What do you think of when you see those two words together? A song?
Perhaps you think of the lyrics to the Madonna song “Lucky Star” from the 1980’s. ”Starlight, starbright, first star I see tonight. Starlight, starbright, make everything alright.”
Could it be that you think of a Metallica song from the 1990’s, where these lyrics were used?
Or, maybe you think of the classic children’s nursery rhyme, “Starlight, Starbright.”
Well, for me, I think of starlight mints. Why, you ask? Well, it’s because of a business lunch I had many years ago, where the mints became fodder for a story that lasted years among coworkers. Its also a story that makes its way into the Squirreling Gone Wild series, as the 7th edition.
Starlight mints, for those that don’t know, are those round, red and white, peppermint spinwheel mints that you often find at restaurants. Sometimes you might see them when the check arrives, with one mint given by the server for each guest at the table. Or, you might find them visible in a bowl by the hostess stand, typically taken by people as they leave the restaurant. You appreciate them when you see your date or spouse taking one after dining on Kung Pao chicken 🙂
Anyway, on my first day of work at a job back in the 1990’s, the department took myself and another new employee out to lunch. This “first day” lunch ended up being a department-wide lunch, as about 15 people attended. I do remember that the other newcomer and myself did not have to pay for our lunch, as it was paid for by the company – something us frugal squirrelers tend to remember!
But what I also remember is the behavior, at lunch, of this other guy who was in the department. I actually sat across from this guy, and he was moderately friendly, but seemed preoccupied. His big, beady eyes were staring slightly up and off to the side half the time. He had kind of a serious look to him, as though he was thinking of something related to the office, while paying half-hearted attention to the otherwise sociable conversation of the 15-person group at the table. I didn’t give too much thought to him, as I was trying to get my bearings and remember the names of the other faces new to me at lunch. He seemed like a regular guy, perhaps a bit quiet, and not immediately standing out of the crowd.
As lunch ended, and the checks were paid, we got up and made our way to the door. There was that aforementioned starlight mint bowl at the hostess stand near the door. As people walked by, some took a mint, others didn’t. The ones that did took one mint. I was toward the back of the group, and have to admit that I was eyeing the mints, and was going to take just one. After all, on the first day of the job, you want to be play it a little close to the vest even with the little things, as you try to figure out the lay of the land.
As my turn approached, the guy I had sat across – who was walking a half stride in front of me – reached for the bowl. He didn’t reach with a small grip of a few fingers, however. No, that would be too normal for a professional lunch. Rather, as his arm extended and reached for the bowl, his hand suddenly opened up wide. It looked like a snake opening its mouth to devour its prey. With a quick strike, he grabbed a huge handful of candy, practically overflowing from his grip. He must have had 10 or more mints in his hand. He put it in his pocket. Then, he reached out with his other hand and grabbed even more mints, putting them in his other pocket. All told, he must have taken at least 15 mints at this work-related lunch.
After working with him for a while, I realized that this fit his personality profile. It made for a good story that a few other coworkers and I made sure not to forget.
How much did he gain by this? A review of starlight mint prices indicates that these can be purchased at $0.05 per mint. So, at a nickel per mint, he picked up $0.75 worth of candy. Is this truly crossing the line of frugality, to the point of losing self-respect? Or is it harmless, since they were there for the taking?
This also brings up another question: do you keep your frugality under wraps when with coworkers or people you don’t know well, but unleash it later? For example, are you a one-mint person at a business lunch, but a mint-grabbing fiend on your own time? I’m curious what others reactions are to this.
Kind of reminds of how some parents talk about their kids: “Little Johnny behaves so well at school, but he’s just wild at home.” Perhaps it’s the same with some of us adults as we practice our frugal ways 🙂
This article was included in Festival of Frugality #281 at Remodeling This Life