Friday, June 8, 2012


I’m the first to admit that when it comes to anything mathematical, my brain seems to instantly go into the “duh” mode.  I even have trouble counting to 11 without taking off my shoes and socks so I can use my toes. 

The other night I found myself having to figure out not one, but two math problems within only a few minutes of each other.  My brain still hasn’t recovered.

It all began when I went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for my husband.  He uses these injection “pens” for his diabetes, and they come two in a box.  After our insurance pays its share, our cost is $121.  Even in my math-deficient brain, I’ve managed to figure out that each pen costs $60.50.

Well, my husband’s doctor recently decided it would be more convenient and cost-efficient for him to get three pens at a time rather than just the two, so the prescription I handed to the clerk was for the three.

“That will be $193,” she said.

Normally, I’d just whip out my debit card and pay, but $193 sounded too high even to me, Mrs. Mathematically Challenged.

“Quick!” I thought, closing my eyes. “What’s $60.50 multiplied by three?”

Numbers flew through my head as I frantically tried to come up with a total.  I knew I wouldn’t arrive at an exact amount, not without the use of a pen, paper, a calculator, abacus and all of my fingers and toes, but my closest guess was somewhere around $182.

“I don’t think $193 is right,” I finally said to the clerk. “It’s only $121 for two.  So $193 would be about $12 too much.”

She looked thoughtful for a moment then said, “You’re right. But that’s what your insurance company is saying to charge you.  We don’t set the amount you pay, your insurance does.  Maybe you’d save money if you went back to buying only two pens at a time?”

I paid the $193, but muttered a lot of bad things about our insurance company as I headed out of the store.  That’s when I spotted my favorite face cream next to a sign that said, “Buy one, get the second one for 50 percent off.”

I rushed over to the display.  The face cream was $20, so that meant the second jar would be only $10.  The problem was, there was only one jar left.

I found a clerk out on the floor and asked her how I could get a second jar for half price if there wasn’t a second jar.

She said, “Well, we can give you a rain check for half off on the second jar when it’s restocked, or we can take the discount off the price of this jar right now.”

I thought that sounded fair, so I grabbed the jar of face cream and brought it up to the register.  When the cashier went to ring it up, I explained the situation to her, then told her I wanted either a rain check or $10 off on this jar.  She stared at me as if I’d just been beamed down from another galaxy. 

The clerk I’d spoken to out on the floor came over to the register.

“Never mind the rain check,” she said to the cashier. “We’ll just discount this jar at $5 off.”

Instantly, I was confused. “Why only $5?” I asked. “The rain check would be for $10, wouldn’t it?  That’s half the price of the second jar.”

“But your grand total would be $30 for the two jars, right?” she said. “That’s $15 per jar.  So you should pay $15 for this jar, not $10.”

I had to stop and think for a moment.  I mean, my brain couldn’t handle so many figures being thrown at me all at once.

 Finally, I said, “But I’m not buying two jars for $30.  I’m buying only one, because that’s all you have.  And if you give me $5 off on this jar instead of giving me a rain check, the next time I come in, I’ll have to pay full price for the second jar.”

She nodded.  “That’s right.”

“Then my total for the two jars will be $15 for this one and $20 for the second.  That’s $35, not $30.  I’ll be losing $5.”

“As I said, it’s $30 for the two jars, or $15 each,” she repeated. “And what if you never do come back and buy a second jar from us?  Then we’ll lose money.”

As I stood there feeling completely confused, a customer who’d been standing in line behind me the entire time released a loud sigh and walked out of the store.  That’s when the cashier, who’d been silent up until then, suggested paging the manager to solve the problem.

The manager arrived at the register, where she patiently listened to each of us describe the face-cream dilemma.

“Give her $10 off this jar,” she said to the floor clerk, then authorized the discount and walked off.

The clerk handed my change to me and shook her head. “I still think we’re losing money.”

When I got home, to my embarrassment, I realized I’d grabbed the wrong jar of face cream off the shelf.  It was the right brand but the wrong product.  I usually use the moisturizing cream. This was the firming cream.

All I can say is that after all of the trouble I went through to get it, I’m still going to use the stuff...even if it makes my skin look like an alligator’s.

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