Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Customer is Always Right?

This past Friday we (the family) went to Washington DC to check out the
cherry blossoms and see some of the sights in the Smithsonian museums.
The blossoms were pretty and we took lots of pictures. One of the
highlights was walking through the one ten-billionth scale model of our
solar system. It's always neat to see the Sun scaled down to the size
of a baseball and then the planets similarly scaled down to the size of
grains of sand in some cases, relatively spaced away from the sun. The
exhibit is outside and merhaps a half mile long.

Anyway, we stopped at one point for ice creams from one of the street
vendors. The nice lady used a calculator to add up the cost, and the
total came out to be $11.85. I handed her a $20 bill and waited for my
change. After a few seconds of working the calculator, she announced my
change would be $9.85.

This did not sound right to me, as I expected $8.15 back ($20.00 minus
$11.85 equals $8.15 in change for me). So I told her she was giving me
too much change back. The vendor looked confused and ran it through her
calculator a second time. She got a total ice cream cost of $11.85, and
told me I paid with a $20 bill, pressed some buttons and her calculator
again said my change was supposed to be $9.85.

I told her this was impossible and that I really needed just $8.15 back.

The vendor insisted she should give me $9.85 back. I told her that I'd
be happy to take it, but she'd be giving me too much change. She looked
even more confused.

By now, the small line behind me was getting anxious. The woman right
behind me sarcastically said "okay, Honest Abe..." But I knew I would
be getting too much change back and told her that my ice cream cost
close to twelve dollars, and since I paid with twenty dollars I should
get about eight dollars back, not $9.85, which is closer to ten dollars.

So the vendor gave me what I wanted, which was $8.15.

We walked away and the kids started unwrapping their ice creams. When
we got about 30 feet away, the vendor shouted out that she figured out
her mistake and that I was right with my change calculation.

Even though the woman behind me thought I was nuts to turn down
erroneous change in my favor, it was the right thing to do. I know I
wouldn't have just walked away if I was accidentally given too little

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