Friday, January 30, 2009

Coconut Sauce

At the end of my weekly grocery shopping at the supermarket, I eyed a cashier with only one customer. As I progressed, I noticed that the customer, a woman, only had one item, and so I happily begun to put my groceries on the conveyer belt. This felt like my lucky day, or so I thought.

As soon as I was done emptying my cart, there seemed to be a problem with the woman ahead of me. She started arguing with the cashier saying that the price of the item she wanted to buy, which later I identified as some kind of coconut sauce, was $6.99 and not the $9.99 that the cashier was telling her to pay. After a brief exchange, the cashier left her station saying that she was going to check the price herself.

The cashier returned with the jar the customer wanted to purchase plus another jar of similar kind. She told the customer that the price was indeed $9.99 and not $6.99 as the customer believed. The woman wouldn't hear it and she kept insisting that she saw the $6.99 price in the aisle where she picked up the jar. At this point, for a reason still unclear to me, the cashier left once more and disappeared in one of the aisles.

The woman was well dressed and sported a nicely tight red coat which reminded me of something one would wear in the '60s. I started wondering why would someone waste so much time arguing over three dollars and I almost approached the woman to offer to pay the difference myself. In fact, while I was waiting in line, three other customers went happily at the adjacent cashier. At first I resisted the temptation to change cashiers because all my groceries were already on the conveyer belt. I figured that by the time I had put all my groceries back in the cart the matter would be resolved.

In the meantime, the customer standing behind me gave up and moved to another line and the temptation to move to another line became stronger and stronger but curiosity about the woman and her coconut sauce had the best of me and I decided to wait. It was then that my patience paid off. The cashier returned from her second trip around the aisles and categorically stated that the jar was indeed $9.99. The woman finally gave up and slid her ATM card in the machine.

It was then that the most surprising thing happened. A few moments after sliding her card the woman walked out of the supermarket without the bagged coconut sauce which was still in front of the cashier on the counter. I looked at the cashier and spoke for the first time, "She left the bag! She walked out and left the bag!". As my instinct was telling me to grab the bag and run after the woman the cashier looked at me and said, "Her card was declined. She didn't even have ten dollars in her account."

She didn't even have ten dollars in her account and that's why she was arguing about the price. I imagined this poor woman trying to get this jar of coconut sauce to make some kind of dessert for her children arguing with the cashier with the hope that, out of pity, the cashier would let her pay $6.99. She didn't want to steal it, even though that's all she had; she just wanted a break. It was then that I wished that I had offered to pay the difference.