We asked our regular contributors through e-mail, how did you ‘cheat the system’? Here are some of them. We have just copied and pasted their responses, not editing them in any way and most of the respondents have requested to stay anonymous, so no names will be published. This is a long one, so we have split it into two page. Enjoy.
1-5 Cheating the System
1. So I was 11 years old and at a water park with my family. I really wanted to go to Burger King that day, and my dad had said repeatedly no way, he didn’t have the money for that. They had this system where when you arrive, you bought a bracelet for $4, which you could exchange for a tube to ride around on stuff. At the end of the day, you’d return the bracelet and they’d give you $1. It was around the middle of the day, and there were people both coming and going, and there was a really long line at the stand to get/return bracelets. So I sold my bracelet to some guy at the back of the line for $3. He didn’t have to wait, and I gave him a dollar off, so all good. Then I took that $3 and went and bought back three bracelets from people waiting to return them (I gave them the same price they’d get at the booth, but they didn’t have to wait). I took those three bracelets and sold them to other people at the back of the line for $3. Rinsed and repeated a bunch of times, spent about a half an hour hustling. Went back to my dad with $40 bucks and gave it to him, and explained how I got it. Asked if we could go to Burger King now. He was like yeah, you win. Whoppers were on me that day.
2. I was paying out of state tuition for college in Texas. I looked up all the ways I could get in-state tuition and there were four different ways. 1. Marry a Texan. 2. Own property in Texas for one year. 3. Hold a job in Texas for one year. 4. Own a business in Texas for one year. So naturally, I started a “business.” I registered my “business” with the state and filed taxes every quarter (I had zero expenses and zero income every quarter so I paid nothing in taxes). One year later I got on that in-state tuition. It cost me around $200 to register my business and it saved me tens of thousands of dollars.
3. I sat down and read my graduation requirements for university and went through all the classes that could cross across different fields. My university allowed for some classes to count twice if used for different degrees. In the public university system I graduated in four years, with over 180 credit hours, and three degrees. All for the same price as people who were taking the minimum amount of classes. I was informed by my old academic advisor that the university changed their rules after my graduation because of me.
4. I sit in on college and graduate level courses without signing up or paying even the reduced audit fees. I simply show up on the first day of class early, wait for the teacher to be free for a minute, and ask if they mind if I sit in. 9 times out of 10 they’ll let me sit in on lectures, 7 out of 10 on discussion groups. I do this simply because I enjoy learning, and even if teachers aren’t supposed to let me sit in, they’re in charge of enforcing that and enjoy teaching to engaged students so they’re generally happy to have me. There are even schools which allow you to test for credits so you can turn this free education into a quick and cheap degree when you’ve done enough of it.
5. In high school, my Spanish teacher had a stack of 30 notecards, with each of our names written on them. She would pick from those cards almost every day to choose who would answer the next question. In the first week of school, I saw the cards on her desk, saw mine on top, quickly took it and threw it away. Never got called on the whole year.
6-10 Cheating the System
6. We figured out how to skip school every Thursday afternoon for 5 years without being caught. At my school Thursday afternoon was sport. You had to sign up for a sport at the start of each term and names were checked off to make sure you signed up. Then you get kicked out of the sport you signed up to. For some reason my school offered fishing as a sport. The teacher that took it was super passionate about fishing and hated anyone who didn’t take it seriously. So every term we turn up to first fishing session with broom handles with string and paperclips tied to them as our rods and boom, kicked out of fishing. So the teacher sends a note to the office with the next roll sheet that we’re no longer on the roll. This isn’t uncommon because you’re allowed to change sports in the first 2 weeks in case you sign up for something and then don’t like it. The schools system works so that the office ladies only enter in the system if youre absent and you’re otherwise assumed to be present. But now we’re not on any roll and we don’t get marked absent anywhere.
7. I bought my first HDTV in 2003 at a large box store. The guy tried to sell me the warranty, but I refused, citing I didn’t have enough for the TV ($2200) and the warranty ($450). He took the price of the TV down to $1700 so I would buy the warranty. A day after the TV was delivered I went back to the store and returned the warranty.
