System C

Or: Using Every Part of the Binder Clip Buffalo

By

The Pineapple Story

I worked a late event tonight, and ended up leaving campus at about 9:45. I had eaten an early dinner, so I was already starting to fantasize about my bedtime bowl of cereal as I started the drive home. We were just getting to the good part when I was struck by a terrible realization: I was completely out of milk.

This could not stand.

Fortunately, there is a Weis between work and my house. I pulled into the parking lot shortly before 10pm, and noted that the store closed at 11. I grabbed a single canvas grocery bag out of the trunk, intending to use it both as shopping basket and grocery bag. I had a specific mission, so this seemed like a reasonable plan.

But it is my habit, even on tactical, targeted grocery strikes, to briefly peruse the produce section before moving on to my main purpose. Often I’m smitten by a powerful nectarine lineup, or a bin overflowing with fresh ears of corn, and pause to pick up a few items to diversify my cereal-heavy portfolio. Tonight I was surprised to see, prominently featured at the main entrance, an impressive display of whole pineapples. And affixed to the display, a sign:

Golden Pineapples – $3.99
Buy One Get One Free
Save $4 on 2!
Deal good thru 9/13

This was clearly a trap.

I have never in my life bought a whole pineapple. I’m not sure how to carve one. Do you even say “carve” for a pineapple? I have on occasion struggled, and ultimately failed, to finish small containers of cut pineapple before they go bad. The deal was expiring today; this was clearly old pineapple, priced to move. Bad investment. Move along.

I put two pineapples in my bag.

I proceeded to grab a gallon of milk, and, as an afterthought, a large tin of Chock Full o’ Nuts (also on sale).

Milk, coffee, and two pineapples. Best to act like nothing was out of the ordinary. I do this all the time.

Only one register was open, but it was available with no line. The cashier beckoned me forward. No turning back now.

I hurried to empty my canvas bag in time to hand it to the cashier for bagging. She was quick, already moving to place my coffee in a disposable bag. Fortunately, she was slowed by the presence of an unexpected item already in the bag.

“Oh,” she said. “That gentleman forgot his trash bags.”

“I have a bag,” I said.

“He’s gonna miss those,” she said, removing the trash bags and proceeding to place my coffee in the now-empty plastic bag. “He’ll be back.”

“I have a bag,” I said.

“Oh, there he is!” The prior shopper returned to reclaim his trash bags, and the cashier went on to place my milk in another plastic bag.

“I have a bag,” I said. I felt this was not getting the attention it deserved.

“Oh, you have a bag!” she said, finally coming around. “Do you want your milk in there? It’s wet.”

“Yes please.”

“Are you sure? It’s wet.”

“I think it will be okay.”

“Okaaay,” she said, with an intonation that made it clear she did not see how this could possibly be okay. “I’m just trying to tell you, it’s wet.”

She turned back to the conveyor belt, and noticed the pineapples for the first time. By now, a line had started to form behind them.

The cashier turned back to me. “Are those your pineapples?”

Shit. Be cool.

“Yeah.”

“Do you want THOSE in the bag?”

At this point it seemed to me that we had spent entirely too much time on bags.

“Um, yes?” Decisive.

“Okaaay,” she said again. “I’ll let you do it how you want it.”

Fine.

I bagged the pineapples.

She proceeded to ring me up, and I performed the sacred rites of commerce, laying my plastic totem upon the holy altar. The gods smiled upon our transaction, and it was approved. My finger hovered over the green OKAY button. I was almost home free.

But…something was wrong.

I had glanced at the checkout screen, and noticed that the pineapple deal had rung up incorrectly. Weis was only offering me $1 off per pineapple, when I had been promised $4 off on two.

​Behind me, the 10 o’clock grocery line crowd was getting restless. The green, spikey fronds of my twin bromeliads were jutting out of the bag for all to see.This was only a difference of two dollars. I have to LIVE in this town. I needed to get out of here before people started to talk. Just bite the bullet and go.

“Um, something’s wrong,” I said, cursing on the inside. “The pineapples are supposed to be buy one get one free.”

The cashier grabbed the microphone on her register. “I need a price check,” she announced to the store, graciously omitting the identity of the objects in question. A manager appeared.

“What’s the problem?” he asked. As the cashier explained the situation, the man grabbed one of my pineapples and headed briskly towards the produce section.

I gave the growing line a “sorry and also these aren’t for me they are for a friend, ha ha” shrug, and then turned to see the manager finishing a complete circuit of the produce section, having failed to find the pineapple display. I walked over to help.

“Right here,” I said, and read the sign aloud. “Golden Pineapples – $3.99. Buy one get one free. Save $4 on 2!”

He came over to see for himself. He stared at the sign for longer than I felt was necessary.

He walked around to the back of the display, looked it up and down.​ Shook his head.

“Yeah, looks good,” he finally admitted. “Ring it up as a store coupon.”

“Should I tell people it’s good,” said the cashier, “if someone else asks?”

Like there is ANOTHER depraved pineapple bargain shopper roaming the streets at 10 o’clock at night.

“Yeah,” said the manager, clearly ready to move on. “It’s good.”

Buttons were pressed, prices recalculated, and I once again supplicated before the altar, this time mashing OKAY as soon as the opportunity was presented.

“Thanks,” said the cashier, tearing off a receipt far too long for four items. “Have a nice night.”

I fled the Weis, and drove the rest of the way home. Milk safely in the fridge and pineapples on the kitchen table, I took a moment to review the receipt.

PINEAPPLE, read the first line: $3.99. On the next line was a discount: -$1. The cashier had never removed the incorrect discount that had started this whole mess.

On the line below, another discount: -$3.99. But, there was no second pineapple! She had removed one of the pineapples, AND given me a store coupon for the cost of one pineapple. With the $1 discount, I was now one whole dollar (and two pineapples) AHEAD.

Today, the grocery store paid me to buy their pineapples.