Wednesday, November 23, 2005

If I told you that my experience at the grocery store last night was difficult, you’d probably say, “Of course, it’s right before Thanksgiving.” But it wasn’t difficult in any way that I would have anticipated. It was a bizarre scene.

I pulled into the grocery store parking lot and finding all spaces full with a number of cars hovering, I decided to park on the street. Since I needed to buy a few things I thought about grabbing a basket, but opted for a cart just in case. I pushed my cart without encumbrance through the store. It was busy, but not crowded.

I swept through the store when I paused to look at something at the end of an aisle. An elderly Black woman whose cart was adjacent to mine struck up a spontaneous conversation with me. She said that she wasn’t able to find an inexpensive turkey that was on sale. She then withdrew the sales ad from her cart and pointed at a picture of four different brands of turkeys, each with ascending price. She wasn’t able to find the two inexpensive turkeys. I told her that they may be out of them, and she may try checking again, but I could offer neither a solution nor solace. I spoke with a very patient and calm tone, trying to help as much as I could. “I guess I need to talk to a poor person,” she said. It caught me off guard, as I didn’t know what was implied or what made her think that I was indifferent to her plight. She said it with no malice or ill will – just a very practical and logical tone. I told her that she might check with the deli people, as they may be able to help. She thought that was a good suggestion and walked across the aisle to chat with them.

Strolling from one end of the store to the other, I had accumulated many groceries. I went to the checkout and saw that each line had the same depth so I selected one where the first person had about twenty-five items and the second person had only one. I was third in line.

And that made all the difference.

The twenty-five item person moved through the line quickly and efficiently.

And then there was one-item man. He was a man in his 40’s, and slightly stilted and awkward in his actions and small talk with the cashier.

On the conveyor belt sat his one box of Imodium A-D.

The cashier rang up the box while the man swept different cards through the personal card machine.

“Nine dollars,” said the cashier.

“But it should only be six” replied the man. “Oh, I forgot to enter my saver card number into the machine.”

The cashier looked on his screen and said, “This shows that there isn’t a discount on this item.”

“There should be a three dollar discount,” the man retorted.

The cashier called over a bagger and asked him to check the price on this item. The bagger ran off with the item in hand.

And then we stood. And stood. And stood. The man looked at me and said that he was sorry that this was taking so long, “but the difference is three dollars.”

I thought about just throwing the guy three dollars but there’s really no way to do that without looking like an asshole.

So we stood some more. Finally the bagger returned with two boxes in hand and explained that the box the man had selected was actually nine dollars, but the box just to the left of it was the one reduced in price. The man stood perplexed, and decided to return to the aisle to investigate.

Now he was out of the way.

The cashier started ringing me up. I looked at the screen and saw that the cashier had rung up the Imodium A-D but had also subtracted the cost so that I started at zero dollars.

He ran up all $122 of my stuff and the bagger had done a great job of bagging my groceries and placing all of my stuff in the cart. I tried sliding my discount card through the slot but it wouldn’t go through. I told the cashier this and he took my card and entered in my number on his keypad.

He then tore off the receipt and thanked me for shopping.

“But I haven’t paid,” I told him.

“What do you mean you haven’t paid? This is your card isn’t it?”

“That’s just my discount card,” I began, “that isn’t my credit card.”

“Then what happened?” the cashier asked.

I then realized what had just occurred.

“You didn’t clear the guy’s credit card information. You just charged all of my groceries to the Imodium A-D guy.”

“Oh no,” the cashier said, his face having just gone pale. “The guy told me that his credit card didn’t go through but it must have. I didn’t think his credit card went through.”

The cashier called over his manager. The Imodium A-D guy returned and we called him into the scene. Upon hearing the situation the manager thought a little while and then came up with the bastardized plan to just give the Imodium A-D guy $122 in cash. I tried explaining the situation to A-D guy but he couldn’t grasp what had happened.

The manager handed the guy $122 in cash and the guy started to hand it to me. “This is yours, right?”

“No, it’s yours,” I began, and then continued to explain the situation again. It was pointless. The cashier rang the guy up for his discounted $6 medicine and he was on his way. He probably just thought that he got $122 for free. He may be surprised when he spends all the cash and then gets a credit card bill for $122.

Due to the ineptness of the cashier and his manager, I knew the answer to my next question but thought that I should still ask.

“Can you just enter $122 into the cash register and I’ll pay that,” I began, “or do you need to re-ring all of my stuff?”

The manager said that he’d have to re-ring all of my groceries. Of course.

They had to call in a second bagger to separate my paid groceries from my unpaid groceries. The whole scene was a cluster-fuck.

And all this time, the line behind me grew considerably.

Here is the scary thing. The second time they rang up my groceries my total came out to $118. Say what? I was too tired to say anything. I just wanted to leave.

They bagged all of my groceries, placed them all in my cart, and I got the hell out of there.

And it was then that I realized that I faced another problem. Since I live in the ghetto, the grocery store had an electronic perimeter installed so that if the shopping cart passes the edge of the parking lot, a device on the wheel causes it to lock up.

I had parked on the street.

I got the shopping cart as close to the sidewalk as I could, and then made a few trips between my cart and my car.

I was exhausted and fatigued when I got home. I lugged my groceries from my car to condo and started unpacking. It was then that I understood the price difference.

They forgot to ring up my chips. Damn them! Damn them all to hell!

My orphaned chips are probably still sitting in some sort of conveyor belt limbo. I will miss them.

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