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Shopping made a Turkey out of me

Harley L. Sachs - November 23rd, 2006
Don’t let anyone tell you that grocery shopping in America is boring. At holiday time, Thanksgiving and Christmas, grocery stores in the United States offer special deals. Cranberry sauce is suddenly cheap. Sweet potatoes, a staple on the menu, are also pullers. Then there’s the promise of a reduced price or even free turkey. This can be an adventure.
The store whose coupon we pursued offered three different deals. If we spent $25, our holiday turkey would be 49 cents a pound. If we spent $50 the price would drop to 39 cents a pound. If we spent $100 the bird would be free.
We had no intentions of going for a free turkey. We live in a studio apartment with a small refrigerator. A typical holiday giant frozen turkey would not fit in the freezer compartment. With only two of us to eat it, a whole turkey would last for weeks. At least, after several meals followed by turkey fricassee and even turkey soup, we would be satiated on turkey for a whole year.

MAKING THE CUT
The solution is have the butcher saw the frozen turkey in half. Half a turkey might fit in our little freezer while the rest thaws slowly in the fridge for roasting later. The coupon said the deal was for a brand something like “Mamabird’s Quick Frozen Turkey.” I was surprised to find only two on display. We must be late shoppers, I thought. It was a frozen turkey, small enough for our needs, 10 not 20 pounds, and the label said Mamabird’s Quick Frozen, just like the coupon stipulated.
I asked, “Can you cut this in half for us?” Sure.
Ah, but when the clerk brought the now divided bird, re-wrapped, out to me, she said, “You understand this is a fresh bird, and is not on the coupon.”
My heart sank. “But the label says Mamabird’s Quick Frozen and it’s frozen.”
“It’s not. It’s a fresh bird.” This was beginning to sound like the Monty Python routine about the dead parrot.
Not wanting to argue with the sullen, harried clerk, my wife asked to see the manager. He apologetically explained that though the outside of the bird was apparently frozen, the inside was fresh. The apparently frozen state was because the previous year some fresh turkeys had spoiled and the company went bankrupt. Now all birds were given a flash chill. He was careful not to say that the chill didn’t equal frozen.
The manager assured us, “You don’t have to buy it.”

SHOPWORN TURKEY
Coming from a family in a retail business, I hate to take anything back. Who would buy the now shopworn turkey? But I did not want to pay $17. Frugality overwhelmed shame. I was directed to the bin full of iron-hard frozen turkeys, picked out a small one, and had it too sawed in half.
Looking at our cart full of groceries, we were sure to qualify for the 39 cent a pound price. But the story was not yet over.
We had bought more than we expected. The total order soon passed the $50 dollar break point. The clerk, wishing to please us, pointed out that we had spent $90 dollars. If we got only $10 more stuff, such as a bottle of wine, the turkey would be free. Wow! A free turkey! Now we were in the grip of the chase.
Originally we’d had no intention of going for a free turkey. With the checkout line stalled and the transaction put on hold, off my wife went in a frantic search for $10 more of stuff to make the free turkey level of one hundred bucks. At length she came back with a bottle of laundry detergent and a couple of bottles of organic salad dressing.

COUPON CURSE
Our total was now $102 and the turkey would be free. Hurrah!
But wait! We had other grocery coupons. Fifty cents off this, a dollar off that, and oops! We now had a total of less than $100. My wife had to buy something else to make up a two dollar difference.
Was this really happening? The line of waiting customers at the checkout was getting longer. I had read of a frustrated customer shooting someone who had too many items in the express line. The checkout clerk and her supervisor were eager to help, but apologetic for all the hassle. The people waiting to check out were stoic. Nobody pulled a gun.
At length we pushed a laden cart out to the parking lot. The store’s coupon had worked: we had bought far more than usual. We had a free turkey. Not that we’d expected it or even intended to get it. We had done the American shopping experience.
This would never have happened in Germany where my wife grew up. In Germany, grocery coupons are rare and their users considered gauche. Few stoop to cashing in grocery coupons there.
As for having a turkey cut in half and then returned to stock…fergedaboutit. German store managers tend to be arrogant and unyielding. You bought it, you got it. Here, if a package of baby carrots turns out to be spoiled, you can take it back. Over there it’s the buyer beware.
We’re enjoying the roasted half turkey. There’s enough left for several meals, and the turkey broth, made into onion soup, will be good for several more. The other half is still frozen. We will soon be turkeyed out.

Visit Harley Sachs’ web site, www.hu.mtu.edu/~hlsachs, where you can listen to two stories, read a third, read reviews, and find links to the publishers of
my books.
 
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