A couple of days ago I was out of town and needed some shampoo and some potato chips. I stopped by a chain pharmacy (I’m showing my age. I almost said drug store.) to make a quick purchase. When I went in, the young man at the counter yelled, “Welcome to RiteAid!”
“Thanks,” I replied, and went on my way to do my shopping.
I picked up a bag of Lay’s Potato chips and glanced at the price. What? $4.25 for this bag? That’s ridiculous. I put it back quickly so it had no time to burn my hand.
Finally I located some chips. The sign under them said $1.25 and the shampoo was $2.49. I took my purchases to the counter and waited for the customer in front of me to be finished. It seems that the computer (I almost said cash register) rang up the wrong price—not the sale price. She wanted the sale price, of course. Don’t we all? They finally worked out the details, and it was my turn.
“Hello, ma’am,” the nice young man said. “Do you have a RiteAid card?”
“No, I don’t. I don’t live here and don’t really need one. I’m passing through,” I explained.
“Okay,” he replied, and rang up my two items.
The shampoo rang up $3.29 and the chips, $1.79.
“That’s not what the signs said,” I told him. The sign beneath the item said . . . .”
“That’s the price with the card,” he told me.
“Well, don’t you have one you can scan for me this time?” I asked, knowing that nice local folks that work here in the card stores would do that for me on occasion.
“No, ma’am,” he replied.
“Well, you won’t mind putting these things back for me then, will you? I’ll just stop down the road at the grocery store,” I told him.
“But, ma’am, anyone can get one. Just fill out this paper for me.”
“For one purchase? No, thanks,” I said, walking out the door.
I realize that the clerk was not at fault, and I was not rude to him. He couldn’t help the situation any more than I could. Sometimes rules just make no sense at all and need to be thrown out.
The worst example I’ve ever encountered happened about thirty years ago when I was really poor and had not yet climbed up the ladder to the moderate level of poverty that I live in now. I had a heavy foot back then and had gotten one of my numerous speeding tickets. The patrolman had relieved me of my license until I paid the fine. My husband Larry worked out of town for weeks at a time and I hadn’t planned a speeding ticket into the budget. I needed money-badly. He wired me $300. (Man, this story really dates us.) When I went to the store to pick it up, things fell apart.
“Yes, Mrs. Ellis,” said the young lady at the Western Union counter, “the money is here. How are you doing? I haven’t seen you since you taught me French for those two years. I need to see your license, please.”
“Uh, I don’t have them with me today,” I said. “You all know me. I’ve taught everyone in the store. Isn’t that good enough?”
“No, ma’am,” she sighed. “That’s the rule. If my mother receives something from Western Union, I have to see her license.”
“Well, it’s a stupid rule,” I said.
I’m not proud of the scene that came next. Right there in the store on that Saturday morning, I threw a tantrum. I cried a little, shouted a little, and made a spectacle of myself. Those nice folks were happy to give me my money and get me out of there no matter how many rules they had to break. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t return to the store for years to come.
I fully understand the importance of rules, and as a rule, I abide by them. But when a rule is outlandishly stupid, it needs to be broken.