Saturday, July 7, 2007

How to get a total stranger to pay for your groceries

It's never a good idea to go to the grocery store late at night or when you are hungry. A few weeks ago I did both.

My brother-in-law & his eldest son were coming in for the weekend. I wanted to make sure we had a well stocked refrigerator. By the time I left for the store, it was after 9:00 p.m. and I took my oldest son. We were both tired and hungry. The boys love to grocery shop with me, especially when I am hungry, because I am an impulse buyer. I will let them buy brand name products and a lot of junk that Dad won't. Dad is price conscious and is a fan of the generic brands of grocery items which don't quite taste the same.

We made a thorough sweep of the store and filled our cart with all the essentials and more. By the time we made it to the checkout, my tired assistant was beyond hungry. We were in luck, there were no lines and the cashier had a bagger.

As my son was helping unload the cart, I had the cashier ring up the family-size pack of chicken breasts first because I was confused about a sale sign near the chicken. When the chicken was rung up at regular price, the cashier gave the pack of poultry to the bagger to check the sale sign.

I was a bit concerned that the meat section is at the back of the store but we had a lot of groceries and no one behind us. The bagger also had our chicken which I wanted either way and we were now committed to wait until he returned.

The rest of our groceries were rung up and bagged while a man with three items got in line behind us. He put them on the conveyor belt, oblivious to our situation. I was now getting uncomfortable. Where is our bagger boy? I have a surly 10 year old giving me the evil eye, another person in line and I just wanted to leave.

In the blink of an eye, before I could apprise the gentleman of our situation, he had pulled out his credit card and with a flick of the wrist, paid for our groceries.

He was on auto-pilot and did not notice that his small pile had not moved from where he deposited it. The cashier was flustered as I thanked the man for buying us $80 worth of groceries! Now we both had to go to customer service to correct the situation. Just then the bagger boy came back, sadly with no answers. " They are all different prices??!" he reported back, clearly confused.

As I was leaving the line for the service desk, the cashier grabbed the chicken from her "helper" and ran off to the poultry cooler. My new "friend" and I had to reverse the transaction at the service desk. He sheepishly apologized while I tried to make light of the situation. Of course when we got back to the line, my chicken and the cashier were MIA . After a few more uncomfortable minutes she returned.

" The sale was on chicken breasts with bones, yours were boneless!"

I thanked her, although at this point I really regretted questioning the price, grabbed the cart and rolled out with my angry side-kick in tow. As we made our way out the door, I started to laugh as I realized how farcical this shopping trip had become. By the time I reached the car, I was laughing so hard, I was crying.

It may not be a good idea to go shopping late at night when you are tired and hungry, but you might get lucky and have someone pay for your purchases.

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