The Biggest Cheapskate

I got such a chuckle out of an internal email this morning that I asked Tom Watkins permission to post it on the JudyBlog.  Enjoy it and you can imagine and appreciate traveling as a TWR missionary. 

It has occurred to me on more than one occasion—especially during the last year—that many of us in TWR are on a common journey: the quest for laying claim to bragging rights as The Biggest Cheapskate when it comes to TWR-related travel.  Sometimes this is a lonely existence as we stay up late at night searching the web frantically for the best deals so we can squeeze just a few more miles out of our travel budgets and be the best stewards possible.  Well, I decided it was time to bring some of this out into the open and share some experiences from my trip to Florida several days ago. 

First, I venture to say that I may have entered new “hallowed ground” when it comes to cheapo rental car deals.  How does $30.34 TOTAL for four days in Florida sound to you?  If you sense a little boastfulness in my tone, you are correct!!!  To top it off, this rate INCLUDED $7.46 for gas.  (Yes, I committed the unpardonable offense of forgetting to top off the tank before I returned the car—can’t BELIEVE I did that.)  And it was not Rent-A-Wreck or even Rent-A-Skateboard but a quite reputable company.  This was not incorporating any free days or anything like that, only my usual membership program discount.  But, OK, I do have to come clean on one little issue.  I am really embarrassed to admit it but I drove my rental car (a VW New Beetle—trying to save on gas, you know) a couple hundred miles puzzling about the fact that despite the air conditioning blasting in my face, the combination of the Florida sun and black vinyl upholstery seemed to be making my driving experience quite heated.  It was about at that point that it dawned on me that the heated seat (aka “bun warmer”) was malfunctioning and that it was on full blast all the time despite not ever being turned on, and the “off” switch didn’t work.  My theory is that although the car was located in Florida it actually had Minnesota license plates, so most likely its previous drivers were quite enthralled with this feature and never noticed the problem or complained!  In fact, this may have been one of the most popular cars in the whole state.  So even though I already had a ridiculously low rate, I actually had the gall to go to the customer service office and demand some kind of recompense for my discomfort.  I was quite shocked but gleeful at the same time when they handed me back my receipt showing they had knocked $50 off.  So I hereby challenge anyone in TWR to top my four-day rate of $30.34.  Let’s have some fun with this and make it a challenge, and see what others come up with! 

As you know, there is the good, the bad and the ugly of cheap travel deals.  So I also have to ‘fess up about having just stayed in an ANCIENT hotel belonging to one of the well-known lower budget chains that had the all-time WORST workout room of any place I have ever stayed.  To start with, when I entered the room, I saw really strange looking equipment, heavy cast iron type stuff with enormous pulleys and steel cables running all over the place (some of them no longer attached at one end) that looked like it surely must have come over on the Mayflower.  One of the machines reminded me of reassembled parts from a deranged ‘50s era dentist chair.  (As someone who was a patient of a ‘50s era deranged dentist, I am an authoritative voice on this subject!)  First, I got ready to run on the treadmill when I saw that there was a TV across the room.  So I go over to turn on the TV and, lo and behold, it’s not actually a TV but a radio with a blank screen.  I kid you not!  Well, technically I guess it was a TV but the only thing it received was radio stations and the only thing showing on the screen was the frequency of the radio station dialed in.  No matter how many buttons you pushed or channels you changed, it was clear that this was a TV cleverly masquerading as a radio (or vice versa).  It occurred to me what a coup it would be for TWR if we could all of a sudden enlist all of the TVs around the world to shut off their picture tubes, projection screens, LCDs, plasmas, LEDs, et al, and convert to radios like this one had obviously done!  Next, I got on the treadmill and discovered that it went really fast—well, for all of five seconds—before repeatedly shutting off.  For my next trick, I ventured over to the prehistoric-looking Lat Pulldown machine.  This one actually worked.  But after three sets of reps, I made the mistake of pulling the pin out to increase the weight—and was nearly decapitated in the process!  It “pulldowned” all right, all by itself, and right behind my head!  So after this workout where I felt extremely lucky to survive with my life intact, I decided to play it safe: I spent the remainder of the daylight hours running in the Great Outdoors where all I had to worry about was dodging an occasional 18-wheeler bearing down on me. 

Well, that’s my installment of “The Cheapo Travel Chronicles.”  I thought you might be entertained and maybe from time to time some of us within TWR can share stories of successes so far as how we saved money in our travels so that we can learn from each other and laugh a little—as well as discovering what to avoid.  For me, it seems that every time I stoop to staying at this particular hotel chain I tell myself “this was the last time” only to fall prey again at some point in the future by the allure of what appears to be an irresistible offer and the promise that it’s got to be better this time.  And, you know what, it never is!  I should have exercised “caveat emptor” and bolted for the door the moment I saw the hotel’s slogan:  “Florida’s All New Exciting and Complete Resort.”  NOT!!!  More like the “Last Resort!” 

Your Fellow Road Warrior,




Thomas Watkins, CSP

U.S. Director, Strategic Initiatives & Partnerships

Trans World Radio

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