I went to the pet store today, and in one moment saw firsthand why we can’t have nice things. The pet store I go to is a franchise store. It isn’t a huge market chain, but it isn’t the smallest of mom and pop shops, either. I feed my dog a fairly high-end dog food, and this is one of the few stores that carries it. Animal lovers and vets have recommended this store to me because it tends to employ people who care about their clients and pets and can answer questions about the products they carry.
As the young woman behind the register called me over, another customer interrupted to ask her if there were more of a certain kind of dog food. The cashier told him that the can he held was the last, that they would be getting it restocked the next day, and apologized that they did not then have any more.
She scanned my customer loyalty card while he said, “Well, I mean, what can I do for now? I need this food today, and this can is damaged.” As she scanned my dog food, she quickly said she could give him half off the “damaged food.” I rolled my eyes, she scanned my dog treats. The man looked irritated.
“You know what, it’s just going to bring my totals down—just take the can,” the cashier said. He asked, “I can just take it?” and she replied, “Yes, it’ll only be a couple of dollars.” He left, and I paid for my items.
The “damaged” can barely had a dent in it. Ever so slightly dented cans don’t damage the quality of dog food. And this wasn’t an inconveniently dented can that would be difficult to open.
The Customer Isn’t Always Right
Working on the ill-conceived notion that the customer is always right, this cashier avoided a complaint, kept the line of customers moving, and was incredibly polite while doing so. She knew that taking the time to ring up this customer’s can and find an appropriate discount to apply in the computer system to avoid an argument with him would waste time for everyone else standing in line, and she did the right thing.
This customer, on the other hand—who even haggles over the price of dog food? This is not a flea market sir, it is a store, and you don’t just get to ask for discounts when something is not actually damaged.
My guess is that the college-aged cashier paid for that can of dog food herself at the end of her shift, all because some middle-aged shmo didn’t want to pay full price for something that has a set market value. This epitomizes a problem with our economy right now. We have a small percentage of people doing the right thing, and a huge percentage of people who can’t seem to follow the simple rules of a civilized society. It is astonishing to me that someone would even ask for a discount without a legitimate reason and so rudely.
So what happens now? Either the cashier pays the couple of dollars out of her own pocket to cover the difference or the store loses a few dollars in revenue. I know Adam Sandler taught us in “Big Daddy” that dented cans are 20 percent off, but the difference in inventory between a medium-sized franchise store and a giant supermarket is substantial. Small costs add up quickly.
Try Thinking About Someone Besides You
If the cashier paid, it matters, too. After all, aren’t we constantly told by self-help, saving for the future books that saving the cost of a latte a day could help you make the down payment on your future home? The real problem is that this guy only thought about what he wanted with no thought for how it might affect other people. He forced other people to pay his way instead of managing his own pennies well.
This is a symptom of a society that says “I deserve this,” a society that encourages personal and societal debt, by assuming that someone else will take care of the cost at some vague other time.
Our problem is not big-box stores or the minimum wage, it isn’t the Democrats or the Republicans, and our problem is certainly not going to be fixed by any act of political theater. Our problem is that we constantly justify bad habits, whether it be pirating music because “it’s just a local band” or finding a way to pad our expense reports at work by a few dollars.
We then wonder why the companies we work for nickel and dime us or why albums on iTunes cost fourteen bucks. We justify why we shouldn’t pay full price for something and then, lo and behold, the next time around the price is even higher. I’m going to do something for the pet store this week, because it will make me feel like I did the right thing.
But, hey, maybe this isn’t a social problem, maybe it was just a can of dog food.