of individual who goes beyond complaining and likes to suck free goods or services out of a business as a vampire likes to suck blood. It’s frugality run amok.

Now, some of us do complain more than others, and there is a wide spectrum of fussiness among consumers. Personally, I’m on the lower end of that spectrum.  I’m likely to take action by making a different purchasing decision next time. If it’s incredible rudeness, gross incompetence, or something of the like, I’ll gladly complain. But that’s not frequently the case.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who will complain at any dissatisfaction they have with food, service, or product. If they don’t like what they paid for, they will let the business know about it loud and clear. Whether it’s wanting to get out frustrations, or simply trying to get a refund every time they’re unhappy, these folks like to take a stand.

Then, there’s that unique type of individual I referred to earlier. The best way I could characterize this person is with this title:

The Extractor

I had the pleasure of knowing one these individuals, and it was quite interesting. On the surface, she and her husband were nice, gentle people.  I got to know them a bit through a friend, and eventually spent some time with them on occasion. They had some good qualities as people, no doubt.

However, when it came to spending money, they were penny pinchers extraordinaire. This would manifest itself when going out to dinner with them.

Invariably, there was something wrong with the food or service. Maybe the food isn’t warm enough, perhaps it isn’t spicy enough, or maybe the water doesn’t have enough ice. There was always something to complain about. And complain she did.

I recall one time when we went out for pizza, there was someone in our group that was thirsty, but didn’t get a glass of water for about 10 minutes. Otherwise, it was a good evening out for all, with good pizza and good fun. I didn’t think anything of it.

The next time I saw The Extractor, she told me that she called the pizza place the next day, complained about the service, and scored a credit for free food up to $20.

All for a glass of water. And she wasn’t the one who had to wait for water!

Another time we went out with The Extractor and husband (and there weren’t that many times), I recall her complaining about the quality of a vegetarian sandwich that was ordered. “Could they have really messed up something made of veggies?!” is what I thought. But then I remembered who I was with, and thought “That’s just her. We all have our quirks”

Of course I gave her the benefit of the doubt. And, of course, she turned around and complained even more, to the point where they gave the sandwich for free. I began to see a pattern.

I then noticed, in a few conversations on different occasions, that she would talk about different instances when she complained about products she purchased. One was ice cream that she said had too many artificial ingredients in it for her taste, so she called the company to complain. A coupon for free ice cream was sent. A similar complaint was made with a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips. A coupon for a free bag of chips was sent.

I first thought, “If the food product was so offensive that a complaint was necessary, why eat a replacement that’s exactly the same?

Then I quickly concluded, “She’s not really complaining. She’s just trying to get free stuff.”

That was it. It was all about getting free stuff.

I recall visiting their home, and seeing a letter sitting out on the coffee table. I didn’t want to be nosy, but when The Extractor and her husband stepped into the kitchen, I peered from the corner of my eye at the letter. The letter began something like:

“Dear Mrs. (Extractor), we are sorry that our product did not meet your satisfaction……”

I smiled. Even thought I didn’t think it was good form on her part, it was kind of funny, if for no other reason than it was so blatant.  I thought, “Well, this is kind of weird, but at least they’re not hurting me. And besides, they’re nice in other ways.”

Fast forward to later on that year. We were out to dinner again, this time at a nice place downtown that was fairly pricey. It was a fabulous meal, with nice views of the of the city to boot. Fun experience to be sure.

Then, as we were nearing the end of the meal, I saw her husband’s eyes notice something, and he immediately got up. I turned, and noticed that he was going to the bathroom. The next thing I know, the waiter walks up to our table with the check. He handed it directly to me.

First I was like “What the…..”. Then,  quickly realized what was going on. Mrs. Extractor was married to another Extractor!  Very slick, that “to the bathroom when the bill’s on it’s way” move.

All of a sudden, it’s not as funny when you’re the one being extracted from!

 That was long enough ego, but needless to say, I don’t see Mr. and Mrs. Extractor anymore.

I had done this once as a college kid, trying to score a free pizza. It worked, and I felt bad afterward, as shared in a previous story here. But these were grown adults doing this type of thing on a regular basis. Not my type:)

Have you ever met anybody like this, who takes such extreme measures to get free things?


