I am mildly curious about my recent ‘fast food’ encounters. Twice, recently, I have been at the final stages of a transaction at a fast food counter… fumbling for those last few coins or an additional bill to pay the total. The first of the two events occurred at Taco Bell, across from Walmart in Rohnert Park, CA. After the morning rush of taking our younglings to their schools, my wife and I found ourselves aimlessly driving and eventually agreeing to try an item from the AM menu and said “restaurant.” We ordered in the facility at the counter and our total was in the 5 or 6 dollar range. At the aforementioned precipice of the transaction, my pocket scurry was cut short by the counter person stating, “It’s okay, don’t worry about a few cents; I adjusted your price for a Senior discount.” I found that odd. (I had just turned a ripe 49, the day before.)
Tonight, I was again at the same Walmart… and I was hungry… and wanting of somethingish… but did not want to complete the purchase of a random chip-bag and reshelved the colorful curiosity… then made a bee-line to the in-store Mickey D’s; ordered the diet edition of a name brand dark liquid and something to wash it down with…. and, once again, found myself in the forlorn fumble of those who still engage in the use of cash. And once again, the (em)pathetic employee bid me assurance that the transaction could be concluded sans the presence of the full monetary amount. This time I stood temporarily firm in my assertion that I did indeed have the funds and would take but a moment to produce them… but was told it was only a matter of a few cents (19 to be exact) and the difference, of that and my contribution, was negligible. Okay, two strikes against me in the karma war.
I can’t help but ponder a few things relating to this phenomena… Are the employees sometimes contributing to the till on my behalf? Are the prices negotiable? Isn’t anyone’s job at risk? Is it bad for me to accept unneeded help? How common an occurrence is this price-fixing and where does management fit into this scheme?
Mostly, I have found myself, in reflection, thinking back to a time when I was a new transplant to Minnesota. Mankato, Minnesota, to be exact. One day, in my first week or so of residing there, I was out on foot exploring and looking for work opportunities. Also, I was lost. I was returning from what I understood to be downtown (later found out it was Old Town or the old downtown) where I had been unsuccessful in both my quest for finding work and in pawning (read selling) an ex-girlfriends ex-husbands gold wedding band. I had not a dollar on me, but I had a pocket full of change. Well, not exactly full. As I happened across a Wendy’s, I decided to go in and find something temporarily filling. In the pre-economic crunch, I found out the coinage I had fell just short of their cheapest item, with tax. In fact, the only item on the menu in my price range was add cheese. Though initially disheartened, I found some assurance in this latter discovery and attempted the purchase, only to be denied. It seems, you cannot purchase just the upgrade. No adjustment or offer was made to the guy with the California accent.
(re-edited for Bob Portlock)