Caveat emptor: free food tips

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Finding free complimentary food is an art form lost on most but college students and journalists. With times being what they are, people are looking for short-cuts wherever they can and Arizona Republic writer Scott Craven was quick to round-up the best complimentary eats.

Some of Craven's ideas are practical if not very inventive. Yes, a person can snack like royalty at Costco (Saturday afternoons are the best) but every Costco member knows that and the Costco membership itself costs $50. What Craven doesn't tell readers is that Costco's business membership credit cards look exactly like silver American Express cards except with a small picture in the corner. I've heard from non-members that flashing a regular American Express card is quite effective at gaining entrance into Costco. You won't be able to buy anything but if your goal is just free samples it works like a charm.

Another of Craven's tips is that you can exploit many churches' free doughnuts and coffee. Again, a good tip that could go farther. I would never condone crashing a church picnic or dinner but a quick Google search showed that it could probably be done with almost no effort.

Where I have to vehemently disagree with Craven is his tip called "Mex Best":

If there is a poster child for free food, it's chips and

salsa. Once seated at almost any Mexican restaurant, the chips and

salsa may arrive before your server. But technically, are they free if

you must order something to go with them? I devised a strategy. Sitting

down at the bar of a nearby Mexican restaurant, I told the bartender I

was waiting for someone, so I'd start with water. And could I please

have some chips and salsa? Certainly, he said, returning a minute later

with my order. Cha-ching, baby. Free chips and salsa.


Ordering

free chips and salsa from a restaurant but not actual food is not a

genius plan for complimentary food, it's stealing.

It's a de facto rule that once that a waiter brings out chips and salsa

you shall order something -- an appetizer, an alcoholic drink (a

fountain drink doesn't count) or a meal. Same goes for

restaurants that serve bread on the table -- or anything free. It's not free, it's built into the cost of the food the

restaurant expects you to order.

Tips like "Mex Best" are one reason more Mexican restaurants are charging for

chips and salsa. I'll stick with the church picnics.

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