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Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014

Instant oatmeal

Posted Monday, June 18, 2012, at 1:34 PM

This happened on Memorial Day just weeks ago. It happened here in Greencastle. The names have been changed to protect the innocent ...

I needed one item so I walked into Kroger's with just the right amount of cash to purchase that one item. And, walking back to the cashier's station, I discovered one of those too-good-to-be-true deals. Regular Quaker Instant Oatmeal was on sale for 99 cents a box, a savings of $2.95 per box! What a great deal!

So once my resolve was broken I left Kroger's with two sacks full of purchases that were charged to one of my credit cards. Upon putting my food away I glanced over the sales receipt to gloat over my wonderful surprise.

There was nothing on the sales receipt that was just 99 cents.

At first I wasn't going to do anything about it. After all, I had purchased only two boxes of instant oatmeal, the "good" stuff, and saved a lot of money on other sale items I had charged. But I got into one of those moods. I couldn't focus on television. I couldn't read. That inner voice of criticism was like a wounded animal. I was tricked, it screamed. I should have stuck to my advance planning and bought with cash the one item I really needed. The final declaration was just too much to bear: I'd been scammed and there wasn't anything I could do about it!

So, a couple of hours after being victimized, I put my shoes back on and drove back to Kroger's, probably wasting more gasoline on the drive than any money I might get back. I walked in and demanded to speak to the cashier manager, hoping that none of my parishioners were nearby seeing a side of me I usually keep hidden.

The nicest young lady took my receipt as I explained how I had been tricked. We walked all the way back to that stack with the discounted Regular Quaker Instant Oatmeal. She heard the righteous vindication in my voice as I said loudly, too loudly, "See, I WAS RIGHT!!!"

And as we walked back to the front desk I began to feel like a fool. She couldn't be nicer and I had been treating her with disrespect. I have this paranoia about computers and too-big-to-be-bothered companies that have it out to hurt the little people. She was working very hard to rectify my concern and I had been acting like a soccer player who has just scored the winning goal of a championship game.

She changed the amount I had been charged for the oatmeal to the listed 99 cents. She wiped out one of the charges because "It's our company policy to give you the first item free when it's our mistake." She returned to my credit card the monies I was being refunded.

And she started crying.

"Stop for a minute," for the first time sounding human, "this isn't going to come out of your pocket, is it?" No, she assured me, but I wasn't so sure.

I walked back to my vehicle with such a mixture of feelings. I had "won" after all. But in doing so I was now humiliated that I had let such a little thing grab so much of my energy and attention. I hadn't lived by my principles of always treating other people well and with dignity and respect. In my capitalistic fever I had allowed old messages to take hold of me and my response. I now wished that I had never pursued going after what amounted to being just a couple of bucks.

Four days later I went back to Kroger's for a couple of items. Walking in, I found myself flooded by an overwhelming sense that I now trusted this store, this company, as I had never before trusted it in the past. "They" did me right! When a mistake happened, "they" went out of their way to correct the situation. This young lady who was the cashier manager put me first and I now discovered a loyalty to Kroger's as I've never felt such loyalty to a grocery store before!

Guess what? I only purchased the two items I had come to buy. And I had just the right amount of cash on me to purchase them and nothing else. And, of course, I walked by the stack of Regular Quaker Instant Oatmeal to find the posted sale listing each box at the price of $2.95, a savings of 99 cent per box.

And I laughed that the universe had arranged to teach me a lesson that people are always more important than profit and that Kroger's was better grounded in that lesson than I.

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Sunshine for the Soul
Rev. P.T. Wilson
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P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.
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