How do you cheat the system without cheating people?
September 19, 2014 9:35 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an example of "cheating the system" in a positive way. Often times cheating the system results in people being cheated as well, when does cheating the system benefit people without hurting others?
posted by robadobdob to Human Relations (33 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Some websites allow you to create a user and a shopping cart, and if you abandon your cart, the checkout process will start to send you higher and higher percentage off coupons over a few weeks until you come back and complete the checkout process. I've seen up to 50% off for some services.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:40 AM on September 19, 2014 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not sure if you see this as an example of 'cheating the system', but some motorists certainly seem to:
Motorcycle riders riding in between two lanes during a traffic jam (I believe people in the US may call that 'splitting lanes') get home sooner, and don't cause anyone else to wait longer; in fact by not standing in line with the cars they make the traffic jam as a whole smaller.

This is not prohibited where I live. Yay!
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:41 AM on September 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

Whenever American Airlines is experiencing heavy call volume and there is a long hold/wait period, I call the spanish language line and get a representative right away most of the time. They speak english. Not sure if anyone is harmed by it. If someone is, I apologise.
posted by 724A at 9:53 AM on September 19, 2014 [21 favorites]

Best answer: See the thread about jobs with lots of down time. It's cheating sometimes, but often it's worth it to the business owner to have someone on duty even when there's nothing for the employee to do.
posted by Melismata at 10:13 AM on September 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

The "system" I'm addressing here is the production of stuff that people use until it gets grimy, and then throw away. Which is almost all the stuff, obvsl. Office furniture in this particular case.

We cheated the system yesterday when we bought three Håg office chairs second hand for (re-calculated from Swedish crowns) 140 bucks (and, on the way back, two cans of car seat shampoo) and today spruced them up for our own use. There was some yanking back of unhinged plastic involved 'cause the chairs had been handled roughly, and some taking away of unidentified dried-up substances, but now everything works fine.

1) The people selling them had them standing about in their home; apparently salvaged from some office sellout and then not re-used. So they were happy to get rid of them.
2) Because we bought them, they weren't tossed out and added to the trash pile.
3) No new chairs were produced, and resources wasted, for our petty desire for upscale office chairs.
4) We saved literally thousands of dollars (even considering second hand prices).
5) My back is feeling better already.
6) I got rid of Mr. Blue Disaster-on wheels, which was oozing foam and thus way beyond salvaging, and design-wise a menace for eyes and butt.
posted by Namlit at 10:23 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Extreme couponing -- when it doesn't rise to the level or hoarding, or stealing Sunday papers to get more coupons.

Sites like luzme (e-books) or camelcamelcamel (anything Amazon) that track the things you want and alert you when they are sufficiently discounted (so you don't have to watch for sales yourself and be lured into impulse purchases).
posted by sparklemotion at 10:35 AM on September 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

Once upon a time, someone playing a fruit machine found a loophole of some kind, and publicised their "cheat" in the community of fruit machine players, who got enormously excited and toured the country looking for machines with this loophole.

Much to the glee of the fruit machine owners, their takings went through the roof.

Since then it's become commonplace for fruit machines to have "cheats" as a deliberate part of the game design. The cheats are often flagged up blatantly in the artwork. Search for "nudge cheat" or "hold after win"!
posted by emilyw at 10:49 AM on September 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Region-free DVD players
posted by phoenixy at 10:52 AM on September 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Stealing cable is a victimless crime.
posted by 256 at 10:54 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In response to Yelp's advertisement bullying: "[an Italian restaurant started] offering discounts to any customer who left [it] a 1-star Yelp review....deliberately bringing [its] review average as low as possible in an effort to [mess] with Yelp."

This scheme was deemed as rule-breaking by Yelp...and led Yelp to make a threat that would in effect violate their own rules. Genius.

Maybe not so much a cheat as good ole fashioned rule-breaking.

posted by mild deer at 11:01 AM on September 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This question brings to mind Dmitry Agarkov (the Russian gentleman who re-wrote his credit card application to reflect much more favorable terms).
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:21 AM on September 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Giving up my car felt like cheating the system without hurting anyone.

