Please note this is the first of a two-part blog entry.
My reputation as a celebrity shopper at my local grocery store was confirmed this Friday. Frequent readers to this blog will note Casino is the name of a French-based grocery chain, although the following entry just might make you wonder if the store might be more aptly named "Price Roulette"...
The Casino where I shop is a newly built store in a newly built shopping mall. The mall was built to attract European businesspeople, Non-Government Organization aid workers and embassy staff. This is not a "local" market, but it is bright, clean and has the largest selection of "European" groceries. In other words, this should be the marquis store in their Dakar chain of six stores.
The cashiers at Casino are hired based on "personal characteristics." No, that doesn't mean "hot chicks," it means personally related to some character who manages the store. As a group, they have all the intelligence of French Onion Dip and all the personality of French Onion Dip left out in the sun for three hours.
Now that you have some background... one sunny day, the Whitest Guy in West Africa ran up a tab of 42,000 CFA, but only had 40,000 CFA in currency and needed to pay with a credit card. In any ordinary country, the card would be swiped, you would sign and be on your merry way.
At Casino, the cashier will give you a dirty look. She will ask if you have any money. She will ask if you're sure you do not have enough money. She will ask to see your money to prove that you don't have enough money. She will stare at the credit card as if it will cost her a week's pay if she tries to swipe it through the machine. She will reluctantly swipe the card with abject disgust. She will give you the receipt after asking someone else for a pen. After you sign, she will hand you a copy of the receipt. You will not be merry, she will not be merry, but you will be on your way.
The next time I went there, I bought a few items and again paid with credit card. As I was handed my bags, I looked at the receipt and noticed that a 2-pack of 200 gram dark chocolate bars was listed as "chocolate truffles" and I was charged the equivalent of $20. Normally, one 200 gram dark chocolate bar is about $3 and the package said "save 40 euros."
I don't speak French very well, but I could point. I pointed to my chocolate bars and I pointed to my receipt and said, "non truffles; deux chocolat bar." The cashier looked at me and - with a very snotty grin said - "Merci, Bonsoir!" and then she held her hand up - like a policeman stopping traffic - and waved goodbye to me with a slow motion of her four fingers. Apparently, there is a universal wave that translates to, "I'm a B*tch"... with a capital B.
Well, now I'm pissed. I went back into the store to check the price and - wouldn't you know it! - the two-pack of chocolates was displayed in the space normally reserved for truffles. Obviously, someone had loaded the incorrect price into the bar code system because truffles were indeed $20.
I located one of my colleagues, who speaks perfect French, and asked him to translate because I obviously was not going to pay $20 for a two-pack of chocolate bars. He explained what happened and his cashier (completely different from mine) did a price check by running my two-pack through her bar code scanner. It came up $20. She looked at him and said, loosely translated, "Look, the machine says these are truffles." My friend replied and I replied that they were obviously not truffles, but our ace cashier had probably never seen truffles before and could not believe the bar code scanning device could actually be wrong.
I took her back to the aisle to show her the mistake. One shelf had my chocolate bars in single packs. One row beneath held the two-packs. The packages looked identical (save, of course, for the fact that one was a two-pack wrapped in plastic while the other was a single bar). I said, "Une chocolat, $3. Deux chocolat, non $20." She looked at the packages, looked back at me, pointed to shelf and pointed to my package and said, "Look: you buy truffles."
We asked to see the manager. My colleague explained the situation. The manager was wearing a green uniform and apparently needed another manager, who was wearing a red uniform, to complete the transaction. The manager in the red uniform must not have had enough authority because he called in a third manager - who was obviously very important because he was the only one not wearing a uniform. I think he was not wearing a uniform because he did not want anyone to know he was the manager.
Anyway, the third manager agreed that maybe one of Casino's employees had inserted the wrong price into the scanning system. Note I said "maybe" because the manager never went back to change the pricing or give anyone any instructions to change the pricing; he was happy to charge truffle prices for a two-pack of chocolate. But, he said I could return the product for a full refund. We spent approximately 35 minutes to get a refund based on a bar code error.
But, wait! There's more! To get the refund, I had to go back to MY cashier! What a joy it was to see "I'm a B*tch" twice in one day! The manager stood next to her and informed her that she needed to refund my purchase. That meant she had to go into her cash drawer and pull out actual cash money to give back to me! Oh, the look on her face. Why didn't I bring a camera to the grocery store?
That would normally be a pretty good story, but it's not over. While I was getting my refund... remember how the second cashier did a price check on my two-pack? Well... she never deleted that price check so my colleague was ALSO charged $20 for truffles on his bill, even though he never even bought any chocolate!
Once again, a manager was required to delete this phantom purchase. The problem was, my colleague had just handed her 100,000 CFA in currency and she now was required to hand him back change - including the difference for the truffles. This required the second cashier to perform basic subtraction - a task for which she was obviously not prepared for. She and my colleague spent the better part of ten minutes trying to reconcile the difference between his bill; both pre- and post-truffle.
We spent a total of 45 minutes trying to check out of the store. When we returned to the house to unload our groceries, we discovered that neither one of us brought home any chocolate.
(Part Deux - Next Sunday!)