It does not often happen but this week it did, to me. The overworked sales girl literally shoved the change in my hand so she could serve another customer. I was aware that she was slightly rude to almost every customer who was queuing up to pay. Since it was not my business to reprimand her, I pushed the trolley away and found a corner where I could stuff the change in my wallet. It was then that I realised that I had too much change in my hand.
I checked the receipt and checked it again. The silly girl gave me half of the things I had in the trolley free. Rich supermarkets don’t pay counter girls much money and the manager would surely dock it from her wages. In a way, it was ironic and perhaps poetic justice when you come to think that usually big supermarkets overcharge people. It was tempting to walk away but my conscience wouldn’t have it. So I wheeled back the trolley and managed to attract her attention by waving the receipt in the air. She looked at me and scornfully mouthed the words, “What?” while she furiously shoved food in a bag. I tapped the receipt and said I had to pay her back money. She thought I had a complaint and asked me to go and see the complaint desk. I was aware that people were staring at me. I backed out and had a quiet discussion with my troubled conscience. Why should I make myself a fool in front of a couple of dozen people? So I reached a compromise with the stupid ethics that sometimes rule my head. I walked away but straight to the complaint desk. A bored looking young man listened carefully at me and then gave the receipt a good look. “What are you? The last of the saints?” But the fear of getting the sack prompted him to say, “This is not a complaint. I would need to call the manager.”
I told him that it would probably cost the girl her job if the manager knew about it. He shrugged his shoulders and called the manager anyway. It took a quarter of an hour for the manager to show up. By then, I already regretted the decision of reporting it to him. I had people waiting at home and my frozen food was thawing very fast.
The manager snatched the receipt from my hand and walked quickly to the cash register. I was left stranded at the complaint desk not exactly knowing what to do next. It took another quarter of an hour to get the whole thing settled. I felt like I was held hostage during the half-an-hour ordeal.
Well, at least, I said to myself as I was driving home, I would sleep easy that night. Returning little money to a rich business is a drop in the ocean but you and I are not exactly powerful swimmers when it comes to a strong tide of our conscience.