I never know what to expect when I go to Walmart because there always seems to be something interesting (or just plain crazy) going on there. But never, not in a million years, could I ever have anticipated what happened when I went shopping last week. And as a result, I’m pretty sure I’ll never show my face in that store again.
It all began after I finished shopping and was at the checkout. I had a few heavy things in my cart, like an 18-lb. bag of dog food, a 12-pack of bottled water and six separate gallons of water, along with my usual groceries.
The cashier told me to hand her only one of the gallons, which I did, then I watched her scan it and multiply it by six. She also told me to leave the bag of dog food and the 12-pack of water in my cart. She came out from behind the register and scanned those so I wouldn’t have to lift them up onto the counter.
I paid for my purchases, shoved the receipt into my wallet in my handbag, and headed for the exit. When I reached it, there was a mature female employee standing there. She eyed my cart, extended her hand and said, “May I see your receipt, please?”
I reached into my wallet and pulled out the receipt and gave it to her. She then began to match my purchases to the items on the receipt as she explained that there had been a lot of thefts recently by people using the self-checkouts and purposely not scanning all of their items.
“But I used a regular checkout and a cashier,” I told her.
“Yes, but you have some unbagged items I need to make sure were paid for.”
She stared at my receipt, looked up at me, then back down at the receipt and said, “Your gallons of water aren’t listed on here.”
I said, “Well, that doesn’t make any sense because I watched the cashier scan one gallon and multiply it by six!”
She handed me the receipt. “Then show me where.”
She was right. They weren’t on it.
“I’m not accusing you of stealing,” she said. “But…your 12-pack of water's not on the receipt either.”
By then, it was pretty clear to me that something must have been wrong with the equipment at the checkout because I knew I’d seen my items being scanned.
“Look,” I said to the woman, “if I were going to shoplift, it would be something a heck of lot more exciting than water!”
But she was too busy looking at my receipt once again to listen to me. “The bag of dog food isn’t on here,” she said, frowning at me.
I couldn’t believe it. “No way," I said, shaking my head. "I mean, the cashier came out from behind the register and scanned it while it was in my cart!”
The look she gave me clearly said, “Yeah, lady, tell me another one. You’re going to look great in a bright orange jumpsuit.”
Finally, after she found yet another item not on my receipt, she called for assistance. The guy who showed up looked about 13. She explained to him that certain items weren’t on my receipt. So he did his own search through my cart. By then, the chicken I’d purchased was throwing a salmonella adoption party in its package.
“She's right," the guy said to me. "There definitely are some items that aren’t listed on your receipt.” He grabbed my cart. “Follow me.”
I thought he might be leading me to someone who was going to slap handcuffs on me and haul me off to jail for grand-theft water, but he led me over to one of the self-checkout registers. There, he scanned the items missing from the receipt, which came to just a few cents under $25 and said, “Now insert your card and pay for them and you’re all set.”
I paid the extra money and then was allowed to leave.
After I put the groceries into my car, I sat in the driver’s seat for a few minutes and said to myself, “What the heck just happened? This makes NO sense!”
I had shoved the receipt into my pocket, along the new one the guy had scanned for me, so I pulled them out and studied them. The employees were right – the items I’d just paid for weren't on the original receipt. But why not? I really wanted to know.
As I continued to stare at the receipt, I happened to notice two items listed on it that I hadn’t purchased that day. However, I did remember purchasing them the last time I’d been in Walmart, about two weeks before. I checked the date on the receipt…July 6.
I searched my wallet and there was the current receipt – with the gallons of water on it, along with the bag of dog food and the 12-pack of water. Yep! They all were there.
That's when I realized I'd handed the employee the wrong receipt. I had pulled an old one out of my wallet by mistake, which explained why some of my purchases hadn’t been on it...while some had. I'm a creature of habit who tends to buy almost the same thing every time I shop at Walmart, so those repeat items in my cart had matched the old receipt.
I can’t remember when I’ve felt more embarrassed…or dumb. And even worse, I knew I had to go back into the store and get my $25 back…which meant I'd have to face the woman at the door again. Believe me, if it had been only a dollar or two, I’d have just zoomed out of the parking lot and headed straight home.
When the woman saw me enter the store, her eyebrows rose and she eyed me suspiciously. Maybe she thought I was returning to steal more water.
“Um...guess what?” I said to her, showing her both receipts. “I handed you the wrong receipt. I pulled an old one out of my wallet by mistake. That’s why some of the items weren’t on it. I really apologize for the inconvenience.”
Having to eat crow certainly didn't taste very good.
At first, she gave me an icy stare, but then she finally laughed and said, “No, I apologize! I should have checked the date on it. I’m sorry!” She paused before adding, “But you still have to admit I’m good at my job, right?”
I headed to the service desk to get my refund, but to do so, I had to explain everything to the clerk. He stood there, not saying a word as he listened, his eyes growing wider with each detail I gave him. He checked all three receipts – the old one, the current one and the additional payment one for $25. He then glanced up at me…and burst out laughing.
“That has to be the craziest thing I’ve ever heard!” he said.
He refunded my $25 and then, still shaking his head and laughing, wished me a nice day.
As I approached the exit, the female clerk at the door said to me, “So, did you get your money back?”
“Yeah,” I muttered, “once the guy stopped laughing!”
She laughed, too, and then apologized again.
When I finally got home, one of my friends called to ask how I was doing. I told her what had happened at Walmart.
“Why did you still have an old receipt in your wallet?” she asked, her tone serious.
“Because I forgot to take it out,” I said. “After all, I go shopping only twice a month.”
“Well, that was a really dumb thing you did,” she said, without even so much as a chuckle or a snicker.
Some people have no sense of humor.
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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.