8. I work in an office next to a Walmart so I walk there almost daily to eat lunch. Without fail I’ll usually find discarded receipts on the ground from customers who litter or leave them in carts. I then use Walmart’s “Savings Catcher” app and scan the barcodes in. The app price matches the items then refunds me the difference if it was cheaper at a competitor. The funds can be redeemed at Walmart.com. I made enough in a year to buy my kids a trampoline.
9. I had to park in New Orleans for a week, was going to cost 140 dollars. Went to post and if you lost your ticket it was only 50 dollars. I didn’t lose my ticket, but I said I did. Take that system!
10. I convinced my high school system I was emancipated when I was fifteen with no supporting paperwork. I got to know the secretary, and asked once what I needed on their end because I was getting emancipated. I would check in every week or so, say hi, and just try and be nice. After about three months I walked in very excited, explaining how I was getting my own place and had a job. She filed my paperwork immediately and from that point on I controlled my supervision in high school. I wrote my own notes, had my own phone number as the contact info and could sign off on anything that required a parent’s signature. I went through the rest of school like this and my family never found out. And yes I graduated.
11-15 Cheating the System
11. This ice cream chain in used to have this “Ice cream”-card, where you deposited money to a chipcard, and if you paid with it you’d get a discount. Turned out that the amount of money on the card was just some variable in it’s memory, and no particular security around it. A few lines of code and some instructions, and the card would always reset back to 10 dollars automatically. Free ice cream ahoy.
12. One year Panda Express offered a free entre with a $20 or more gift card. So I bought the gift card and got a free entre. I then went back a few days later to do the same thing but asked “can I pay using this?” And handed them my $20 gift card. She goes “you want to pay for a gift card with a gift card?” I go, “yeah.” She looked at me, shrugs her shoulders and goes “ok!” She was the manager. I went back about 10 times before I felt too bad to keep doing it.
13. In work we have a clocking in/out system which pays you an extra 15 minutes wage if you stay for 7 minutes (for example, shift ends at 8pm… if I stay clocked in until 8:07, I get paid an extra 15 minutes). Now, I make sure to turn up to work at least 7 minutes early to clock in, and make sure I use the toilet or something at the end of my shift so I clock out a little later. I typically get paid an extra 30 minutes for pretty much no time at all. I’ve been doing this for about a year and it’s earned me an extra £700-800 on my yearly wage.
14. About 25yrs ago I made an $800 purchase on a credit card. It was charged twice. The CC company called me to inquire about it and I told them it was a duplicate. 10 minutes later they called again so I explained again it was a duplicate entry. Apparently both reps deleted the charge, so I sat with a +$800 balance for a few months until I closed the card and they sent me a check. Stealing? I guess so in the end, but I’m still sleeping pretty well.
15. Earphones always eventually break on me, so when I buy new ones I get the extended warranty. 10 months later, when one ear invariably stops working, I go back and, using the extended warranty, get another pair for free. Except then I buy an extended warranty for the second pair for £3.99 or whatever. Ten months later, replace the replacement pair and buy another warranty, etc., Now I’m regularly getting a new pair of £150 earphones for all of £4 a year.
16-20 Cheating the System
16. Last month, ShopHouse (Southeast Asian Kitchen owned by Chipotle) sent out coupons to the residents of my neighborhood. One of the two coupons was “One Free Rice, Noodle, or Salad Bowl” (with no restrictions.) I live in an apartment, and some of my neighbors threw the coupons into the junk mail recycling bin without realizing what they were doing. For the days following the delivery of these coupons, I searched the bins for these coupons. I ended up with enough coupons to last me the whole month. With all the add-ins (4x meat, 2x or 3x veggie, 2x curry) my average bowl is valued at $16. Multiplied by 30 coupons = $480 of free food.
17. Not something I do anymore, but something I used to do. I worked at a takeaway restaurant. One of the few perks for the employees was that if you if worked an opening or closing shift, you received a free lunch and drink from the menu. Because of my schedule, I used to get quite a few of these shifts. At the time, there was also a promotion going on with Coca Cola. Basically whenever you bought a bottle, you could use the code on the label to earn points on the Coca Cola website. You can probably see where this is going now. Basically I was able to drink several bottles of Coke each week, input the codes, and then earn a ton of points, all without paying a cent. Over the course of just a few months, I received enough points for a PS3 game and an Itunes card. Unfortunately there was an incident, and suddenly employees weren’t allowed free lunches anymore. But it was a nice bonus while it lasted. Good for my wallet, not so good for my teeth.
