Geizhals im Ausland: The Misadventures of a Miser Abroad

Geizhals im Ausland: The Misadventures of a Miser Abroad

A grandson’s revenge on a mean man of means.

Mr Feckner labeled himself as a man of means, but what he really meant was he was a mean man. Especially when he travels. He relentlessly haggles with everyone everywhere in his quest for a better deal. Mrs Rosa Feckner, worn out and repulsed by her husband’s behaviour, feared she was turning into a whinging spouse.

“He’s getting worse with age,” she would confide to anyone willing to listen. “That last incident in Bangkok. Unforgivable,” Rosa, said. 

 Despite his wealth, Mr Feckner took delight in getting rock-bottom prices. He might spend an hour of his time to save a dollar. He saw it as a victory, whereas most sane people consider it a waste of time and effort. After all, during his time as a consultant, his hourly rate was often $200, making his efforts to save a dollar seem especially misguided.

Peter displays his ‘gift’ to his stingy grandfather: A translation app filled with more than meets the eye.

Mr Feckner rarely cared about others’ feelings. His own satisfaction was his primary concern. As well as wanting the lowest price, he also wanted the best of the best. That increases his sense of worth. He considered this a twofold victory. That recent trip to Bangkok saw him raise his fists to a Tuk Tuk driver over a small amount of money. Rosa had enough. 

Before that, Rosa Feckner lived through the torment. In their early days, she’d apologise for his behaviour, whether the person was a shoe salesman, a bus conductor or a dentist. Now in their golden years, she’d resigned herself to letting him be. She needed a change. She put her foot down and demanded he either consider her input or travel by himself. He made his choice. Mr Feckner now travels alone, and Rosa enjoys spending their money at home. She is happy to pay a higher price. Her husband would never let her rest if he found out she was wasteful. She just fiddles the books. 

When they travelled previously, Mr Feckner always consulted his Lonely Planet books. Despite not being a backpacker, he fancied himself as having the budget of one. The books served him well until the Internet caused their demise. Mr Feckner and technology did not mix, and it forced him to ask for help. He never asks for help as he knows it often means a cost and besides, he knows everything about everything – and is always the first to offer an opinion or advice. His grandson, studying coding at the university, was his go-to tech support. 

The Failure of Mankind

Peter grew up listening to his grandfather, forever highlighting the failures of others and the failure of mankind. He was especially livid with how the Internet had caused the decline in physical travel books, which he had mostly bought at second-hand shops. Now, forced to accept technology, he lowered himself and asked Peter to help him with the translator on his phone. But Mr Feckner’s phone was old and lacked speed, design, battery power and apps.  

Peter remembered his grandfather often disapproving of his career choice, thinking technology was just a fad. He always reminded Peter that he would not help financially with his university studies – wasting your time, he’d always add. Peter’s standard reply was that he had never asked for any financial support. His grandson learned from his younger days never to ask for anything. “I can give you advice, but I won’t be giving any money,” was his grandfather’s standard reply. Even as an eight-year-old, Peter couldn’t understand why he was being offered advice when all he wanted was someone to buy tickets for the school raffles. But out of her husband’s sight, his grandmother would always come to the rescue.“

“A phone is a phone. Why doesn’t the stupid translator work?” He growled at Peter.

His grandfather could not accept Peter’s answer that the phone was too old for the latest technology. He asked for suggestions on a work around. He needed a translator for Germany. 

He became infuriated when Peter suggested he buy a new phone. And to save his own sanity, Peter offered to build an app for his old phone. 

“I could make a simple app for you. Just give me a list of things you want translated.”

His Grandfather liked the idea, albeit without a budget for the project. He delighted in telling Peter the practice would be good for him. He jotted down a list of sentences to be translated. 

  1. Where can I find a five-star hotel at a one star price?
  2. I am a tourist; I thought the fare was free.
  3. Sorry, I have no money.
  4. I am on the age pension.
  5. I am a veteran and fought in the war. 
  6. Can you lower the price, please?
  7. That is too expensive for me. 
  8. Please help me. I am feeling sick. 
  9. My wife just died, please give me a discount. 

Peter set to work with the app – calling it Grumpy’s Verbal Passport or GVP for short. His grandfather thought it meant Grandfather’s Verbal Passport. All the Luddite needed to do was to push a number on the app and he would hear that sentence in the German language. He could either play the translations on the app or learn them.

Peter scrutinised each question with a growing sense of unease. He knew that, in creating this app, he was enabling his grandfather to potentially exploit the German people. Nevertheless, his guilt became an opportunity, and he tweaked the translations slightly.

It was time for payback. 

He consulted with his grandmother, who loved Peter’s idea and even offered to pay him for the job. Peter declined her generosity, as she had been the kindest of all his grandparents. 

Peter Builds the App

Peter worked laboriously. Fueled by determination and a close deadline, the job brought him much joy. With each new line of code, he anticipated the confusion it would trigger. His changes to the original sentences guaranteed his grandfather a more interesting trip. 

Number 1. Where can I find a five-star hotel at a one star price?

The visual reference was written as – Cheap Hotel.

Peter then edited the original question.

Which translated to German would say. 

Wo kann ich ein Ein-Stern-Hotel zum Preis von einem Fünf-Sterne-Palast finden?

Which said: Where can I find a one-star hotel at the price of a five-star hotel?

Grandfather practiced at every opportunity. Here he perfects Number 1.

Peter constructed the app amid the daily nudges of his impatient grandfather. He delayed the finish until the day of travel. He didn’t want him practising outside of Germany. 

Although Mr Feckner was travelling alone, he insisted on his wife and grandson taking him to the airport and picking him up on his return. The Feckner household would be quiet for three weeks. 

Whilst in Germany he rehearsed the translations at every opportunity. He practiced in restaurants, on public transport and anywhere he felt like it. Bystanders pretended not to notice the peculiar man. 

Grandfather practiced at every opportunity. Here he perfects Numbers 7-9.

Hotel Disaster

At the Grand Elysee in Hamburg, he tried a trick that had often worked in the USA. He recited what he learned on Number 6 – “Ich hatte mal eine Geschlechtskrankheit” – believing he was saying, I am a veteran and fought in the war. It puzzled the reception staff why a tourist would tell them he had previously contacted a sexually transmitted disease. They kept refusing his discount, and he stormed out of the Grand Elysee, as well as many other plush hotels, in terrible moods. 

On another occasion, he demanded a discount after dining on bratwurst, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes. Number 5 was very clear – he was on the age pension. He kept shouting – “Wo ist das nächste Bordell?” The staff at this establishment found it amusing that instead of paying for his bill, he wanted directions to the nearest brothel. After many heated arguments and accusing them of disrespecting a senior citizen, he left in a huff. He found the Germans humiliating and lacking any compassion. They would not give him any discounts. It ruined his trip. 

Once back in Australia, his complaints about Germany were ceaseless. Mrs Feckner stopped listening the moment they left the airport – his insults at the German tourist industry were intense. Then he summoned Peter to the home. Grandmother worried that her grandson might be in trouble. But Peter expected this, and had prepared. He would tell him that the phone was too old and must have glitched with the translations. 

Mr Feckner looked at his worried grandson.

“Peter, never visit Germany. Now, update my GVP; Russia is next.”