I’m checking out at the grocery store. I have 4 nectarines. The cashier puts 2 on the scale, types in the number and weighs them. That bugs me a bit because the scale rounds up the amount owed, but whatever. I figure, it’s an extra penny or so. Then, he takes one nectarine off the scale (for you math whizzes, this leaves one on the scale), types in the number and weighs that single nectarine.
“Um,” I say, in my best “is this your first day on the job?” voice. “Nectarines are charged by the pound, not individually.”
“Oh, sorry,” he says. And proceeds to weigh the other two nectarines.
“Wait!” I stop him, irritated now. “You need to void the other nectarine. You charged me for it twice.”
Of course, the machine won’t let him do that. Or, he’s not, um, cashier-y enough to know how to do that. So here’s his brilliant plan. “Why don’t I just charge you twice for the original amount, because you bought 4 nectarines and I weighed 2 each time.”
Bright idea, Galileo, but you see, you’ve actually charged me twice for the same nectarine, in addition to charging me ALREADY for every other nectarine I have. So if I let you charge me again, that will make twice that I’ve paid for each nectarine. Now, I like my produce, but not at what amounts to $4 a nectarine. I was pushing it on the $2/nectarine.
I explain in the voice used to tell my 3 year old that she can’t use my carving knife to operate on her stuffed kitty that charging me AGAIN would not actually solve the problem.
Then, suddenly having an Einstein moment, he says, “Oh, got it. How about I just take the extra money out of the cash register, since I can’t void the sale?”
Okay, I’ve been a cashier. I know you’re not supposed to do that. I know that it will throw his till off, that the tape will read 7 pounds of nectarines when they only sold 5 pounds, etc. I also know that if I stand there talking to him any longer, the line behind me might start chucking their produce at me. Besides, it feels like my uterus is trying to find its way to daylight and sitting, immediately, is a good idea. Fine, I say. Give me the money. Of course, I have to tell him how much it is, because I don’t think he really understands what’s happening.
And, when he opens his till, he discovers that he has dollar bills, but no change. So then he starts asking the other cashiers. “Do you have any change? I need to give this lady 76 cents in change.”
I’m quick witted. Well, not really, but faster than he is. I pull out a quarter, tell him to give me another dollar and we’ll call it good.
And I bet he’s still struggling to figure out why all of that happened in the first place.
In a like story, I was buying fabric once. 2 yards. Off the same bolt. I told the perky 12 year old at the cutting desk that I needed 2 yards. She measured one yard and cut it. “Oh, I need 2 yards,” I said, in louder than normal cutting-desk volume. She stared at me. After a good minute and a half she said, “Oh, did you want 2 yards together?” Well, yes, sweetie, usually when someone buys multiple yards of the same fabric, they don’t want you to cut it into 1 yard pieces for them. It makes sewing clothes a bit more challenging. But thanks for thinking through that!