Service of the Thrill of Petty Theft

March 4th, 2024

Categories: Uncategorized

Some people can’t help themselves. They must wangle a freebee no matter what. I’m not talking about a starving person who steals an apple off a fruit cart or someone who takes advantage of opportunities to attend free concerts, museum exhibits or movies. I go for the latter with enthusiasm.

It’s the petty cheaters who drive me nuts. Someone said it’s because I’m a Virgo. If you want a comp ticket to one of my client’s events, ask for it. Don’t pretend you’re press so as to slip in free.

I’ve written previously about people who would order from a client far more fabric, decorative accessories or wallpaper than necessary for a photo shoot. It didn’t happen under my watch.

I’ve also written about restaurant patrons who complain about the food or service trying to finagle a freebie. Nervier than the scene from the movie “Victor Victoria” when Julie Andrews places a cockroach on her food to avoid paying for dinner was a woman at a restaurant in Grand Central Terminal a few years ago. Her complaints, as I wrote here at the time, escalated to “and I have cancer,” when none of her other complaints generated the response she aimed for: “We’re so sorry madame, we won’t charge you for your drinks and dinner.” She didn’t even get a discount.

Just yesterday on the Third Avenue bus at noon, three people scooted in the back door of the bus after passengers exited with no intention of walking forward to pay. Many of my New York friends complain loudly about this behavior. According to Google, the MTA loses $315 million/year from dodged tolls and subway and bus fares.

Because of such cheats the city will suffer from $15 congestion pricing fees to make up the deficit. I heard a radiologist on the news on Friday morning call this a cancer tax on her patients some of whom must come for treatment daily for over a month.  They are too sick to take public transportation, she said, and the additional fee will be hard on them.

Do scofflaws who nibble away at a company or restaurant’s profit or rob the transportation service of its fare think of the repercussions of their actions–times thousands like them? Is acing a freebie a game for them or do they think it is their right? Does petty theft escalate to bigger targets?

6 Responses to “Service of the Thrill of Petty Theft”

  1. BC Said:

    Suspect this has been going on for years. Waiters, home maids who work under the table. Too hard to police.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    So true although I guess I should have defined what I meant by “petty” where theft is concerned. I suspect that the answer would depend on a person’s income and lifestyle.

  3. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: I think people who do what you outline don’t care about repercussions nor give their acts a second thought. Sad but I think very true.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I think this behavior may actually be encouraged in some circles. I’m all for paying the lowest price possible but this is something else.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Guilty as charged, though not recently. My biggest “haul” was at the cost of the Boston Opera House, when a classmate aka, serious balletomane, & I purchased the cheapest seats, and worked our way into choice locations after determining who left after intermission. It took no money out of anyone’s pocket since the seats were already paid for. Other “thefts” were mostly at the cost of funeral homes where I would pocket tons of matchbooks for me and my smoking friends. After understanding that the lifting of handsome ashtrays and wall decor is stealing, I, and possibly most of my friends, found better things to do.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    We moved down several levels from nosebleeds after intermission at La Cage aux Folles. I don’t consider that theft. I remember people collecting stunning ashtrays from restaurants in the day. Many times the restaurant added the cost of the ashtray to the bill.

Leave a Reply