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by Peter Moskos

June 28, 2010

Brother, can you spare a dime?

So I'm in the grocery store, buying a few things, and decide to use the self-serve lane for a change. I realize I have just $15.25 in cash. So I start scanning things... careful not to go over. Then I go over.

An employee walks by and I tell the lady, a middle-aged black lady, that I need to take the last thing off (rubbing alcohol) because I don't have enough money. Now this wasn't the last of my items. There was a whole half hand-basket left behind: fresca, onions, pita bread. Meanwhile the "essentials" I could afford included pretzels, ketchup, vaseline, and beer. The lady says, "Be sure to take your receipt. I'll tell you why."

I finishing paying the machine. I realize I can't even do basic math right because I still have $2 left. The machine spits out a receipt. The lady takes my receipt, and writes a lot on it. She tells me to go up to the front desk. I tell her I will, thanks her, and apologize for my groceries left behind. She assures me it's no problem.

On the receipt, carefully written and circled, is the fact that I bought a four-pack of beer and the machine charged me bottle deposit on a six pack.

I was owned 10 cents.

So I went to the front desk, handed over my receipt, and was greeted with a puzzled glance. I explained I only bought a four-pack of beer and was charged deposit on a six-pack. I had a dime coming my way. But I got my dime. I would have been rude not to after all the lady had noted on my receipt.

If I only cared about a dime! But I thought of Barbara Ehrenreich and Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. And I was very thankful to have a good job, and a wallet filled with cash left behind at home.


Gotti Rules said...

Hey Pete,
Since when is "vaseline" an essential? If you were smarter, you would pick partners that would bring their own. ha, ha Looking forward to seeing you in August at the crab feast.

PCM said...

I'm glad *somebody* noticed the oddity of my shopping list!

Jeff N said...

The oddity to me was not the vaseline, it was paying cash at a supermarket.

I really can't remember the last time I paid cash and not debit card. Even at 711 now I use the card.

PCM said...

I like paying cash. I don't know why. I'm old school. It make no sense and my wife makes fun of me for it. Especially when I come with 14 singles. That brings the inevitable comment: "What happened? Bad service at the titty bar?"

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

my wife makes fun of me for it

Between the Stonewall post and now the vaseline I was beginning to wonder some stuff I probably shouldn't be wondering about. I know you said "travel writer," but I couldn't remember gender for sure.

PCM said...

Can't a man buy some petroleum jelly in the grocery store without raising question? It's great for dry skin. And useful for minor home projects (a dab at the end of electric wires is great to prevent corrosion). Come on, you've got some in your home, too. It doesn't get there without being bought!

(Of course I mentioned it cause I figured it was kind of funny)

And since I always like plugging my wife (Her work! Stop being so dirty!) See Roving Gastronome

And then buy her book, Forking Fantastic. It even has pictures and recipes... some by me!

DJK said...

I wondered about the vassy, too. Vazzy and beer bottles? wtf?

I read the book a few years ago. Good stuff.