I cut my expenses drastically and also no longer had to deal with a whole lot of paperwork like insurance and tag and title. So I no longer had to make an annual pilgrimage to the DMV and cope with this government intrusion into my life. I mostly walk everywhere, which is good for my health, and occasionally take public transit. It involved re-arranging my life, but it's been an awesome experience. It helped me cut one of the big cords that seems to keep so many Americans stuck on a hamster wheel, running in place and going nowhere.

Cars are typically the second biggest household expense for Americans, right after housing. And a lot of people seem to be trapped with perpetual car payments, keeping them stuck in jobs they don't much like. There seems to be a certain amount of "I need my car to get to work, I need my job to pay for my car" type stuff going on. If you can live without a car, you can significantly lower your income requirement and that can give you flexibility that is out of reach for a lot of Americans who are just not in a position to make big bucks for whatever reason.

When you drive more, it costs you more and incurs wear-and-tear on your vehicle, thus making it less efficient and running up a gas bill and is guilt-inducing if you are sort to worry about your impact on the environment. When you walk more, your body gets more efficient, not less, it helps improve your health and lengthen your life and makes you more efficient at getting from one place to another. I am not "consuming" or using up resources to walk more. I am building assets.

Walking almost everywhere feels like a guilt-free way to thumb my nose at so many things about The System that seem to work poorly.
posted by Michele in California at 11:30 AM on September 19, 2014 [18 favorites]

Hidden-city discount in air travel: You want to go from A to B.
Flight from A to B is $500.
Flight from A to C is $300 -- with a change in B.
You buy the cheaper flight, get off at B, and don't reboard.
posted by LonnieK at 11:37 AM on September 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

LonnieK, they'll cancel the return leg of your tickets if they catch you doing this.
posted by cosmicbandito at 11:40 AM on September 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

Understood, cosmicbandito. Should have noted it only works for 1-way travel.
posted by LonnieK at 11:44 AM on September 19, 2014

If you create a baby registry at places like Target or Babies R Us, they'll send you a 10% off coupon to buy the items in your registry that others didn't buy for you, shortly before your due date. It's an excellent opportunity to get 10% off that digital camera you've had your eye on, just by adding it to your registry.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:50 AM on September 19, 2014

Stealing cable is a victimless crime.

Why? Because you think bandwidth and network infrastructure is free? You stealing cable drives cable companies to raise prices to recoup their investments. Which is counter to the question -- how can "cheating" benefit everyone?

Or, if it really were free (it's not), you're saying that the cable broadcast is a performance where an extra set of eyes and ears doesn't detract from anyone else's enjoyment or add to the cost of the performance?

Then again, counter to the question, you haven't benefited anyone besides yourself.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:47 PM on September 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

Freecycle and Craig's List stopped providing useful RSS feeds, but you can roll your own, filtered for keywords, using IFTTT.

This stops you from wasting the time they seem to want you to spend* pouring over their listings, and - at least in my case - will help you to save money, too.

* I realize in Freecycle's case, it is primarily Yahoo's fault.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:52 PM on September 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Allison Hunt's Ted talk on getting a new hip without a 2 year wait.
posted by Sophont at 1:08 PM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Speeding can be victimless. In a neighborhood, you dramatically increase the possibility of harm to someone other than yourself. On nearly deserted highways, probably only increasing the likelihood of harm to yourself. Same with running the red light at an intersection with a 5 minute pattern that you know you just missed. 3 a.m.? Probably safe.

Cheating your insurance co./ government/ most businesses raises costs for everyone. Jumping the queue makes everybody else wait a little longer. Taking the shortcut through a parking lot or neighborhood increases traffic/ danger in a pedestrian zone. Ignoring the No Left Turn 7 a.m. - 9 a.m. 4 p.m. - 6 p.m. makes a slew of people late for work.