  1. says

    I’ve had the displeasure of associating with “extractors”, also known as moochers and deadbeats. Your acquaintances also seemed to have loose ethical standards. Lying to score a $20 pizza credit…. sheesh. Good you cut off your acquaintance, it might have gone from bad to worse.

    • Squirrelers says

      101centavos –

      You have good names for such characters too. The way I see it, this fits an old saying I heard that goes as follows:”It’s hard to smell like a rose when you’re rolling in a dunghill”

  2. says

    Oh man, those guys are worse than anybody I know. I don’t think they’ll have too many friends if they keep that up. I wonder if they were in some kind of financial trouble and had to go through these extraordinary measures. Their behavior is definitely not normal.

    • Squirrelers says

      Retire By Forty – if you didn’t know them well, you would have thought that they’re actually very nice people. The money aspect is a whole different dimension, however. Not good to take advantage of people in that way!

  3. says

    It’s a good thing that it ended the way it did, Tells you a lot about how much they valued your friendship when they pulled their bathroom stunt in the end. All for what? $50? good riddance!

  4. says

    Yes, these guys seem pretty miserable. I’m glad I do not personally know them. They apparently must have a character flaw.

    I’m typically easy going but will occasionally complain in the case of rudeness (there’s really little excuse for overt rudeness).

    • Squirrelers says

      Shawn – yes, it speaks to a character issue of some sort. You would never know it, as they come off as nice, unassuming people otherwise. Just goes to show that people can be freaky when it comes to money!

  5. says

    I work in retail and see this all the time. We have one woman who comes in and returns half a roast, or half a loaf of bread, or half a pie. She will say it made her sick. I say sorry about that and hand her the money. Then she says, “That pays for the product but I got sick. Who’s going to pay me for being sick?” I call a manager and they give her a ten or twenty dollar gift card. She “gets sick” often. I can tell the ones that complain to companies all the time. They will come in with a fist full of coupons for free products that certainly didn’t come out of the Sunday paper.

    I laughed when you said he ran to the bathroom when the check came. There was a character on the comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm who did this. You should have had the waiter split the bill just for fun and handed the wife their bill.

    • Squirrelers says

      iamtheworkingpoor – that’s funny that there’s an episode where someone does that. I’m sure there are others who try this. I didn’t add that there was also a different time where a bill came, and the same guy showed “alligator arms” has he faked reaching for his wallet. Someone else actually paid (not me) for all and was generous about it and insistent. So, this wasn’t the first time a stunt was pulled, but I guess I didn’t think as much about it because it I wasn’t the direct target of the exctracting, and because I’m not one to assume intent like that. Clearly, I noticed patterns later:)

  6. says

    The funny thing is they probably don’t realize that they are crooks. I consider people like your previous friends con artists. Because when they do those types of actions, they are really just trying to rip the restaurants or companies off.

    It’s sad that they get off on that kind of activity… You are better without them!!!

    • Squirrelers says

      We’re all better off without such people! You make a good point though, about people such as this not realizing they’re crooks. I think it’s often a case of being self-centered, where some people do actually know that they’re doing something that’s not normal in society, but they rationalize that it’s ok if they do it. There are all kinds out there, that’s for sure!

  7. says

    I hate when people stiff me on checks.

    I have mixed feelings about complaining. I used to be a product manager, and sometimes the only way you know that a product is bad is if you’ve had quality complaints about it. So, if I notice there has been a change in a product I like, I make sure to write the company and let them know and include the lot number, etc. I usually get some coupons or a calendar but that’s not why I do it. These constant complainers, though, throw off the data and that stinks.

    • Squirrelers says

      First Gen –

      True, I agree that sometimes that sort of feedback can help a business or company understand problem issues. The thing is, along the lines what you’re saying, these outliers do throw off the data. It’s almost like you have to discount almost everything they say and remove them from any analysis.

      I don’t like people pulling stuff like that either….they’re not worth dealing with!

  8. says

    Squirreler- you became a victim of the Extractor? I am really mad now!

