Thursday, September 15, 2011

Frugal Guilt

I have a confession to make: sometimes, when I figure out how to do something a cheaper way, I start to feel a little, well, guilty.  For example, back in the late 90s and early aughts (aka when dinosaurs ruled the earth), there was a litte music-sharing program called Napster.  I'll admit, I dabbled in downloading free songs, but it didn't sit well with me.  Because of that uneasiness, I estimate that I've probably stolen, er, pirated, er, "music-shared" fewer than thirty songs in my entire life.

In my mind, my basic thinking on the issue is that since I've always wanted a career in the arts, to take other people's intellectual property without compensating them for it is unethical.

I bring this up because because recently, the New York Times has recently decided that it's going to start "trying" to charge people for accessing its stories online, and that also didn't sit well with me.

I say "trying" because I'm not sure how well it's going to pan out for them.  Their plan is, basically, that users can click on up to 20 articles from in a given calendar month free of charge.  On the 21st click however, will bring up a message asking the user to purchase a digital subscription (those people who subscribe to the actual paper get free digital usage -- however, these people may not know what a computer is, so this "comp" may be wasted.  Very clever, NYTimes).

However, there is a catch.  The New York Times, knowing that part of what makes this elaborate system of tubes known as the interwebs work is allowing people to share things that they find online, does not consider clicks that come from places other than as part of the 20 article a month limit.

Now, if only there were some website that generated links on demand based off of user input about what the user is hoping to find...

Oh wait; 1996 called.  There is such a site.  It's called Google.

Also, it has twice as many letters as AOL, so you KNOW it's at least twice as good.

Do you see where I'm going with this?  All I have to do to continue to receive unlimited free articles is to copy the article's title off on the site and paste it into the search engine.

Now, the intention of the Times' policy was undoubtedly so that people could share and comment on the news through social media.  This is obviously not how I'm using it, but I really don't want to pony up the dough to pay for a subscription.

It is at this point that I begin to feels pangs of frugal guilt.  I feel like I should pay (heeding Jiminy Cricket, I want to let my conscience be my guide), I arguably have the means to pay (I'm no Ebenezer Scrooge McDuck, but I'm also no Bob Cratchit [as played by Mickey]), but I just don't wanna (I don't have a Disney character for this. Readers? Any ideas?).* 

For what it's worth, the big reason that I go there is to read the theatre reviews and keep up with what's going on on stage (I'd just about die to see either of these).  If only there were fewer than 20 articles about theatre in New York in a given month ... actually, scratch that.  I don't want to jinx the industry.

What do you think?  Am I a hypocrite for not wanted to download music while simultaneously (based on my actions) being cavalier about freely accessing paid articles? 

Also, are there any ways that you are frugal that you feel a little guilty about?  Let me know in the comments.

*This awkward paragraph is something of an awkward homage to Andrea at So Over Debt's basically brilliant article about 5 Fairy Tales that Keep You in Debt.**
**Just to clear it up that which may be unclear, my paragraph is awkward, her post is great and not-awkward.


Andrea said...

Thank you for mentioning me in regard to your awkward paragraph! :)

I have been trying to think of an appropriate Disney character who doesn't want to pay for things, but the closest thing I can come up with is the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything from Veggie Tales.

Bryan said...

The pirates are a pretty good solution!

Dee said...

I'm on the fence right along with you -- is finding a work-around like the Google search simply clever antd frugal or does it cross the line into cheap? I don' think this case is a clear-cut one... I had a similar frugal vs. cheap experience today -- I went to a fund-raising run where there was a BBQ where all monies went to the charity. The posted price was $2 a piece or three items for $5. My boyfriend wanted a hot dog. I wanted a hamburger. But since there was a "deal" on the extra item, I ordered an extra hamburger. Then it turned out there were no more hot dogs -- only full-on sausages. But that's not all... they'd also already closed the cash box (even though there was still food left) so...they couldn't take any money (but we were welcome to make a donation in a separate donation box -- one where change wasn't being made...) I only had a $20 bills on me and I'd already made a donation. So I just called it serendipity and enjoyed the free food. I think you should just enjoy your NYTimes articles and attribute the free price to your internet prowess. You are, after all, taking the extra step of googling the titles you want...