Money Lessons I Learned from Friends: Ross Geller

Ross Oh Wow.gif

Turns out Blogtober was a lot easier said than done, even if you’re only shooting for 13 posts in 31 days. I have SO many ideas for content, but it’s difficult to put pen to paper sometimes!

Anyway, I was thinking about my previous post about Minimalism in which I mention “everyone should have a Monica Closet,” and I thought about all the other things Friends characters taught me about money. As it happens, the Friends dealt with money in their lives and with each other quite often! And not always very well…

I’m splitting this into a series of posts over the next few days, one for each Friend, and then I’ll compile them all at the end. Rachel was up first, and now it’s time for her favorite/least favorite friend, Ross. I’m going to be honest with you - I don’t really enjoy Ross very much and I found it really hard to write his piece compared to some of the other characters. That said, he’s got a couple of great things I can use as financial analogies (and the first one was the inspiration for this piece. Go figure!)

Ross Geller

Ross is an enthusiastic paleontologist who is a year older than most of the Friends gang, and Monica’s older brother. His storyline is primarily about failed relationships, neurotic paranoia, obnoxious quirkiness, and his parents’ unrealistic obsession with him as their golden child compared to Monica, the one they kind of wish they’d never birthed (can you tell Ross isn’t my *favorite* character?!)…Ross does have some fantastic storylines and hilarious moments, though, so let’s get to it and review what he might be able to teach us about money.

You paid for those hotel toiletries - take ‘em

One of Ross’s “things” is that he enthusiastically loads up on hotel toiletries and other “free” items in hotel rooms. This is a recurrent subplot in several episodes, but the centerpiece of “The One With Rachel’s Dream,” in which Chandler books an expensive surprise weekend for Monica in Vermont, but she can’t go…leaving Chandler to take Ross to the fancypants bed-and-breakfast. Ross teaches Chandler about his trick of taking everything possible in the hotel room and the common areas and asking for all items from the hotel’s forgotten items list (razors, toothbrushes, etc).

Chandler gets into the game and returns with some great items (USA Today, two apples - “Nice! We’re only 4 apples short of a bushel!” squeals Ross), but the record scratches when Chandler reveals salt and pepper shakers. Ross is beyond appalled and tells him:

“You have to find the line between stealing and taking what the hotel owes you.”

We’ll put a pin in that idea for a second. The bit continues with them differentiating between stealing (salt shakers) and not stealing (salt), stealing (remote control) and not stealing (batteries).

For your viewing pleasure. Video copyrighted to NBC. I don’t own this clip, but man is it good :)

It’s one of my favorite scenes because it plays so well to both Ross’s and Chandler’s characters. But what about Ross’ theory that most things in a hotel are fair game as long as they can be used up?

I wouldn’t go as far as Ross by any means, but there are DEFINITELY items in a hotel you’re welcome to take because they come with the price of the room, and gosh darn it, you probably paid good money for that room (unless you travel hacked!).

Related: How I Got Paid for a $1400+ Flight on American Airlines

I occasionally see “controversy” as to whether it’s appropriate to take hotel toiletries you haven’t used or letting the hotel staff bring you extra toiletries daily and take them all at the end. I’ve never really understood that. They happily provide you toiletries daily! They’re included in the cost of the room. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t take your basic toiletry allotment with you when you go.

That said, Ross takes things much, much further than I’d recommend. I was once with a group who semi-abused the mimosa/champagne offering at the front dest of a super nice hotel we booked for a bachelorette party, and that I would say was borderline. I think the hotel intended to only offer them with checkin, but they never declined giving us one or two each day, so whatever.

So let’s talk about what I think you can guiltlessly take from your hotel and what you can’t.

Travel-sized toiletries in the hotel bathroom: YES

Travel toiletries are awesome to keep and use on future trips. They are always TSA size-approved and easy to toss if for some reason TSA tells you to slim down your liquid collection. Unless you’re super environmentally conscious and always pack your stuff in reusable containers…which is also cool…this is A-OK. I’m talking shampoo, conditioners, lotions, soaps, shower caps, the single-use cotton ball/Qtip packages, if applicable, etc.

Pen/pad of paper: YES

I’m pretty sure hotels want you to take this stuff as advertisement, honestly. If you use a lot of notepads, go for this one.

Snacks/Breakfast in the common space: YES, within reason

If you are paying for breakfast or it’s offered in the price of the hotel, take an extra apple or granola bar or two for the day or your flight or whatever. That’s just good sense.

