Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

How a Frugal Find Helped End a Friendship


LOL! That decorative arrangement with the black and green square plates shown in my last post reminds me of the episode that probably marked the beginning of the end of a very close friendship.

The woman who dubbed me “Funny about Money” (not knowing I could overhear her speaking into La Maya’s telephone answering machine) had wildly expensive tastes. One day she and I were cruising a wildly upscale shopping center when we came across a tony interior decor store that was going out of business. We each grabbed a bunch of stuff that, at “discounted” prices, still cost a great deal more than it was worth. She was taken by those stone fruits and bought three of them at near full price. I spotted a few that were chipped or unnoticeably cracked and talked the salesman into giving them to me for next to nothing—in fact, one of them, he gave to me for free.

My friend then found two square plates, one black and one green. They bore some “artist’s” signature on the back. Arranging the fake fruit atop the plates created a nice effect, and so she bought the damn things for an astonishing price. As I recall, she paid over 100 bucks apiece. These she took home and arranged atop her dining-room buffet, to handsome effect.

Well, I wanted something to put my fake fruits on, too.

I studied those plates and thought…hmh. They looked mighty familiar.

A day later I betook myself to Cost Plus/World Market, where what should I find—on sale!—but those two square plates you see up there. I got them for under five bucks apiece.

Reader, those two plates are identical to the unholy expensive square plates my friend bought at the upscale design store. The only difference is that mine are not signed on the bottom by someone nobody ever heard of.

Heeee! Was she peeved!

I never told her what I paid for them, but she did know I got them at the low-brow Cost Plus, home of the world’s largest collection of $8 table wines. Our relationship cooled into the frosty zone after that, and within a couple of months she cut me off without explanation. I assume it was because of the $5 plates, which in her mind would have hugely devalued the “art” she imagined she was buying. That, and having embarrassed herself with the “funny about money” remark.


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  1. She may just be one of those people that doesn’t like it when people copy her style. Personally I think imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but some folks get offended and then post about it on forums (otherwise I wouldn’t know they exist). I think it’s a cultural difference.

  2. @ Nicole: Well, I kind of figured she didn’t go for the “monkey-see monkey-do” performance. But it’s also true that this wasn’t the first time she’d dumped a friend whom she seemed to regard as a bosom buddy. There was another woman who she thought was the best thing ever to walk this earth, for about two years. Then out of the blue she stood that opinion on its head, and suddenly — almost overnight — this lady, who had done nothing to offend, was electrified anathema. So in a way I wasn’t surprised.

    It’s disappointing to lose a friend, though, when you don’t have a lot of them. Especially over anything so silly.

  3. I hear you on the mysterious loss of friends. Happened to me with a neighbor a few years back and I’m still scratching my head. I suspect it was something I did or said, most likely the latter. As a liberal in a very red state, I know better than to say what I really think about political events, but my guess is I made a comment that I didn’t think was controversial, something that seemed so patently obvious to me that it didn’t occur to me to be guarded and offense was taken. Or maybe she learned that I was canvassing for the “enemy”. Ah well. Makes one better appreciate the friends who don’t give a darn about politics and those who are willing to agree to disagree. Friendship can be tedious when you have to be guarded all the time.

    With that as a segue, in the event you haven’t seen it, I’d like to direct your attention to this 5/26 piece on Ezra Klein’s WaPo blog : ‘W’ is written into our historical memories, as well as our federal budget. (My apologies; I couldn’t figure out how to paste it in as a link.) Quite the visual of the Bush years and the price we continue to pay.

    OMG!!! Readers, you have GOTTA see this: Klein’s post is to be found here. –vh

  4. It doesn’t sound like she was a true friend. And she may have been embarrassed when you got the same thing at WM. I’ve had to be careful about things like that myself.

  5. It is sad to lose a friend, but it seems like she really wasn’t being much of a friend to you.

  6. @ Robin: I love the statistical W! Karmic, is what it is…I forwarded it to my financial guy, who got a hoot out of it. It certainly IS the truth that you never know what’s going to set someone off. When I mentioned that I’d enjoyed On Golden Pond to my late stepmother, she totally went off on me and accused me of being a traitor to America for patronizing a movie featuring Jane Fonda. Absolutely crazed. Ohhh well.

    @ frugalscholar and Bucksome Boomer: As for the lady’s worthiness as a friend, there were some political things going on that involved a mutual friend, whom she hugely angered through some extremely self-serving machinations. It’s possible that she dropped me because she figured anything she said to me would be passed along to this other person, or that the other person was bad-mouthing her to me (which she certainly was…). Academia is not a good place to build lifelong friendships. 😉

  7. This is an interesting commentary on how people make friends – these sorts of shenanigans are why I’m so guarded when it comes to forming new friendships, especially in the workplace. To be sure, part of it is from feeling traumatized from the LAST canto of hell but part is certainly that people are so very Odd!

  8. @ Revanche: Aren’t they, though! I love that bumper-sticker motto: The more I get to know people, the better I like my dog.

  9. Pingback: Carnival of Money Stories #56 – The Quit Facebook Edition | Personal Finance Analyst