Friday, March 9, 2007

A Discount for a Smile

I don’t know what I am. I am not a young adult. Am I an old adult? I don’t think I’m that either even though the other day I got my first Senior’s discount. If discounts kick in at 65 (and I assume they do), I didn’t qualify. But with no previous experience in this matter, it never entered my head that the clerk gave me a Senior’s Discount.

I was at the grocery store. The clerk and I had a wee amiable discussion about the weather and as she rang up my zucchini, she examined it carefully and asked me if zucchini is really good and how to best prepare it. Then as the she handed me my change, she said, “I gave you the 10% discount.”

I was surprised. “And why a discount?” I asked blankly. She paused for a minute as if searching for an appropriate answer and then responded by saying, “Because you’re such a pleasant, friendly lady.”

I was tired and anxious to get home so if that was the best explanation I could get, that was good enough for me. But on the way home I thought more about it. ‘How sweet, how nice.’ I thought. And then just when I started thinking about writing a blog about how clever it is for shops to turn the table on the practice of tipping workers in service industries, by tipping customers for being pleasant – I realized why I really got that discount. And I realized why she hesitated when I asked. She didn’t want to say “Because you are so-o old.”

Now comes the question about being honest and gracious. I didn’t qualify, and if I had realized what it was that she was assuming – that I am 65 or older, which I am not, what should I have said? I think it is unfair for someone to think that I should have said, “I’m not as old as I look, so I don’t qualify.” That would have been honest but it is an ungracious and very unkind thing for me to say about myself.

So should I have sidestepped the embarrassment about looking older than I am, by saying “Would you mind canceling the discount. I really don’t need it.” That approach might be more gracious but that too sounds haughty enough for me to be thoroughly embarrassed as well. Besides, it is an an outright lie. So how does one deal with this kind of error with complete honesty and graciousness as well?

I gave up on what I should or shouldn’t have said and instead re-circulated in my mind, what the clerk said when I asked what the discount was for. It made better sense to me than a Senior’s Discount.

As much as I hate shopping, the dreaded trip to town, and banal chatter with clerks, I think it would be really neat to get a discount/tip for the supreme, almost painful effort it takes for me to be an easy, friendly, and conversational customer. Too engage in meaningful chatter with a clerk that is artfully paced so as not to distract the clerk or inconvenience the customers behind me. It’s not an easy thing to do so a tip is well deserved.

So a discount for a smile sounds good to me whether I am an adolescent, a young adult, an adult, an old adult, or a senior. Better than a discount for looking older than I am.


susan said...

Many stores give a discount to anyone over 55, which is why I've accepted them and don't question it. After all, we're supposed to be old and wise.

On the other hand, the nice-folk discount is a great thing to do, and I often do that for some of my own customers in the frameshop. More likely, I give them a freebie on a small job.

susan @ spinning

Roberta S said...

susan, I remember now. When our town was a collection of privately owned businesses, rather than the chain-stores that are now so prevalent, often this was the case. How nice to know someone like yourself who appreciates the courtesy in the "nice-folk" gesture as you so aptly call it.

You might be right on what age qualifies as a senior. Could be 55 for all I know. That would mean I've lost a few discounts I should have had.

Thanks for commenting.

Matty said...

Where I live the discount age is 55 or you can ask for a discount card at the stores you go to.
They should have a 'nice customer' discount, that way they would get rid of the nasty customers whom you can't please. I find it very easy to chat with everyone, everywhere.
Yesterday, when we went out to eat, the young waiter jabbed a menu into my boob accidently, and he blushed and apologized profusesly. I just passed it off by saying, Oh at my age its a compliment, just don't do it again. We all laughed, but my son was (as usual) embarassed, but this put the waiter at ease, we all had a nice time, got great service and he got a nice tip.
In the chain stores like Walmart, Zeller's you have to ask for a senior discount card.

Roberta S said...

Hi matty, thanks for clearing up the senior age thing. Gee Whiz, that means I'm out quite a bit of discount backpay and now the reverse of my conclusion is true - I look younger than I am!

You're little story was so cute. Made me chuckle.

Hub is like you. Talks to everyone. And because he talks to everyone, more people talk to me than I want to talk to.