It’s a Mystery

In my trademark cat-chasing-a-sunbeam manner, in looking for something completely different, I stumbled upon an article from late last year about a South Carolina man who, following a night out with his friends, decided to hit the neighborhood Waffle House for an early morning meal. It was around 3 o’clock in the morning. According to his story, he walked into the Waffle House and sat at the counter for about 10 minutes waiting for someone to take his order. When no one appeared, he did a bit of reconnoitering, and discovered the one-and-only employee sound asleep in the back room.

Now, this fellow had enjoyed a number of adult beverages, so he proceeded to do something he claims is quite uncharacteristic of him. He stepped behind the counter and prepared himself an entire meal. He ate the meal, cleaned up after himself, and headed home. The employee never budged. Later in the day, he returned to pay for the meal, at which time the manager apologized, thanked him profusely, and offered him a mystery shopper job. I’m guessing said employee was free to spend his remaining nights in his own bed, perhaps after spending the day looking for a new job.

While the story made me laugh, my real takeaway from his tale was that I want to be a mystery shopper. I would be a good mystery shopper. Well, except for the fact that I really don’t like shopping. But other than that, I am generally friendly, but could easily be crabby if that’s what the job entailed. Just ask Bill; he will concur that I do crabby quite well.

I don’t know if it’s still true, because I rarely shop at Safeway, being a faithful Kroger customer. But years ago, when my brother worked for that company, they used to have mystery shoppers visit stores regularly. Any time you would ask a Safeway employee something like where do you keep your Velveeta cheese, that employee was obligated to walk you directly to the Velveeta cheese, even if it was all the way across the store. While that is a very nice gesture, it seems somewhat inefficient. But even if you told them you didn’t need an escort, they walked with you because you could be a mystery shopper. And if you were – then he or she was BUSTED!

Only somewhat relatedly, I have a very good friend who – many years ago – was employed by the Creighton University Medical School as a mystery patient. When she would get to her job, the powers-that-be would give her a list of symptoms about which she should complain to the medical student. She was instructed to be a cooperative patient, a complainer, or maybe an obnoxious Chatty Cathy. She knew what her diagnosis SHOULD have been, and afterwards, would give feedback on how the medical student did and how successful he/she was at making the correct diagnosis. That might even be better than being a mystery shopper. While I don’t like being a patient any more than I like shopping, I certainly have plenty of experience.

By the way, the Waffle House story made me laugh, because it made me think about a story that my brother-in-law told about Waffle House. He and a number of his friends were out one night, and just like the story above, decided to venture into a Waffle House to eat an after-theater meal. They were all dressed nicely, and sat at the counter to eat. When the server brought their food, one of the men politely pointed out that he had requested no hash browns, but there were hash browns on his plate. Without skipping a beat, the server/cook took the plate from the man, scraped the hash browns into the garbage can, and handed him back the plate. “There,” he told the man. “No hash browns.”

But at least he was awake! And he should be grateful that the man wasn’t a mystery shopper.

Honesty is the Best Policy

ADIP-465_copy__15543__36849__07284.1426615144.1280.1280__28972.1436804429.1280.1280Bill and I went to Lowe’s yesterday afternoon to buy some wood so that Bill can put up chair rails in the bedroom that we are tackling next, remodeling-wise. After much discussion, we selected our pattern and took the six pieces of wood rail up to the cashier. She used her little scanning gun and binked it four times, then moved on to the next item. Bill stopped her and politely told her that there were six pieces of wood rather than four. As you would imagine, she was grateful for his honesty.

Now, I don’t know if this was part of Mom’s and Dad’s always stay humble and kind philosophy that I discussed in a recent blog post, but I am scrupulously honest. So is Bill.

We were recently at a restaurant and when I got the bill, I uncharacteristically studied it. I say uncharacteristically because I never, ever glance at a bill. I wonder how many times I have been overcharged or undercharged and never knew it. Anyhoo, as I looked at this bill, it appeared that we had only been charged for one Diet Coke rather than the correct two. The server noticed me looking at my bill and came over to see if there was a problem.

“Well, I think so,” I said. “It looks like you only charged us for one drink and we got two.”

She looked at the bill and pointed out to me that the bill said something like beverage X 2. Well, duh. Being so durn smart and all, you would think I could have figgered it out.

“It would have been in your favor, you know,” she said, rather snippily I thought.

Does that matter, I wondered. Because in my mind, it doesn’t.

I promise you that I’m not in danger of throwing my shoulder out of joint because I’m so busy patting myself on the back for my honesty. To me, it’s just common sense. Like I used to say to Jen when we were little and bickering (which was often, always her fault): I don’t care if you think you’re right because Mom knows and God knows. Boom. Mom, right up there in the all-knowing category with God.

