You can say a lot of things about Winnipeg -- much of it annoyingly uncomplimentary, of course -- but there's one thing we're proud to say about ourselves.
We're cheap. Tight-wad, penny-pinching, coupon-clippers, the whole lot of us.
As the saying goes, if you can sell it here, you can sell it anywhere.
But, pray tell, how does an enterprising young local author like Jeremy Bradley sell a book about how to be a cheapskate to a city full of them?
Well, for starters, you give it an aura of authority and a dash of whimsey by calling it The Official Guide To Being a Winnipeg Cheapskate.
Then you prove your point by self-publishing it. After all, why share the profits of a book about being cheap with a book publishing company?
And then you use every piece of free publicity from media organizations who are eager to interview an author with a catchy book title.
Particularly when he comes free, too.
Then all the unpaid-for publicity gets Costco interested in ordering 400-plus copies and McNally Robinson eager to have Jeremy do a book signing, which the 30-year-old Red River College Creative Communications grad did last Sunday.
I went looking for Jeremy at the Grant Park store late that afternoon, too late as it happened.
He's sold and signed all the books at $15.95 a copy.
I had to track him down Monday on the phone.
By that time, I'd read some of the other interviews Jeremy has done where he had listed some of his favourite tips -- most born from necessity apparently after buying his first house five years ago -- from unplugging unused appliances and turning down the heat, to asking for discounts on items.
I wasn't about to ask Jeremy to give away more tips for nothing, so I asked instead if he recalled any tips on saving money other people have offered him since "the official guide" arrived.
He paused and gave the question some thought, then he said:
"I've heard stories about toilet paper, but I don't want to get into it."
Eventually he relented and began musing on the merits of cheap one-ply versus the more expensive "soft" rolls and whether, in the end -- so to speak -- you're really saving more by buying the less efficient toilet paper because you tend to need more.
Or something like that.
So then I told Jeremy that I had a tip and a story for him.
Last Saturday, my diner-owner pal Ami Hassan arrived for work as usual at 5:30 a.m., only to discover his hood fan wasn't working. Without an operating hood fan, Falafal Place couldn't open. So when daylight finally arrived, Ami climbed on the roof where the venting system originates and discovered what the problem was; the fan belt had snapped.
Then he remembered something he had seen on a MacGyver television episode more than two decades ago.
Ami excitedly called home and woke his wife.
"Do you wear pantyhose?" he asked. "Leave me alone," his wife said.
Why would he want a pair of pantyhose?
Ami explained and she delivered the pantyhose to the restaurant's back door. Ami climbed back on the roof, rolled his wife's pantyhose into a makeshift fan belt, and he was back in business and ready to open. The pantyhose fan belt was still hard at work Monday, but Ami was expecting to have a real one back on the roof by day's end.
OK, I know it's a stretch, but who knows how long a well-rolled-up pair of used pantyhose might last as a makeshift, industrial-strength fan belt?
Somehow I doubt that will make the revised edition of The Official Guide To Being a Winnipeg Cheapskate -- if there is one -- but I had another question for Jeremy.
It's the one I was going to ask him Sunday at McNally Robinson if I had got there before he sold out.
"What if I asked you for a free review copy, what would you say?"
I was just kidding, but Jeremy didn't laugh.
Instead he answered this way:
"I'd say go to www.speakfreebooks.com to get the discount code," which is 20 per cent, by the way.
Or, he suggested, try Costco, where it's cheaper, selling for $9.99 the last time Jeremy checked.
That prompted another thought.
In all the TV, radio and newspaper interviews he's done, with all the free publicity that went with it, had he ever given away a free review copy of The Official Guide To Being a Winnipeg Cheapskate?
"No," Jeremy said.
Now that, my fellow frugal Winnipeggers, is what I call a certifiable, Winnipeg cheap, cheap, cheapskate.
And an expert in his miserable, miserly field.