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Several dollars in gas for 25 cents

My friend likes to tell the story about an elderly relative (now deceased … but not because of events depicted here) who once raced back to the supermarket after discovering she’d been shortchanged a quarter.

When a sinister supermarket overcharged a little old lady by 25 cents, they had no idea she’d make the 10-mile return trip to shake it out of them….

When a sinister supermarket overcharged a little old lady by 25 cents, they had no idea she’d make the 10-mile return trip to shake it out of them….

And this wasn’t in the good ol’ days before inflation, when a quarter would buy you a Buick and a full tank of gas. This was probably in the 1980s, during her retirement years, when she spent afternoons by the stove knitting sweaters and watching Billy Idol on MTV.

The way the story goes, she’d just arrived home and was perusing her receipt when she discovered the appalling accounting error. Visions flashed across her mind of the supermarket CEO pocketing the vast surplus funds. Who knew what nefarious purpose he might apply to this newfound hoard of illicitly obtained money?

Being in that awkward stage when you’re still legally permitted to drive (but probably shouldn’t for the sake of humanity), the relative jumped in her Lincoln Towncar to reclaim her very means of survival.

Screeching down the highway (or, more likely, putting in the fast lane at 25 mph, with nothing visible to other drivers except for a tuft of white hair and two knuckles gripping the wheel), the relative drove the ten-plus miles to the supermarket, thus burning several dollars in gas to reclaim 25 cents.

With fists balled in fury and dentures clattering in anger, she confronted the nearest employee and demanded reparations.

I can imagine the young clerk staring at her in disbelief, wondering what karmic infraction she had committed to have this little old lady standing before her, frothing at the mouth with rabid indignation.

The relative showed the clerk the receipt, with the 25-cent discrepancy circled twice in red ink. It was enclosed in a Ziplock bag marked “Exhibit A,” to be submitted in the event of a trial.

From what I’m told, the clerk shrugged, reached under the counter for her purse, took out a quarter, and handed it to the relative.

The relative, who’d been angry before, got outright livid.

“That’s not the point!” she said, stomping her foot and placing her hands on her hips. “I don’t want you to pay for it! I want the store to pay for it! They’re the ones who stole my money!”

I imagine the clerk giving a dramatic eye-roll, chomping on a wad of gum and tousling her ’80s hair. Better yet, I can see her snapping a bubble and sucking it back in, cursing her existence and the day this geriatric nut job shuffled into her life.

“I do not want to take your money!” the relative reiterated, shaking the quarter in the clerk’s face.

“It’s not a big deal, lady,” the clerk said, zipping her purse and replacing it under the counter. “Like, chill out. It’s just a quarter.”

Whoops. Wrong answer, McFly! Now you’ve really roiled up the waters of geriatric outrage.

“It’s not ‘just a quarter!’” the relative screamed. “That’s my hard-earned retirement income! Don’t you understand – I live off this money! I have to count every penny! And just because it’s twenty-five cents doesn’t give you people the right to steal it!”

After some heated back and forth, the clerk was finally able to convince the relative to keep the quarter. She said she’d ask the manager to reimburse her on payday.

I’m sure it was a lie, and that the clerk ate the cost, but it did the trick. And at that point, I bet she was willing to sacrifice a whole lot more than 25 cents to get the indignant old woman out of her hair (’80s perm style and all).

The relative took her miserable quarter and hobbled off into the sunset, burning several more dollars in gas driving home (and no doubt doing 25 mph in the fast lane all the way there).

According to my friend, she took that quarter to the bank the very next day, to deposit it in a safe place where no supermarket CEO could get his malicious hands on it. And by all accounts the transaction went smoothly … at least until she discovered the 35-cent discrepancy on her bank statement.

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