Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Blame Game

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into Walgreens to buy a gallon of milk. As a side note, I used to think Walgreens was the place to go for overpriced personal hygiene items and greeting cards, but I was mistaken - it's unbelievable the items you can get there. Need a last minute birthday gift? Run to Walgreens and get a Red Lobster gift card. Need a Halloween costume for next year? You can probably find one 90% off this week at Walgreens. But back to the story.

When I went to the milk section, I noticed that the majority of the milk on the bottom shelf had expired the previous day. Immediately going into coupon shopper bargain mode, I briefly thought about taking a couple of gallons up to the cashier and seeing if they would give them to me. But I'm kind of funny about drinking milk past the expiration date. So I grabbed a gallon that was okay and headed to the front. As the cashier was ringing me up, I mentioned to her that several of the gallons of milk were past expiration date. Her first response was, "Well, I didn't work last night when those should have been pulled. We'll take them off the shelves." I found it interesting that she was so quick to point out that the milk oversight wasn't her fault. And I'm just a stranger - not a boss judging her cashier skills or a regular customer that specifically shops at this Walgreens for this particular cashier to check me out because she's so great. I don't really care why the milk is still there or whose responsibility it was to remove it, I was just passing on information. I find this part of human nature interesting - we want to make sure that everyone knows when it is not our fault when things go wrong. I'm not talking about shirking blame or responsibility when we really do fall short. I'm talking about that feeling of unjustness that wells up inside when others have misjudged us or the situation.

I find myself in situations like this often at work. Last week another school system called and needed some information on a former student. I looked in the student's file, and one of the forms that I needed to fax over was not adequately filled out - but it wasn't my fault, one of my co-workers had failed to get a needed signature. But if I faxed the form over like this, it was going to look like it was my oversight. But I couldn't exactly fax over an additional piece of paper explaining that the signature wasn't there because one of my co-workers forgot. But if I didn't, I looked like I didn't do my job well.

Then there's the social situations. How about the elevator situations when someone, um, "toots" as we say in our house (thanks Anon for giving us that word) the first thing you want to scream is "IT WASN'T ME." Or how about this one. You're in a public restroom, you enter the stall, realize the person before you did not clean up their mess, so you exit the stall to find another, but then a person waiting after you goes into the one you just left. It looks like you left the mess. You want to stop the stranger and make sure they know you weren't the one responsible.

I had this situation happen to me tonight, and ironically, it involved me going into the express lane with....................more than 10 items! I know, I know, but here's the story. I was in Lances, doing my weekly shopping, depressed because I only was going to use 2 coupons and spend a bundle. I had maybe 20-25 items in my cart, and Lances was very busy - with only 4 check out lanes open. I wasn't in a hurry - Jason was picking the girls up from gymnastics, so I staked out my lane and patiently waited. Then a cashier came up to our line and asked if anyone had 10 or less items for the express lane, and then she would check them out. Well, noone around did, so she looked at me and whispered, as if we were in cahoots with each other, "Come on, fast, and I'll check you out." I looked at her stunned. I pointed to myself. Me? You want me to come to the express lane with my 25 items? I was in an ethical and moral dilemna. But then I looked at the situation this way - she, being the cashier, was kind of like the "teacher" of the store, and me as the customer was the "student." So I needed to follow her directions. I rushed to the express lane and started throwing my items up on the belt, being dilligent to put all refrigerated stuff together and boxed stuff together for speedy bagging. Of course, halfway into our little escapade a lady (who I don't think has smiled in the last few years) came up behind me with 10 or less items in her cart. I was going double time now, and I wanted to turn and say, "She made me do it. I would have waited in the regular line." The cashier swiped the last of my items, but then ... she ditched me. She switched over duties with another cashier. I swiped my credit card, he pushed the button, and then the screen came up asking if "yes" I will accept the charge. But wait. I had forgotten to give him my 2 coupons that would save me a total of $4.00. What do I do? Thrifty won over chivalry, and I pushed "no" with authority. "Can you swipe my coupons?" I asked politely. How long can it take? Well, apparently if you push no, you won't accept the charges, the whole system freezes. Lady in waiting behind me was not happy. I started to panic. I could just pay by check, I said. Don't even swipe the coupons. If I had 2 twenties with me I would have thrown them at him and ran. But he had to unfreeze the computer. The manager came over, fixed it, and he started to scan my coupons. The first one beeped. Great, the cat food one. I was unsure of this purchase. The coupon says Meow Mix cat treats, but the product, which looked exactly like the product in the picture, says Meow Mix cat food. So I'm not a cat food pro, I don't know if cat food is the same as cat treats. I do know that the food was only 53 cents, and my coupon was for a dollar. I tell the cashier unconvincingly, "It was for the cat food, I mean treats, I got." He gave it to me, and doubled the dollar coupon. So I made 1.47 on the deal, now wasn't the time to be ethical - it's too late for that. So after about 7 minutes in the express lane, lady behind me wasn't happy, but I didn't stick around long enough to hear about it. And if you saw me in the express lane tonight with more than 10 items, IT WASN'T MY FAULT!


Blogger Anon said...

I'm so ashamed. :)

November 07, 2006 9:51 PM  
Blogger Jim and Jaena said...

Sounds like this could be an issue for our small group to discuss...why do we feel the need to explain ourselves? Is it a girl thing? 'cause I don't hear or see Jim doing this much.

November 07, 2006 11:00 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

You are too funny! I'm with you on the whole wanting to avoid unnecessary blame. I get nervous when I'm at the front of a line of cars wanting to turn left. "Are they judging me? Do they think I should have turned left then? I wonder if they're mad at me. . ." Welcome to the Overactive Conscience Club. I think a certain Jaena and I are charter members.

November 08, 2006 1:43 PM  
Blogger Kelley said...

Your posting so much these days, I can't get my comments posted. I read yesterday and thought, I'll post tomorrow at school and now you've posted again. I loved the last post by the way. Unfortunately, I have lots of 20 min. that I waste, waste, waste. Today's post made me giggle. I could totally relate. i hate to be blamed when I'm blameless. it's probably because there are so many times when i really deserve the blame that I certainly don't want to take it if I don't deserve it. :) Really miss you on Thursday nights!!!

November 08, 2006 1:50 PM  
Blogger Toevs Family said...

I was in Home Depot today and I wanted to explain myself to the cashier and then decided not to. She can think whatever she wants! :-)

November 09, 2006 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK- it was me who tooted- but I wasn't feeling well.


November 09, 2006 9:41 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

Oh, Shannon, and those are the worst kind, too!

November 09, 2006 9:56 PM  

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