    I cannot stand going out to dinner with complainers. I know someone that just demands perfection all the time, and pretty much is trying to show off that he is ‘powerful’. (Even though he isn’t, he is a touch delusional.)

    You need to send the Extractor a bill! I have heard of people pulling stunts like this, but never saw it in real life.

    • Squirrelers says

      Everyday Tips – I too think that these complainers are annoying. In most cases, I vote for just “complaining” by not purchasing such goods or services in the future (unless really rude service or bad stuff of the like)…but that’s just me:)

      I have heard about this type of trick before, from someone who told me about this when I was a kid. He was about 25 years older than me, and told me how is boss would do that when he ate at a restaurant with him. I found it funny and hard to imagine even when I was a child. That people would actually do stuff like that is something else….

    • Squirrelers says

      Sam – yep, that’s another side reason to take action by spending money somewhere else the next time, instead of complaining unneccessarily. I’ve heard too many stories like what you’re alluding to!

  9. says

    I had a friend who would go into a fast food restaurant and claim he ordered something and didn’t get it. So, every day he would get a free burrito or hamburger by lying. It was so embarrassing to me that I refused to each lunch with him. I can’t believe someone would sell their integrity for a $4 food item.

    Of course, this person isn’t doing very well in life. He has become an obeese moocher and he has been living on disability for years. Ultimately, most people reap what they sow.

    • Squirrelers says

      Hope to Prosper –

      Good way to put it. Selling integrity for a food item. I would handle it way you did, and not eat lunch with that person after those episodes….after being burned by someone like that, I wholeheartedly agree.

      It’s sad yet funny how warped such characters are.

  10. Jenny says

    I’ve been on the receiving end of a few of these when I worked front desk in a motel. The worst was when a woman called the front desk about 8 times (over two shifts) to complain that her room was flooding (we were having a very, very heavy rainstorm), but she would not allow us into the room to fix it, or move to an identical room across the hall. She checked out early in the morning and demanded a discount for a flooded room, which I wouldn’t give her. When my manager and I went to check out the room the carpet was quite damp (but not sopping wet) about an inch inside the door, and that was it. But sure enough, the next day manager sent her an apology and a voucher for a free night’s stay.

    Another time I checked a woman into a room, and she demanded a discount because the room had (very emphatically) not been cleaned. The only thing wrong with it was there were a few bits of stuff on the floor (I think threads from the towels) and a hair on the bathroom floor (oops, but it happens). I would have given a small discount for this, but she wanted at least 50% off of her multiple night stay.

    • Squirrelers says

      Jenny – those are extractors, to be sure. Getting a free night stay or even 50% off for any of those things is a bit much. These people are looking to manipulate those situations for their own benefit, while costing others money. It’s a different mindset than the mainstream, the way I see it!

  11. says

    I think I saw the “extractor bathroom trick” on an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. Too funny!

    In some extreme circumstances, it is appropriate to announce your displeasure and try to get compensated, but always looking for freebies is a bit much. The quality of customer service has to be really really bad (almost to the point of insulting) in order for me to pull out the big guns.

    • Squirrelers says

      CNC – I agree, the quality of service has to be extaordinarily bad before going to that level of complaining. The Extractors, it would seem, almost WANT to see problems so they can capitalize with free stuff.

  12. says

    I met their type once, many years ago. Have not seen them since! My strategy is: go out and split the bill. It’s easy and quick. Who cares about a few bucks one way or another. I never send anything back because I’m always too hungry by the time the food comes!

  13. says

    Wow. I have not heard of anyone like that before! I am like you–service, product, or whatever has to be really bad in order for me to call a company up and complain. On the rare occasions that I have mentioned something, I have gotten free products, which I took as a nice exchange for my ideas and time.

    These people are nutsos! I wonder what their karma will look like down the road….:).

  14. says

    That’s a pretty sneaky tactic. I’d be worried at a restaurant about someone doing something to my food due to the complaints. Though I did notice that the pattern tended to happen after they were all finished eating. My stepmother has a horrible habit of complaining about food at restaurants, though it’s not a planned tactic to get a free meal; she’s just a complainer!

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