Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saving 30 Cents at Staples

Staples emailed me coupon to get a free cloth shopping bag with any purchase. I was low on paperclips, so the coupon served as a reminder to go to Staples (probably the whole point of sending me that coupon -- but I expect they thought I'd spend more than a couple of dollars.) I biked to Staples on the way to the gym.  I found the paperclips, clearly shelf labeled at $2.29. I took them and my coupon for the free bag to the register.  The paperclips rang up at $2.59. 
I told the cashier that the shelf label said $2.29.  She called a number to confirm my statement. Nobody answered. She left a message. Nobody called back. Finally, she sent somebody to bring her the shelf label.  It did indeed say $2.29. She rang my purchase up again. But she had already swiped my coupon for the free bag before cancelling the $2.59 price, and now the system wanted to charge me 99 cents for the bag. She had to get help from another cashier. The line was growing behind me.  Finally, I got a receipt for $2.29 plus tax for my paperclips and my bag. As I paid, I asked if Staples was going to fix the price in the computer, or make a new shelf label.  The cashier said that's not her department.  She kept the shelf label so nobody else would get the $2.29 price.

I know, I know. 30 cents isn't worth all that hassle. Neither is a free cloth shopping bag. But it shouldn't have been a big hassle. I expected there would be a simple way to correct the mistake and I'd get out the door quickly.  It's no wonder people don't want to speak up when things go wrong.  The delays can become time consuming.  I'm lucky I got out of there after only 10 minutes waiting for my 30 cents.

 Once I'd asked for it, there was no way to stop the process, other than to leave without my paperclips.  We have to speak up -- it has to be a habit -- whether it's 30 cents,  or demanding our co-workers or our government behave honorably. We never know when it will become inconvenient. But my 30 cents at Staples is part of a far larger responsibility that we all owe each other. The responsibility that our word has meaning and we promise to honor that meaning.

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