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Secrets Of A Stingy Scoundrel: 100 Dirty Little Money-Grubbing Secrets

Phil Villarreal (2009)


On Twitter the day before yesterday, Phil Villarreal (whom you may remember from Stormin' Mormon) quoted a bookstore representative regarding his appearance that evening to read from and sign his new book, Secrets Of A Stingy Scoundrel: "We've gotten a lot of calls on your event after the Republic article. One lady came in and threatened to picket the event."

I didn't think it was for real until I pulled up at the bookstore and saw four women carrying signs. Even then, I thought it might be a publicity stunt perpetrated by Phil.

Well, no:

The four women picketing outside the bookstore had seen Phil interviewed about his book on KTVK-TV and in the paper. They were carrying home made, double-sided signs:

—Illegal, Immoral, & Insane
—Would you give your kids this advice [frowny face]
—This book is offensive! Not funny!
—Do you cheat your country and the IRS?
PHIL is Gross, MEAN AND just plain wrong!!
—Greedy, Cheap and NO Morals!!
—Phil—Have you NO Conscious? [sic]
—WHAT Goes around.... comes around

Even though their signs had exactly the look I would be going for if I were staging a fake protest to get publicity for my book (right down to the frowny face and comical misuse of the language and its punctuation), it was obvious from their actual frowny faces that these were genuinely pissed-off folks. They were wary when I approached but, as I've always said, you can get away with almost anything as long as you have a black bag and a purposeful step. When I pulled out my digital recorder to talk with them for a few minutes and snap some photos, they didn't even ask who I was or who I was with (though the answer would have been—and always is—"Barth Gimble, Fernwood 2 Night, howyadoin?")

The four women told me they'd all worked together as servers. So what's their beef with the book? Well, they all admitted right up front—CAREFUL, THIS WILL SHOCK YOU—that they hadn't read the book. (A bookstore employee later mentioned that one or more of the ladies had been in the store the previous day. Research!) But that didn't stop the beefs, which they spat out pretty much all at the same time:

"He teaches kids how to save money by stealing and cheating the system."
"It's immoral. It's unethical."
"Don't tip servers."
"Don't tip a lady unless she's pretty and you know you're gonna get laid that night."
"If you go to a bar, sign the tab and then put it where it's wet, so it takes the signature off and you can just beat the charges. And that seems funny, but when children read it, they're thinking, `Oh, yeah, I can do that!' He's teaching the next generation of kids how to cheat, and make money out of cheating!"

The next move was to ask them how it's Phil Villarreal's fault if children are in a bar in the first place, but these crusaders clearly weren't in a mood to joke, even though they had to have seen the sign advertising Phil's in-store appearance, which clearly read:"Tongue-in-cheek parody of self-help money books, a money-saving riot!" So I had to ask, just to be sure:

You do know it's a humor book . . . right?

This made them suspicious again, and they accused me of being a friend of Phil's. Now, I have known him for a while, but only via email, and was therefore able to answer in all truthfulness: "I've never met the man."

That reassured them, and three out of four of the women admitted that they understood that the author's intent was to be humorous. "But it's not humor!" "It's NOT FUNNY!"

But you realize it's supposed to be, right?

"It's supposed to be. It's not funny."
"He's DONE that, and that is him! Everything that he put in the book is what he's done."

He said that?

"Yes. He tried to deny it for a second. But—" [Here she paused to yell at a customer going into the store: "Don't buy the book, honey!" (Customer: "I'm not!")] Then all four went back to the talking points, speaking as if with one voice (only the kind of one voice that can shout different things, all at the same time):

"It's just not funny. It's not humorous to say, `Don't tip a waitress unless you're gonna get laid tonight! That's not funny! It's offensive!"
"He says if we don't like the job and we don't get tips then we need to get out of the business."
"If it wasn't for the service people, our country would not be running today! We're really upset about this!"

I can tell. Did Phil talk to you?

"He was cordial."
"Very smug."
"He was very nice. He was saying, `Well, I agree with you.' Well, if you agree with us, then you would never have written the book!"
"He's got two kids! What if his kids grow up and read this crap that he's publicizing? It's not right!"
"Teaching his kids to be immoral, to cheat the system. It's just not right!"



(Above) Phil Villarreal, positively basking in the glow of Wagner. (That protest sign was right: clearly, this man has no Conscious.)

Have you been protested anywhere else?

Never, man. They wrote me an email saying someone threatened to protest. I thought, no way will someone actually come all the way out here. But, sure enough, she came—and she brought her friends with her.

They're very angry. But they admit they haven't read it.

Here's the thing, though: they know things that are in the book. I don't know where they'd have heard of it otherwise. So maybe they've at least come in and looked at it.

[Bookstore employee:] One of the women came in the store yesterday. She might even have bought the book.

Reconnaissance! You have to admire that.

I asked them to come in, and they didn't want to.

[Bookstore employee:] They can't picket in here.

No, I was hoping they'd put their signs down and sit there and ask me their questions, but they didn't want to.

One of them—the leader, I guess—her voice is shaking. She's pissed.

They were telling me that I'm teaching their children. I'm like, are your children really gonna read this book? How are your children going to get this book?

You know, I thought maybe you had set this up. Especially because you knew about it in advance.

It'd be a good idea.

Do you like doing this? The readings, I mean.

I don't know—this is my first one! Tomorrow I have one in Tucson. Next month in Flagstaff.

You should tell the protestors about them. Maybe they'd show up. Maybe they have a union.

They don't want to talk to me. They don't want to play any of my games.

One said you were "smug."

I'm honestly glad they came. It's such an honor. And at least two people came in because of the protestors.




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You can also read Phil's writing at The Consumerist (where he is a contributing editor) and BECAUSEITOLDYOUSO, among other places.

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