The cost of free lunches sure adds up

Filed under: Hazlehurst |

Made yet another pilgrimage up the pass to Cripple Creek a couple of weekends ago accompanied by a friend who, like me, enjoys playing the quarter slots.
After several hours of hopeful play, we were down a few bucks and decided to get a meal in the casino’s steakhouse.
Somewhat to my surprise, the meal was superb. We shared a bottle of Sonoma Cutrer and indulged ourselves with salmon and scallops. The cost? Nothing.
Through the years, I had somehow accumulated literally hundreds of free meals on my reward card, which I’d never bothered to use. According to our server, I had enough meal credit for a year’s worth of gourmet dinners.
Our meal would have certainly cost a hundred bucks at any downtown restaurant, so my meal credits added up to thousands of dollars worth of free meals. Woohoo!! Party time, right?
Not quite. In a nice example of the “no free lunch” theory of economics, using my dinner vouchers will actually cost me.
Let’s say that I journey to Cripple Creek every weekend, and have 60 dinners, each worth a hundred bucks, for a total of 6,000 big ones. But I still have to tip the server — at 20 bucks a shot, that’d be $1,200. And then I have to pay for gas to the Creek — at 20 bucks a trip, that’s another $1,200. And to get to the steakhouse, I have to pass through the casino … and that’s where everything falls apart.
I’m fond of gambling, but let’s say that I can control myself that I never bring more than $200 to gamble with. If I only lost half of it, I’d be doing well, so after my 60 visits, I’d be down six grand. Result: my “free meals” will cost me a mere $8,400.

Playing the slots in Cripple Creek can lead to an abundance of free meals — but at what cost?

But wait! I tend to visit the Creek about twice a month anyway, so we can knock off $3,000 from the loss figure, since I’d lose that amount anyway. So, using this reasoning, I’m only blowing $5,400, which I’d spend on a Saturday night out in Colorado Springs … once again, let’s party!
Of course, all the above reasoning is utterly specious.
Want to get ahead? Don’t gamble and accept the free meals. Put $200 in the bank every week, and let the improvident suckers throw their money away. In a year, you’ll have 10 grand — less tips and transportation — which you can split with whomever you treat to dinner.
Not much fun, though, is it? But for most of us, rejecting temptation is a good strategy, in business and in life.
Save, don’t spend. Get educated. Invest cautiously. Make plans for your retirement when you’re in your 20s, not your 50s. Never gamble.
Those are the values that most of us believe have created the extraordinary prosperity that most of us in this country share … or are they?
Isn’t it possible that the country owes as much to risk-addicted entrepreneurs as to its stolid, careful middle class?
Where would we be without the likes of Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Walt Disney, Jack Welch, Henry Ford and Howard Hughes, all of whom routinely made huge, risky bets on the future? And what about the legions of others who, looking for the big hit, put themselves on the line — and didn’t make it?
Clearly, the country functions so well because of the creative interplay between risk-taking and asset protection. If we all played defense, we’d never get anywhere, but if we all wanted to be Bill Gates, who’d be willing to do the actual work of the nation?
Nature gives us many examples of symbiosis — of different species which depend upon each other for their very existence. Without our gambling entrepreneurs, we might not have a buoyant, powerful economy. And without our sober, careful savers, we might not have an economy at all.
Meanwhile, it’s fascinating to watch our local political players do their clumsy versions of the dance of seven veils as they attempt to position themselves for 2008.
The biggest question — now that Jeff Crank has all-but-formally declared his candidacy for Doug Lamborn’s seat in the House of Representatives: Will Bentley Rayburn run as well?
Conventional wisdom holds that Crank can win a head-to-head Republican primary against Lamborn, but that Lamborn would win any race against multiple opponents.
In fact, according to Washington’s Cook Political Report, Rayburn’s entry into the race would give Lamborn a fundraising boost, as big national donors would pour money into the coffers of the favorite, and just give Crank token contributions.
And that’s why, some local political cynics claim, the very people who are urging Rayburn to run are actually Lamborn supporters — wolves in sheep’s clothing who want to use Rayburn as their catspaw.
It’s a jungle out there general, so make sure that you’re carrying a suitably apotropaic talisman when you meet with your supporters.
Further down the political pecking order, it looks as if state Rep. Bill Cadman will run for the term-limited Ron May’s seat in the state senate and Douglas Bruce will run for Cadman’s seat, because Amy Lathen, who has announced that she’s running for his seat on the county commission, would probably give the Dougster a good whuppin’ if he tried to retain his seat.
The county commissioners appear to be delighted at the prospect that the amiable Ms. Lathen will replace the acerbic Mr. Bruce, and the Dougster’s soon-to-be colleagues at the state house appear to be uniformly dismayed (off the record, of course!).
And as for me, I’m sure I’ll win in Cripple Creek next week. I have to — how else can I fund my brilliant Internet startup company?
John Hazlehurst can be reached at or 227-5861.