18. About 20 years ago, I had a balance discrepancy with my bank. They said I had $40 in my account, and my figures show $80. I go in to see the branch manager, and we go over the printout of my account… sure enough it’s $40. I ask her to go line by line with a calculator, and… $80. At this point she pushes the calculator aside like it’s broken and asks to see my register. I use a trick my parents taught me… if you write a check for 78.30, put it in your register as $79 or $80. After a while, you have a cushion so you don’t get overdrawn. The woman sees this and says “That’s your problem right there! You’re writing in the wrong amounts!” I reply “If THAT is the problem, then you owe me even MORE!” She refuses to budge, even though her trusty calculator told her that I did indeed have $80, but the computer was making an error. I closed my account on the spot and took my $40. I dashed to my car and sped 2 miles to the nearest ATM. This being the 80s, things weren’t instant like they are now. I swiped my MAC card, tried to withdraw $40, and what do you know… IT GAVE IT TO ME!
19. I got arrested for pot in a southern state, my sentence was 150 hours community service. I went to my local park and traded an 8th of weed (about $40) for 150 hours community service from a park groundskeeper.
20. This one time on vacation 3 of us went to lunch and bought mimosas. They gave us a bottle of champagne and a jar of orange juice. We each had a mimosa, but we still had half a bottle of champagne but no orange juice! The waitress came around and filled up our orange juice jar. We all had a nice glass of orange juice from the orange juice jar. Then the waitress came back and refilled the orange juice jar again! BOOM! Unlimited orange juice! We drank orange juice like kings for the rest of that lunch! Before that day I’ve never had enough orange juice at a restaurant but I will tell you this my friends, life is different after you’ve had enough orange juice at a restaurant. Food tastes better. The air seems fresher. You’ll have more energy and self-confidence than you ever dreamed of.
21-25 Cheating the System
21. I was interning while getting my masters degree. For my thesis project I had decided I wanted to something practical that applies to my internship and might be useful beyond academia. This was also nice because I would get paid to work on it (paid internship). Anyway, I suppose just getting paid to do my school work was a pretty good cheat of the system, but my coup de grace was convincing my boss to let me work remotely. This not only allowed me to work from home (getting paid to do my homework at home), but I also took it to my parents’ house on the beach for two months. So effectively I got paid to do my homework on a beach. Pretty nice setup.
22. Back at the fast food place I worked for in highschool we would get half off everything including gift cards. I could buy a $20 card for $10 and then use that $20 card to buy more half off food effectively turning $10 into $40. Unfortunately that didn’t last too long.
23. I had been wanting an iPhone for some time but the only local carrier was sh*t – not even price-wise, but with signals and coverage. Anyway, out of nowhere, a new challenger carrier appeared where you could purchase from their website. I dithered around too long and they sold out a couple hours after launch. Being a stubborn nerd, I didn’t want to take no for an answer. Now, the following will seem weird to people, but I make websites for a living. I have dev tools installed and love to check out how other sites do things, so I opened up a browser inspector. Lo and behold, the online store did not remove the Add to Cart button from the page, but simply hid it with CSS. I unhid it and started the checkout process, assuming it would do an inventory check and shut me down. Nope. Made it through the checkout process for my shiny new iPhone! A couple days later I get a call from the carrier and I freak out thinking they’re calling to bust me. Turns out they just call to verify addresses for new customers and all was well. I’m still a loyal customer 5 years later, and I’m so sorry to the poor chap who didn’t get his iPhone because of a shitty online store that let me order it instead.
24. I own a motorcycle but don’t have a garage so during winter months I take my motorcycle to the pawn shop and take $100 dollar loan on it they store it and keep it garaged and I pay them $10 a month to keep renewing my loan and keeping the motorcycle there.
25. I used my grad school student loan refund checks to buy a 4 unit apartment building in cash right after the real estate crash. Fixed it up in my spare time and got it rented out while I was in school. After graduation I moved into one of the units, and I rent out the other three for $3,600/month. Never got a job after school. Signed up for income based repayment so my student loan payment is only $70/month. No mortgage or rent to pay. I play a lot of video games and ride my bike to the beach most days. I live a low key lifestyle, save most my money, and strategize ways to deal with the tax bomb when my student loans are forgiven in another 15 years.