Thursday, June 25, 2009



The “Personal Journal” section of the Wall Street Journal, with its articles on such vital matters as grading spray tan salons, is always good for lots of laughs…and very little else. However, an article in this morning’s Personal Journal, “How to Eat Out Without Spending a Lot” was revelatory on a number of fronts.

The article relates a number of tips from Donatella Arpaia, ironically the co-owner of a number of tony restaurants in New York City, on saving money when one is eating out. Two such suggestions were not, to no one’s surprise, eat at places like Sawa's Old Warsaw or Wonderburger and use coupons prodigiously. Instead, Ms. Arpaia advises refraining from ordering desert or bottled waters. Ordering desert in a restaurant has never occurred to me, unless it’s included in the price of the meal or I am at Culver’s, and ordering bottled water is perhaps the most absurd thing I had ever heard until finishing this article (Keep reading.), especially in a place like New York or Chicago where the tap water is outstanding. Can you imagine sitting down with your grandmother, if she were still alive, and telling her that you pay for water? She would reply that you had completely lost your mind and that, had she known such witless progeny were to be the result, she would have stayed in the old country rather than endure the travails of the boat ride over and the less flowery aspects of the immigrant experience.

Next, Ms. Arpaia advises cutting back on tips from her former customary 25% to “15% to 20%,” depending on the level of service. So Ms. Arpaia is advising Wall Street types, whose bonuses you, the taxpayer, have assured will continue at brobdingnagian levels, to save money by stiffing people who normally work very hard for relatively, or absolutely, little money and who are doubtless going through hard times of their own, difficulties that had much of their origin in the malicious machinations of those who are now saving money by stiffing them.

Even these absurdities could not prepare me for the sage advice contained in the last sentence of this article. Ms. Arpaia says that the adage “Never go to the grocery store hungry” applies to eating out. She says “I never go to a restaurant hungry.” She never goes to a restaurant hungry? Is there some kind of parallel universe out there of which I am not aware? Why does one go to a restaurant if one is not hungry? If one is looking to save money, perhaps one ought to consider staying home rather than going to a restaurant if one is not hungry.

Then another thought occurred to me. Could it be that many readers of the Wall Street Journal find the admonition “Never go to a restaurant hungry” a sage one? If that is the case, perhaps our current worldwide financial difficulties have their origin not in falling home prices or the profligate use of credit, but rather in our nation’s financial system’s being in the hands of those who think it thrifty, indeed wise, to “never go to a restaurant hungry.”


Brian said...

I got a good laugh out of this one, thanks! And there is no doubt in my mind that many if not most people in our society would think Ms. Arpaia's advice was 'sage.'

The Pontificator said...


Thanks, Brian. I have to admit that I was laughing out loud as I wrote this one; I think it’s one of my funniest, and, in a sense, most profound. My generation, or at least that part of my generation with money, or access to liability creation, has completely lost its marbles. And they’re the guys in charge! No wonder I’m so realistic, er, sorry, cynical.

Anonymous said...

I thought this rather odd, errr funny too. Now I know where the "doggy-bag" came from...