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Checked Out At The Check Out

After moving in March to a new neighborhood, I found one of the local chain pharmacies to be a convenient one-shop-stop for everything from milk to the chocolate fix to light bulbs. I had been frequenting there at least weekly, usually more, for several months at the time of this incident. (Important to the story: I “green bag” at every opportunity to avoid the waste and pileup of plastic bags.) The clerks soon began to recognize me when I came in, and we always exchanged pleasantries and had brief chats while checking out. The store manager was a different story. He always had a scowl on his face, never clean-shaven, generally unkempt, and he never greeted me. That was not a huge deal. The clerks were friendly enough, and I rarely had to deal with him.

I went in one late afternoon a couple months ago and picked up a few items, and as I was having a couple friends over for dinner that night, I browsed the wine aisle for something to go with dinner. (No comments, please–they have a few mid-grade wines that are acceptable for a decent dinner.) I selected a bottle and went to the front of the store to check out. They were busy, so I was standing in line behind a couple of people, and the store manager appeared suddenly and asked, “Can I check your bag?” I responded, a bit confused, “Excuse me?” He pointed to the green bag I was carrying, and said, “I need to check that.” I was so startled, I simply said, “Sure,” and set the bag on the floor and pulled a handle to one side so that he could see the contents — q’uelle horreur! — my purse! (I don’t carry large purses–just enough for wallet, keys and lipstick) He said, “Okay,” then walked around to the counter to expedite the growing line, which now had several customers. Of course, I was mortified, and another woman and I just exchanged horrified looks.

He ended up ringing up my purchases, and I asked him if I had done something wrong. He replied, “I thought I saw you take a box of wine.” A BOX OF WINE? Those are HUGE! Obviously, I presented my green bag again for bagging the items I BOUGHT.

I stewed for a couple days and did an online complaint to the company. I conceded voluntarily that I probably should have removed the purse and flattened the bag to remove suspicion, but I was also not aware I looked so suspicious. I did say that I thought the manager could have made sure he was the one who checked me out, and in the bagging process, he would have clearly seen that no ill-gotten wine boxes were stowed in my bag.

The company representative who contacted me was apologetic and courteous and told me that a $10 gift card would be waiting at the store for me. About a week later, I stopped in and mentioned the card, and the same manager brought it to apply to my purchases. He looked down at the post-it note on the card, and read it aloud, choppily, like someone who was still learning to read (granted, the handwriting could have been bad)–“I’m…supposed…to…apologize…to…you…” His head jerked up, scowled at me, and asked, “Apologize? Apologize for what?”

I held up my hand and said, “Never mind.” It just didn’t seem worth a confrontation. I have only been in the store once since.

And I now always fold/flatten my green bags. 0911-13


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • phunctor September 20, 2013, 7:39 pm

    Nikki, can you see how a store manager’s desperation to increase profits could lead to him mugging customers in the parking lot? In what way, exactly, is this different from desperation to decrease loss numbers leading him to check bags? Both, after all, are gross impositions on his customers’ rights. His bag check actions may or may not be criminal offences, depending on exact details; but that’s a rather low standard for etiquette, ne?

    There is a time for bean dip, and there is a time for hard confront. One wishes the social gears to engage smoothly, but not at the price of becoming lubricant.

  • Cangralo September 21, 2013, 11:42 pm

    Heh. I wonder if he’s related to the manager of our local (as I call it) “Wrong Aid”.
    We call him “John the Jerk”. He huffs at you if you bring in any coupons, gives snide comments to cashiers in front of customers, and storms around for no reason, casting a suspicious eye on everyone he sees. He posts unnecessary, huge notes on clearance signs (eg., 50% off lawn furniture might include a large annotation hand-written in sharpie that says “NOT INCLUDING UMBRELLAS!!!!”). I avoid the place if at all possible, even though it’s the closest drug store to my house, and instead drive across town to RITE Aid because the managers and cashiers there are way nicer. I’ve actually had random conversations with other customers at the better location about how much nicer the people are at that store than the other.

    Such a shame that a bad manager can ruin a good store!

  • InTheEther January 12, 2014, 11:34 pm

    I’ve seen several people post that the OP overreacted. I understand him checking her bag if she was acting suspicious, but … … He though she was stealing a box of wine? I’m not being sarcastic here, I’m honestly confused. Correct me if I’m wrong, but those things are like a foot tall, nearly as deep, and like 8 inches wide. Am I in the ballpark? Are there smaller sizes I’m not aware of and/or haven’t seen? Shouldn’t it have been blatantly apparent that she hadn’t (or at least if she had then it wasn’t in the bag)? Wouldn’t have been like trying to surreptitiously sneak out a gallon of milk?

    With that detail in there (ignore this section if I’m wrong and there are box wines that are small enough to have conceivably been in the bag) it seems like the guy was just making a petty display of power. Classic Tiny-Fish-in-a-Shallow-Pond disorder. As I said before, I wouldn’t jump on an owner or manager for being on the cautious side, but I think the reason for checking the bag needs to be a little better than something that can be rejected though common sense.