Buyer Beware

On a road trip recently, we stopped at a gas station/mini-mart to fill the tank and get drinks. We were obviously traveling — everyone scurried to the restroom before we made our drink selections. At the checkout counter, we chatted away. The clerk told me the total and I handed him my credit card. Suddenly, the readout on the register jumped by $1.05 as the cashier mumbled, “That’s six drinks.”

I put my hand on the counter and got quite serious, stating, “That’s five drinks.” 

He glared at me a moment then said, “Fine. I’ll take a dollar off.”

My response, “…And the tax.” Dead silence. Even the kids stopped jabbering.

He shoved the credit receipt across the counter. I signed. I crossed my arms. I waited. He gave me my nickel.

The remainder of our trip was quite lovely.

I share this little story with you not to bash the mini-mart cashier. I know that is a thankless job, standing in one place a whole shift dealing with grumpy people, screaming kids and the like. Most, I am sure, are decent, honest employees.

However, distracted patrons are easy prey for the less honest. We multitask: restroom, snacks, gas, and map checks (or at least mentally thinking to the next step), clerks can easily take advantage.

Vacationers, generally, are easy prey. It’s not just the distractions. Traveling in foreign countries and unfamiliar with the currency, clerks can adjust the total and we might not notice.

What can we do?

  • Pay attention at the register. At the mini-mart, even though I was talking with the kids, I watched the cash register out of the corner of my eye and saw the change. I might easily have missed what the clerk said, but I didn’t miss the change in the total!
  • Ask questions kindly if you don’t understand the total. In Paris, we needed a couple days to get comfortable with euros. I questioned a couple of charges (playing a little dumb, perhaps). While the charges in Paris were correct, the language barrier got me. The clerks were quite nice about it.
  • Check your receipt before you leave the store. At the very least, count the total number of items charged to make sure it matches the number of items purchased. If it’s incorrect, you can get it fixed.

Buyer beware! Pay attention at the cash register to make sure you pay for your purchases, but not extra.

Of course, this advice works at home too. Accidental overcharges happen all the time and we pay, unaware. The holiday shopping frenzy is about to begin. Pay attention whenever you shop and pay for what you purchase and not a penny (or a nickel) more!



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