In Rite Aid last week, I was waiting on the checkout line behind a burly man when a horrendously loud noise emanated from his hip. It was his telephone. After a few rings, he whipped out the device, glanced at the caller’s number, scowled, and replaced the phone in his hip pocket.

Which continued screaming.

Fellow consumers, this is rude. Would you stand in line while blaring a boom box at the person in line behind you? Of course not. But this had the same effect.

If your phone rings in public – especially in an indoor environment where others can’t get away from you – you should see to it that the ringing stops. Perhaps you can take the call. If you don’t welcome the call, then how about shutting off the device?

Letting your phone ring nonstop is like letting your car alarm wail ad nauseam. The cellphone is perhaps today’s most frequent alarm. But your phone probably has a volume control. Learn to use it. Some phones can be set to vibrate instead of ring.

Anyway, the caller finally stopped trying to reach the burly man, who reached the checkout counter with two huge packages of paper towels. The clerk rang them up and asked for the man’s Rite Aid card.

The man fumbled through his pockets and wallet but came up empty-handed. (It hadn’t occurred to him to seek the card while he was waiting in line.) After a lengthy but fruitless hunt, he ended up instead reciting his phone number. (Don’t tell me these store cards save time. They don’t.) Then the clerk announced the amount due.

The customer said the total had to be wrong, for the paper towels were supposed to be buy one package, get a second package free. The clerk confirmed the special deal, and told the customer how much the packages would have cost without the deal. He repeated the price for one package, and assured the customer the second package was free.

“That’s ridiculous!” shouted the man. “I pay only half that amount at the supermarket!”

Unruffled, the clerk patiently explained that when a drugstore sells a convenience product it is not attempting to match supermarket prices, which he admitted were often lower.

“Then I don’t want it!” squawked the man, leaving the towels on the counter and stomping out heavily. No money had changed hands, so he was able to leave immediately, if not graciously.

Alas, this had tied up the register-terminal with a transaction started but not completed. After ringing for a manger to come and clear the terminal, the clerk opened up a different terminal to deal with me.

I had but one item, regularly selling for $9.99 but on sale for $5.99. Or so I thought. However, when scanned, the store’s computer said this item was not on sale; it would cost me $9.99.

I strove to be unlike the gentleman who had just stormed out.

“My apologies,” I stated. “I must have misread or misunderstood the signage. But at that price, no thank you, I choose not to purchase it.”

The clerk seemed grateful for my politeness and put the item aside.

I walked back to where I had found the item and studied the sign that had tricked me. There in tiny, tiny print, was the sale’s expiration date. The sale had lapsed a few days earlier.

I removed the sale sticker, revealing the everyday price. Then I returned to the counter (no line had formed) and spoke again to the polite clerk.

“The price you stated was right,” I said. “The sale ended a few days ago. This is the sign that confused me. It might confuse others. I’ve removed it so other customers will see the actual price, not the price of the sale that already ended.”

We both knew that other customers might not notice they were being charged full price while mistakenly thinking they were being charged a sale price.

The clerk examined the sticker. “If this was the stated price,” he said, “then I’ll sell it to you for that price.”

“You can do that?”


“Thank you.” So he charged me $5.99 for the $9.99 item. I handed over a five-dollar bill and a one-dollar-off manufacturer’s coupon and got back a penny.

The chap in front of me had dealt with the clerk far differently than I had. How the customer acts, is the customer’s choice.

Politeness is a golden key that opens many doors.

If you have consumerism questions, send them to Arthur Vidro care of this newspaper, which publishes his column every weekend.

(1) comment


Good article.

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