Today was a perfectly ordinary Monday. Which is to say, a slow wake-up for 3 of us as we await Mama returning from her night shift, then a frantic breakfast as most of us gear up for a busy day and one of us winds down toward a fitful sleep. Once Mama has laid down, the rest of the family often head out in a series of boondoggleish ‘errands’ mainly designed to keep the noisier members of the family away from the most exhausted.
Today’s errands nicely lined up in a strip-mall close to our home: the drugstore for a prescription pick-up, then several doors down for a quick-and-dirty muffler patch for the commuter car, and finally a tour of the grocery store. Which means a modicum of driving, and an absolute minimum of the mind-numbing work of exit and re-entry of the family wagon. All under a nice blue sky.
But what is this? The drugstore has a homemade sign securely taped to the front door: “90% OFF“. Since I’ve never been to this particular CVS before, I assume that it is going out of business, and make my way back to the pharmacy. But as I do so, I realize that the shelves are full and the store seems to be doing business as usual. Whither the sign, then?
We get our prescription without incident, and then a slightly ornery part of my brain starts to wonder if there is anything else we might need. And yes, they have our daughter’s hair detangler at the grocery store, but let’s just see what happens, shall we? We find a bottle of it and head to the checkout.
“That’ll be three something-something,” I hear the cashier say, and I tilt my head as a look of mock consternation crosses my face and I almost imperceptibly shake my head.
“Oh, no, I think that should be discounted,” I deadpan.
“Discount?” she says, “I don’t think so, but let me check.”
“Thanks!” I say with genuine feeling. “Because I noticed the sign on the door for “90% off”.”
She looks up slowly and thoughtfully. “Well, that is for the Valentine stuff, not for the whole store,” she says with a slight smile and a question in the corner of her eye.
At this point, I must proceed with caution. Not because I care greatly about the money involved, but because my dear daughter has a serious sensitivity to emotional intensity. She is a careful student of my frustration and occasional anger, and she’s not shy about calling me out about it in public. So if my rate of speech rises past a certain threshold, she will intervene and implore me to “Slow down, Daddy!” while pushing both palms toward me. The challenge for me, then, is to make a solid and impassioned argument without getting agitated or losing my cool.
“Oh, I see. It may be intended to apply to only a limited amount of merchandise, but since it is posted on the front door, it would seem to apply to everything in the store,” I said slowly.
After gently testing my resolve once more, the young lady summoned the manager. Now things were getting interesting.
The manager came out with her jaw set, ready to handle whatever might be interrupting her morning. When the cashier explained the situation, the manager scoffed.
“No, that’s not for everything! That’s only for the Valentine’s merchandise,” she insisted.
“Well, your sign doesn’t specify anything, so it must apply to everything,” I countered. I had that week we spent on consumer rights in high school business class in my back pocket, and time was on my side. I was literally killing time, and had no place else to be.
And so it went: she, utilizing a higher volume to try to make the same point, and me, carefully suggesting that her store was engaged in false advertising. At one point, my daughter interrupted to attempt to explain to me that “only the Valentine’s stuff is on sale”– a helpful reminder that I needed to take a deep breath and slow down.
Finally, the manager peeled the packing tape off of the glass and took the sign down. Muttering only something vague about “Taking care of this,” she hurried back into her office at the front of the store, leaving me to wonder. I was eyeballing the photos and phone numbers of the regional and district managers when the cashier interrupted my plotting.
“That’ll be thirty-four cents,” she said.
I have no idea if the manager had called down her mea culpa to the cashier, or if the more well-spoken cashier had decided that they had met their match. But regardless, I walked out of that store with a spring in my step and a self-satisfied smile on my face.
Now I’m just left to wonder if I’m an embarrassing skinflint, a grumpy old man, or an obstinate jerk. Or, if I should have found something more expensive to lay on the counter.