See this bunch of spinach; it only set me back eighteen cents.
Yes, quite a steal because it was selling for $1.99 a pound. If there is one thing New Yorkers love to do it is brag about scoring something for almost nothing. I admit that I am guilty of this crime. And never more so, when six years ago I purchased a queen-sized, eighteen inch thick, pillow top mattress that was selling for $2,400; the Balthazar from the Simmons’ Shakespeare Collection. For you Shakespeare aficionados, surely you recall that Balthazar was a merchant in The Comedy of Errors. For everyone else, I drew a blank on that, too, until I Googled “Balthazar” and “Shakespeare’s plays” two minutes ago. When I went mattress shopping, I haggled with the salesman over price. I insisted that I was not going to spend more than a grand including tax and delivery. The best he could offer for this mattress was $1,600.
My eloquent response was a grunt in fluent monosyllabic, but he stopped me when I turned to leave. He insisted I wait for him to make a phone call. In the back of the showroom he made this vital call out of my earshot. Whether he was discussing the situation with The Powers That Be at his company or just counting sheep to dial tone, I’ll never know. He hung up the receiver and reapproached. He announced in a dramatic tone on par with Hamlet’s soliloquy or a cold sufferer that had experienced eight seconds of nasal relief via neti pot:
Mattress Salesman: There was a fire in a factory. The entire inventory has to be cleared. There’s one queen-size Balthazar. You can have it for $800. What do you say?
Me: Does it smell like smoke?
He claimed it did not. I agreed to purchase it. When I shared this news with my friends, one was certain that it would be delivered with a giant blood stain in the middle reasoning that it had probably been stuffed with a dead mobster’s body. But the mattress was delivered corpse-free and factory fresh. It truly was a great deal, especially when I ignore how impossible it is to find sheets that fit it.
My propensity to haggle has yet to extend to my grocer’s produce section. There, I search for what appears freshest at a price that is least extortionist. That day the spinach looked particularly verdant. If there was a spinach centerfold, this one was bursting with all the right leaves.
At checkout I noticed that the cashier ringing my groceries had not properly placed my spinach on the scale so the price for my bunch came us as eighteen cents. In these types of situations, I abide my personal code of ethics and point out the error. To knowingly remain silent would be theft or at least cause me a pang of lapsed Catholic guilt. Furthermore, I could tell this cashier was new. The cashier re-weighed the spinach. The price increased to $1.15. I reminded her that she needed to delete the eighteen-cent charge. The cashier then deleted the $1.15. I pointed out that error to her. She re-inputs the $1.15, but again, she fails to remove the eighteen cents. When I reminded her that she still needed to remove the eighteen cents, she added another $1.15. As the cashier removed the second $1.15, and I searched for a blunt object to bash in my own brains, a second cashier approached:
Second Cashier: What’s the problem?
I explained the situation, but strategically omitted the part about wanting to beat myself senseless with a lead pipe. She looks me up and down.
Second Cashier: You can’t afford eighteen cents?
Evidently, I looked like ten dollars that day, and I might add that in low lighting with my flab sucked in, I can still pull off eleven ninety-nine.
Me: It’s not the eighteen cents that’s the issue here. She needs to learn how to do this.
Second Cashier: Oh. Right. [To First Cashier] Let me show you how to do it.
The Second Cashier removes the $1.15. This goes on three more times. Neither of them can remove the eighteen cents. Both clerks are baffled, but only the Second Cashier looks ready to beat the register with … Hey, how about a lead pipe?
Me: Okay, stop. I’ll pay both the eighteen cents and the $1.15. Put the $1.15 back in.
Second Clerk: No. You’ve earned yourself an eighteen-cent spinach.
I return home with my essentially stolen spinach and immediately share this story with my friend and fellow haggler, Coco.
Coco: Wow! Score. You are on a bargain roll, paying couch change for greens.