Ma’am, Did You Know the Earth isn’t Flat?

So, a funny thing happened in the midst of my Christmas shopping. I came face-to-face with the way I look to young people.

17147One evening, I went to our neighborhood electronics superstore, Microcenter. I went for the express purpose of finding a charging cable for my telephone that didn’t have a plug on the end; instead, it had one of those thingamajigs that plugs into a computer. It took some time to find since my cell phone is ancient in cell phone years – maybe three years old. Whaaaaaaat? With the help of a clerk, a boy of around 19 years old, I finally found one buried underneath the Betamax tapes. Baby boomers know what I’m talking about when I say Betamax tapes.

Anyhoo, I looked at the price and it was $7.99. Charging cable in hand, I went to the cashiers’ stations and waited my turn. The cashiers – every last one of them – couldn’t have been more than 20 years old. They had the pimples and greasy hair to prove it. It was finally my turn and I approached the check stand. The cashier told me the price, and I handed him my credit card. As he was ringing up the cable, I noticed a plug adaptor that would allow me to charge my cell phone and my iPad at the same time. (As an aside, POI products were made for me. I simply can’t resist them. I can’t tell you how many tubes of Chapstick I have purchased because they were sitting there as I waited in line.) But back to my adaptor. It, too, was $7.99, the same price as the charging cable.

“Is it too late for me to buy this?” I asked Mr. Pimples.

He told me he had completed my transaction, but that he could ring up the adaptor as a separate charge on my credit card.

“Let’s to that, then,” I told him.

He rang it up and told me a different amount. Not different by a lot, but different by something along the lines of 52 cents more. I gave him my credit card again, but the fact that it was a slightly different amount puzzled me since the cost of the item was the same.

“I’m just curious,” I said to the young man. “Why is this item a different price than the charging cable?”

His answer, my friends, is the honest-to-God truth. I wouldn’t even try to make this up.

“Well, Ma’am, here in the United States we have something called sales tax,” said Mr. Pimples. “In Europe, the tax is included in the price of the product, but here it is added on.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, I PROMISE you he didn’t say this in a snotty way. He wasn’t being sarcastic. He apparently misunderstood my question and thought I was asking why the final price was different than the sticker price. He simply thought the little old lady standing in front of him didn’t understand the notion of sales tax. Because at age 125 (which is likely how old he thought I was), I had never before purchased anything in a store.

I’m sure my mouth dropped open. I was stunned. So stunned that I was speechless. But I took my card and my purchases and went to my car. When I got home, I checked the receipt and saw that the cable, though priced at $7.99, actually rang up at $7.49, which accounted for the difference.

And I’m sure I was the customer that he told his family about when he went home that night.


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