Hollers and Cents

Yesterday, in a burst of sunny good cheer, I traipsed to a corner store six corners away to buy myself a fistful of flowers. Although I considered daisies, I reminded myself that I had bought them the week before and that it would be unfair to the other flowers if I played favorites. So, instead of daisies, I chose white tulips (which are, if you and the daisies really must know, truly my favorite) and took them inside the store to part with the $5.99 required to buy them. Since my boyfriend brings me an eight-pack of Diet Coke every week, I take the money I would have saved toward feeding that addiction and put it toward something a little more socially acceptable.
As I had the week before, I handed the counter-lady the flowers, even though I did not want them wrapped.
“I don’t need them wrapped or anything,” I said, flashing her a grin that let her know I knew she secretly admired my dedication to ecology and her store’s economy.
“Five ninety-nine,” she said. “You don’t want paper?”
“No, thank you,” I said. I like the idea of traipsing through the streets of Manhattan, my hand gripping flower stems, dripping and naked except for a swath of cellophane. It is the closest thing I will ever get to gardening.
“I will just carry them home like this,” I added. “I live just down the street!”
Why I felt compelled to offer information that I’m sure she didn’t care about is beyond me. I find I often do this in stores. About 15 years ago, when vacationing in Maine (because you know I’m all about thick fog, craggy rocks, and lobster bibs), my then-boyfriend and I stopped in a supermarket to buy some snacky things. I chose a large box of Snyder’s pretzels, my still-favorite car food, and when going to pay for it, said to the girl at the checkout, “I’m so excited to find these. I’m from Pennsylvania!” (which I was at the time) with all the pride a German tourist would take in seeing a rare Shepherd with its head sticking out of the window of a passing car.
She wrapped the cut stems of the flowers in a little plastic bag (in disregard of my silent dedication to the aforesaid ecology/economy) and handed them back to me. I passed her six dollars through a blow pipe, and waited, somewhat awkwardly, for the penny that was due. She turned away, and I thought she would perhaps crack open a fresh roll of pennies from the bank (ahhh, what fun it always is, if they’re rolled in paper instead of plastic!) and hand me the shiniest of the bunch. Instead, she just went about doing something else, completely unrelated to our transaction, and I continued to stand there, wondering if I should say something about that penny.
Now, you should know that I am fortunate enough that one penny will not decide whether I eat on any given day. I am not fortunate, however, to have the kind of brain that thinks it is acceptable to round up the price of an item just so you don’t have to hand over the change. If you want people to pay $6.00 for flowers, then both indicate that price on the sign and state that price when conducting the transaction.
This is not the only time this has happened. In fact, at the very moment my fingers are playing this keyboard like a grand piano, I am thinking about the salon where I have been getting manicures, pedicures, and haircuts for two years, and how last week, when reviewing my receipt at home after a manicure, I discovered that they rounded up the amount of the service, which meant that I paid about 32 cents more than I should — rounding up from change of 68 cents! A quick tap or two of Chisanbop reveals that this means the salon is earning an additional $16.64 annually, from my manicure services alone. Multiply this by who knows how many other people whose change they are taking, and now I see how they can gleefully provide their clients with the bounty of free cakes, candy, and homemade baklava toward the back of the salon in addition to washing their hair with diamonds.
Later this week, when I am at the salon, I will show the receptionist my receipt from last time and bring the rounding-up to her attention. If she or the owner of the salon cannot come up with a valid reason why they do it, I will have to take special care to claw their eyes out without ruining my fresh manicure.
Likewise, the next time I go to the six-corners-away store for flowers, I will see if the counter-lady tries her slick little game on me again. She hadn’t done it when I’d bought the daisies the week before, so perhaps she was testing the waters yesterday to see if she could get away with it.
“A penny saved — FOR YOU!! — is a penny earned — FOR YOU!!!” I will shout, incensed.
You see, for what it’s worth, I figure putting in my two cents is worth more than the one I may save.

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