So, recognizing that God sees all things and Thou shall not steal is one of the big 10 (not to be confused with the Big 10 Conference, of which the University of Nebraska is one), why take any chance on committing a sin, even if it is only venial? But a large part of it, I think, is that Mom and Dad owned a business, and likely got ripped off plenty in their day. We learned how that impacts a business owner. That’s why the day that I bought groceries at Safeway and was all the way out to my car before I realized that I hadn’t paid for a gallon of orange juice that was on the bottom of my cart, I went back and stood in line to pay for it. The cashier looked at me like I was nuts, I can tell you.

Bill and I have a restaurant that we enjoy going to when we are willing to spend a bit more for a nice meal. They have a program whereby when you register, you get two things: $10 off your meal on your wedding anniversary and a percentage off of your meal equivalent to your age on your birthday. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I got a full 62 percent off of my meal last December. Suuuuweeet! Can’t wait until I’m 100! I hope I still have teeth.

I got the gift certificate via email a week before our recent anniversary. We used it that week, getting the ten bucks off of our meal. And then two weeks later, I received a second email, identical to the first, but with a new expiration date. I was puzzled, but reluctant to look a gift horse in the mouth.

But I fretted. The whole way to the restaurant Bill and I discussed whether or not it was right that I was using this coupon when I had already gotten ten bucks off an anniversary meal. I didn’t sign up twice, I thought. Maybe they allow one for each of the two people celebrating the anniversary, I rationalized. It’s not my fault if they have computer issues, I justified.

But at the end of the day, we couldn’t do it. I don’t know why they sent me a second coupon. But it doesn’t matter.

Because Mom knows and God knows.

Making Nice

I’ve been grocery shopping since I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 21 years old, after I finally moved into my first apartment. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Prior to that, I would go to the grocery store and pick up a few necessities on occasion. Ice cream. Tortilla chips and salsa. Ibuprofen. Sometimes when I was a kid, my mom would send me off on my bicycle to the neighborhood IGA store to pick up a few things. That abruptly stopped after she sent me to the store one time to pick up a head of lettuce and a can of corn and I returned, flushed from riding my bike, with a head of cabbage and a can of hominy. Hey. I was 8. Cut me some slack.

But I didn’t do any once-a-week kind of shopping until I had my own place and cooked my own food. So that means that I have been grocery shopping for 40-some years. And I will tell you that it isn’t one of the jobs that I hate to do. Those include emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, and defrosting the freezer in the garage. I find grocery shopping to be kind of fun and relaxing.

Now, having said that, I have to place some caveats on that statement. First, though I do so regularly, I HATE shopping at Walmart. There is simply nothing fun about it. If it wasn’t for some of the things that I buy that are cheaper at Walmart, I would never go. I am not a Walmart hater. I just think they are uninteresting, seem to often have empty shelves, are staffed by crabby cashiers, and are visited by people who maybe should have looked in the mirror before stepping out of their house. Including me.

Second, I am retired and so can shop at a leisurely pace and at a time of day and week that is quiet and less stressful. It’s a whole different ballgame if one works full time and is trying to grocery shop with two fighting kids and at the same time as everyone else who works.

I have found Tuesday mornings are a great time to shop. Mondays the shelves are often empty because of the heavy shopping traffic over the weekend. By Tuesday, most shelves are stocked. And if you go around 10 o’clock, you miss the morning donut-and-coffee crowd and the stockers (who apparently no longer work at night) are almost finished with their work.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I worked at Safeway in Leadville. That was back in the days before computers, so cashiers had to look at the price tags and key in the price. I was FAST. VERY FAST. And because of this, I was very popular. The lines were long at my check stand. I was proud to be so good at something.

This is a long post about nothing in particular, so I will get to a semblance of a point. There is a cashier at the grocery store at which I shop in Denver – King Soopers – who has worked there for at least 23 years (as long as I have shopped there). He isn’t particularly quick; in fact, he’s quite slow. But that’s because he chats with his customers. Now, it’s true that if I’m in a hurry, I avoid him. But I wasn’t in a hurry yesterday, and went through his line. And what I noticed is that he is apparently the cashier-of-choice for the over 55 crowd, because, while there were other cashiers working, his line was the longest.

He’s nice. You don’t meet a lot of nice people these days. And here are a couple of things that I learned from him as he leisurely bagged my groceries. One, it’s not good to microwave things twice. So when he buys the already-prepared mashed potatoes that are in the dairy case, he – being single – opens up the container, takes out what he wants to use, and then reseals it. He then microwaves the smaller amount.

Two, the jars of sweet pickled cherry peppers like I bought used to contain garlic, but no longer do. It is an addition that he apparently misses. So he opens the jar and adds a bit of garlic powder and mixes it in.

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I’m not sure that either of these suggestions are earth-shattering or even something I wouldn’t have thought of doing myself if, for example, I wanted my pickled peppers to be garlicky. Still, I loved that he and I built a brief relationship for that small period of time. I would say that I wish more service people would do the same thing, but then I would be writing a blog post about how annoyed I get at cashiers who talk too much and are slow.

Today, however, I’m going to accentuate the positive!