A moral puzzle, and a solution

On Saturday I went to the Hannaford supermarket with a coupon giving me $7 off a purchase of $75 or more. Among the items I got were two boxes of cat litter. At the register, the clerk started out by putting those two boxes in the bottom basket of my cart. I started to say it would be inconvenient for me to lift them from down there to my car, but he interrupted me to explain that he’d be able to scan them from there. It was a tiny issue, so I didn’t press the point.

The total came to $75 and a little change. Though I hadn’t been totaling my purchases, I’d made a rough estimate of a higher amount, and expressed my surprise to the clerk that I’d qualified for the coupon by such a tight margin.

On the way home I started wondering if he’d actually scanned the kitty litter, so I looked over the receipt. He hadn’t, which explained why the total was lower than I expected. So now the question was whether I should go back to the store and make up the shortfall.

Initially I was inclined not to. First, I’d be creating a lot of fuss for a small item. Either I’d have to haul the two 20-pound boxes back, or I’d have to get someone to go to the shelf and re-scan the item. This would create an inconvenience for the employees dealing with it, or to put it another way, a labor cost for the store, since they probably don’t deal with such a situation often. Second, the clerk’s name was on the receipt, and the mistake would look bad on his record, so I’d likely generate more resentment than appreciation. Third, I wasn’t at fault; I reacted to the clerk’s odd procedure and mentioned that the total was surprisingly low.

Still, these seemed like inadequate excuses. Besides, there was a way to avoid the problems! On Sunday I drove back, put the two boxes into a shopping cart, and went into the store. No one was going to pay attention to someone sneaking merchandise into the place. I picked up a couple of other items while I was there and went to the checkout, where I paid for everything. The books are balanced and no one got annoyed.

What would you call that, shopdropping? Anyway, I’m rather pleased with how the strategy worked out.

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One Response to “A moral puzzle, and a solution”

  1. Mark A. Mandel Says:

    Nicely solved: conscientious and neat. And from you, I’m not surprised. :-)

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