Our grocery gives a gas discount based on points earned. We fill 2 cars. (just ought gas for 2.99 - w00t!)
posted by theora55 at 1:38 PM on September 19, 2014

The concept of forgery tends to make people gasp, but I don't have a problem with it if the purpose is to make a broken system work. For example, my spouse and I each required three household bills to prove residency in order to setup a specific account; our house only gets five bills. Making up a sixth resolved this.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:40 PM on September 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a tax planner. Plenty of system cheating there. And the harm, such as it is, is at least as diffuse as anything mentioned upthread.
posted by jpe at 1:58 PM on September 19, 2014

I sometimes took my kid to McDonald's to play and used their free wifi and bathroom without buying anything (or only buying a drink). We didn't bump anyone else out of there and didn't make a mess in the restroom. I guess you could maybe count the amount of toilet tissue used against us? But one soda probably covered that. And there were plenty of times we bought their food and didn't go in, so I felt pretty good about them getting back what I "owed" them.
posted by emjaybee at 2:10 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Using resources at McDonald's without buying stuff is not a crime. however, the $1 any size soft drink or coffee is a heck of a deal. They may be losing money on me.
posted by theora55 at 2:14 PM on September 19, 2014

Best answer: I like the story of David Philips that just came up on Reddit: basically he made use of a loophole in a Healthy Choice pudding promotion - by buying 12,150 Healthy Choice puddings totaling $3,140 he was able to earn 1,253,000 frequent flyer miles.
David Phillips (born 1964), also called The Pudding Guy,[1] is an American civil engineer best known for accumulating many frequent flyer miles by taking advantage of a promotion by Healthy Choice Foods in 1999.

Phillips, who teaches at the University of California, Davis, calculated while grocery shopping that the value of a mail-in promotion for frequent flyer points exceeded the cost of the pudding on which it is offered. In May 1999, Phillips received 1,253,000 frequent flyer miles.
Because most of the pudding was donated to charity, Phillips also received an $815 tax deduction.[4]
It is also speculated that neither ConAgra, the owners of the Healthy Choice brand, nor the airlines were seriously disadvantaged by the outcome, due to the small price paid by ConAgra to the airlines and the resultant publicity gained.[2]
posted by humph at 2:33 PM on September 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I cheat by using sites like Get Human to find out what I need to do/press/say to talk to a human whenever I have to call a business. It shouldn't be a cheat because the information is out there for anyone to find and use, but since businesses don't offer everyone the chance to speak to a human when they call, (and maybe my call gets taken before someone who has the patience to follow all the prompts) it feels like cheating.
posted by NoraCharles at 2:59 PM on September 19, 2014 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I use Say No To 0870 to find a landline number for businesses instead of their premium rate lines. On my phone package I can call landlines numbers for free. And the landline numbers often bypass the menus and take you straight to a real person.
posted by essexjan at 3:12 PM on September 19, 2014 [11 favorites]

There is an exit on a freeway on my way home from work that connects to a bridge that is so backed up, that people have to stand in traffic to get off the freeway. I have found that by getting off on the second exit that takes you back across the overpass and going all the way around the clover to get back in the direction I need to go both saves me time and also maximizes unused freeway resources, or at least that's how I justify it.
posted by OrangeGloves at 5:19 PM on September 19, 2014

I don't know if this is the kind of thing you mean, but as I get older and my eyesight deteriorates more, I prefer to read large print books from the library because they're easier on my eyes.

I am not legally vision impaired so I didn't know it was ok until the librarian told me anyone can take them out; you don't need a note from an optometrist or anything! Added bonus (which is where the "cheat" comes in I guess): there is usually a copy available or at most a very short wait list for new, popular books if they're the large print version.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:12 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

In the UK you can sign up for a MyWaitrose loyalty card and can use it to get a free tea or coffee, every day. There is no requirement to purchase anything. Even if you do shop at Waitrose, you don't need to use the card when you buy things. In some of the Waitroses they even have a separate coffee bar where every morning you get this queue of people waiting patiently for their free flat white like the most middle-class methadone clinic ever. I don't understand why anyone who drinks tea and/or coffee wouldn't sign up for this and just not use the card for anything else.
posted by Acheman at 3:26 AM on September 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

I buy dresses at the girls' departments (H&M, for example), as the largest girl sizes fit me to a tee (short waist and stature), often much better than adult size S.

I tell myself it's *their* fault for making adult sizes that don't fit me. But am I hurting tall girls by doing this? The dresses are certainly cheaper...
posted by ipsative at 8:04 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Massachusetts Cash WinFall investment syndicates reaped extraordinary returns for their investors and increased the Massachusetts Lottery's intake. It did lower the potential payout for everyday players, but since that payout was already pretty small (and their expected value negative), the damage was arguably diffuse.
posted by jackbishop at 8:58 AM on September 20, 2014

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