Being Broke Vs. Being Cheap

Wine tasting in Napa Valley CA

Wine tasting

Early last year I received a tour request from a gal in Sacramento. She explained that her and a bunch of girls were coming to Napa to celebrate a 30th birthday and would I please provide them with some hotel suggestions. I gave them the standard list of the Andaz, Westin, Hilton Garden Inn, Marriott, and Best Western Ivy. She wrote back and said they were looking for cheap hotels but never mind, they found one. The next email asked what the tasting fees were like and they would like to splurge on one place. I wrote back and told them the average is about $25 per person for walk in tasting rooms and some great “splurges” would be Inglenook, Del Dotto, and Schramsberg and then I provided a price. Her response was, “WOW! I didn’t know it would be so expensive, are there any places with free tastings?” Feeling snarky and irritated I replied, “Sure, Sutter Home” to which her response was, “We Love Sutter Home!!”

Feeling humbled by her response and ashamed of my snotty attitude I planned their budget conscious day: Artesa, where I had 2 for 1 coupons, Heitz (Free tastings) and Sutter Home. They made their own lunch and would eat in the car.

I picked up the girls at the hotel and we commenced our day. They had told me they planned to have me for 6 hours. As the day progressed and the wine loosened their lips I began to learn their stories. One was going through a devastating divorce. She was unemployed and had moved back in with her dad. The other had a husband deployed in the military and she was caring for their 3 kids. It became very evident that each penny spent on this trip was a huge sacrifice.

At the end of the day, I was handed an envelope with cash. On the outside of the envelope were handwritten notes about the anticipated expenses of the day and what each gal owed. There was a check mark by each girl’s name; I’m assuming the check mark happened as each girl paid. I could see my total for the driver, $250 for 6 hours. I counted the money and that’s exactly what I received, $250 for 6 hours. No tip.

Anyone who knows me knows that cheap people are my pet peeve. I can’t stand people who don’t care how insulting they are to me as long as they get a deal. People who try to constantly “get over” are people who are promptly placed in my “Customers I Don’t Want Back” file. I can’t stand the couple who wears their designer this and designer that and talks about their trip to Tuscany, Paris, and Timbuktu, but can’t buy one stinking bottle from a winemaker who took 1.5 hours out of his/her day to give them that one on one experience they begged for. Or the person who when I tell them my total at the end of the day which reflects the price and agreement made prior, tries to get me to give them a discount just because. Or the referral who had no problem paying for expensive tastings at Nickel and Nickel and Opus, but at the end of the tour threatened to tell the people who gave the referral that we were terrible unless we gave them a discount. Those people I can’t stand and I don’t want as customers.

Kids, Ft. Meyers, FL, 1999

Ft. Meyers, FL, 1999

But these girls? Not a problem. They weren’t being cheap, they were being broke. And as someone who spent a lot of years as a single mom and has a couple of divorces under her belt, I can completely understand. I know what it’s like to try to go on a little vacation and have to sweat over every penny spent from the coffee in the morning to the gas I have to put in my car to get home.   As a matter of fact, I remember a private boat I hired in Florida about 17 years ago to go look at dolphins. I totally didn’t even think to tip the guy. I had scrimped and saved just to pay for the charter. I had to work extra hours to have enough money to pay for the dolphin fish (Mahi Mahi) sandwiches on Cabbage Key. The kids weren’t allowed to order any drinks or desserts because that would break the budget. My stress at trying to give my kids a great vacation totally made me forget to give a gratuity to a boat captain that gave us an unforgettable experience.

We of course want and depend on tips. But when one is not given, or is rather low, it’s not the action that matters to me, it’s the attitude behind it. We have great compassion on people who are on a budget but still want to experience Napa. And guess what? We want you to experience Napa too. Napa will never be cheap, but we will certainly help you find the places that will be easiest on your wallet. What we don’t want is to for our time and expertise to be disrespected just so someone can save a dollar.