Coffee supplies: Maybe

I’m on the fence about this one. It DOES come with the room and is expected to be used, but emptying sugar packets into your purse feels a little silly? It’s different than travel supplies in my mind, but if you feel ok about it, go for it.

Toilet paper, lightbulbs, batteries, etc.: NO

This to me is stealing. Those are items that other guests can use after you use them and that the hotels need to have in the room for the room to function properly for the next guest. You might be able to argue that an unfinished roll of toilet paper is yours to take, as some hotels toss partially-used rolls, but that’s just weird, man. Leave the disposable housewares in the room.

Asking for tons and tons from their “forgotten items” list just to stock up: NO

Hotels offer these more expensive items as a courtesy to their guests who in good faith forgot to bring something. If you realize you fogot your toothbrush or razor, by all means you should ask for one, use it, and take it with you when you go if you’d like to keep it for future use. But don’t use the forgotten items list as a free personal items shopping spree. There’s a reason they don’t put all of those things in each room.

Towels, sheets. robes, irons, coffeemaker, salt shakers, pillows, whatever else: NO NO NO

100% stealing if you take something that is not a perishable item offered to each new guest (that the hotel frankly expects you to take with you). Don’t do it. Some hotels offer purchases of their linens and robes, which is totally cool. Don’t be this person. It’s unbecoming and probably punishable by law.

Pay for furniture delivery. Otherwise you’ll end up with a broken couch and $4 in store credit.

Don’t be cheap like Ross. When Ross bought a new couch, he refused to pay for delivery because it cost almost as much as the couch itself (which sucksss). So he enlists the gang, and particularly Chandler, to help him move his large new couch into his apartment via the small, windy staircase…which inevitably ends in total disaster. He then tries to return the couch to the store, but the sales clerk won’t accept the return (obviously), and offers him $4 store credit. Which Ross naturally accepts.

PIV-OT!

Sometimes delivery and installation from furniture or appliance stores can be a painful addition to the purchase price. Here are few ways to reduce that cost without sacrificing the safe handling of your large, expensive new items:

  • Buy from a place that does free installation with purchases of a certain dollar amount

  • Buy during a free delivery and/or installation event (Pottery barn does free furniture delivery pretty frequently, for example)

  • Ask for a discount on delivery, particularly if the item is expensive or you shop there a lot.

  • Get the store credit card if that allows you to get free delivery. You can always close it immediately if you don’t want to keep it.

  • Hire people outside of the store to do the delivery/installation. That is usually less expensive. Just make sure they know what they’re doing if it’s appliance installation. Some warranties aren’t valid if you don’t use certified installation specialists!

And finally….

Be Honest When You Aren’t “Fine” or You’ll End Up Drunk with Burned Hands

…but in the financial sense.

Yall. My absolute favorite Ross plots on Friends, and probably a Top 5 Friends moment generally, is when he reiterates for like, two episodes that he is “FINE” with (spoiler alert!) Rachel and Joey dating. His voice gets progressively higher pitched, he suggests a double date with his girlfriend Charlie, Rachel, and Joey. Which leads to, well, this:

Clearly Ross was….not fine. He was so distraught, he ends up getting drunk and burning his hands on a steaming fajita plate before his girlfriend ditches him and he’s left with Joey to put him to bed at the end of the evening (after what had to have been an unmatched dance performance to the soundtrack of Chicago)

What does Ross’s meltdown have to do with finances?

It’s a slight stretch, but I love this episode so much that I had to work it into the piece. It’s so easy to avoid or ignore problems in your finances until it’s absolutely too late. Or until you get burned, as it were. I know when I’m in denial about a problem, it makes me much less competent to make solid decisions and move forward. When you’re in a bad state (for example, Ross’s second pitcher of margaritas…), you might end up making your situation worse. The analogies on this one abound. Charlie leaves Ross in his mess, Ross burns his hands, makes a fool out of himself, and probably will have a hell of a hangover.

If you’re trying to pretend like your finances are fine and they are not, it’s only going to get worse. Sticking your head in the sand about your spending or income or any combination thereof is not going to solve any of your problems. The first step is admitting to yourself that you are not fine.

After you come to terms with not being fine, you can soberly deal with whatever it is you’re facing. A lot of times if you refuse to face money issues head on, you’ll end up exacerbating the problem when it could have been solved pretty easily had you only been calm. Just swallow the frog, as they say.

That’s it for Ross! Any Ross money stories I didn’t cover that you love? Do you agree with me about hotel toiletries? Share in the comments!

Up next: Joey Tribbiani