False Advertising, Wrong Change, Bad Customer Service?

After returning home from grocery shopping I searched my bags and car for the “free gallon of milk” offered for purchasing over $50. The promotion was documented on my receipt, but the bagger must have not packed the milk. No problem. I would go to the store the next day and ask them about it. Oh-oh, I examined the newly purchased hot dog buns. One of them had mold on it. Picking up my receipt, I circled buns. Then I saw the other oops. The special of three fruit bowls for $10 was adding up to $11. Ten dollars had been a splurge, but $11 was a rip off. We’re talking false advertising and bad customer service.

The next day at the store, stern-faced Martha was offering no apology for the FullSizeRendermoldy bread I returned as she moved to give a cash reimbursement. “But wait,” I said, “Look at the fruit bowl special.”

“Well, mam, the receipt says the pineapple was in a “cup” for $2.99. It wasn’t in a $3.99 bowl so you didn’t get three.”

“I am quite certain the pineapple was in the same kind of container as the watermelon and cantaloupe. Besides, they were all mixed together in the same display case.“ I said with Girl Scout honesty.

She was a rock: “Doesn’t matter. The receipt says it is a cup.”

“Well, I would be quite upset if I have to go home and come back and show you that the cup is actually a bowl.”

“Sorry, mam. I have to go by what the receipt says, and it says pineapple cup.”

“What about what the customer says?” I argued. It was now the principle of the matter. Besides, this store had forgotten to put my milk in the cart and sold me moldy bread with no apology from Martha.

She gave me the teacher stare down with her glasses. “Why don’t you go get your free milk, and I will reimburse you for the bread.”

I did just that, praying, “Lord, I want to be a peacemaker!”

But when I got home I dived into the recycling can and pulled out the pineapple BOWL. It was the exact size as the other two containers. The label said pineapple cup. Was the store intentionally cheating consumers with deceptive mixing of cups and bowls? Those dollars do add up!

I could hear the “Frozen” song in my head, “Let It Go; Let It Go.”

No could do. I grabbed my receipt and phoned the store’s number listed at the top. Martha answered.

“May I have the produce department, please,” I said as sweetly as I could, sensing she knew exactly who it was!

Alyson in produce was more understanding after I explained things. “I am so sorry,” she said. “It is our mistake. I will go and change those labels right now.”

Thank you, Alyson! That is all I wanted to hear.

My good consumer vibe lasted only a few days, however, because I went to a different grocery store.

My organic blueberries were supposed to be on special at $2 a box. My receipt said the two boxes rang up at $4.99 a piece! Yikes. I lost six dollars!

This time I was still in the store and went straight to produce. Employee Paul reassured me the boxes were priced at $2.FullSizeRender

“I’ll use your name when I talk to management, ” I warned.

By the time I wheeled over to the counter the manager said, “You just have to show me the blueberries. Paul phoned.”

“Okay,” she said, examining them. “I can only give you one free box so I will be reimbursing you $2.50 for the other one.”

“But they are supposed to be $2 each,” I muttered. “It wasn’t a two for one. I think I should get six dollars back.”

“Six Dollars! I can’t do that, mam. I can only give you one free. Do you understand?”

“No, not really,” I said. “I want to pay what the sign says.”

“What did the sign say?” she asked.

“That they were on special for $2 each.”

“I can’t give them both to you free. I have to charge you for one and give you one free.”

“Okay,” I said meekly. Whatever!

She then proceeded to give me the two boxes of blueberries and $7.73 in cash.

“Are you sure?” I said not wanting to cause any more trouble.

“Yes!” she said with authority.

“Okay. Thank you,” I said.

It was more than I had asked or deserved, but do you think I earned it?

Signs of My Times, Part 1

Do you read bumper stickers, bulletin boards, bill boards, graffiti and signs? I go on brief forays where I just can’t resist gobbling up the trivia around me. I don’t think this reading is a life changer, but it is amusing, sometimes thoughtful.  Isn’t it a great gift to read and write as well as speak and listen? Literacy is something most of us take for granted.




I wonder what Tom does with these birds?


How low can the temp go?




Bishop’s Castle, in Colorado








Randomness, Coincidences, Divine Providence?

Some very bright theologians and scientists gathered this week at Fuller Seminary in California to discuss if and how randomness can harmonize with divine providence. It got me thinking about coincidences that happened two years ago on a New England vacation. Here is the story:

Our airplane to Boston was an hour and a half late in landing. We told our New Hampshire hosts to go ahead with dinner, because an overturned beer truck on the interstate would now delay our reunion even longer.

Massachusetts State House
Massachusetts State House in Boston

The traffic’s snail pace gave me time to muse about coincidences. Does a beer truck spill have a divine providential impact on me or is it just randomness? I tried to think of some biblical examples of unexpected interruptions: the Ethiopian eunuch puzzling over scripture on a dusty road came to mind. It just so happened Philip journeyed to that exact place and time and was able to answer the eunuch’s questions and baptize him. Abraham’s servant was sent to a foreign land to find the right woman for son Isaac. After the servant prayed, along comes Rebekah to water his camels. Finally, I thought of the Apostle Peter, released from jail in the middle of the night. He knocked on the door of his startled prayer intercessors.

Yes, I concluded, there is biblical evidence that God has a hand in the geographic “coincidences” of our lives. Little did I know God was going to use these thoughts to give me two joyful surprises.

That Sunday, we joined our hosts at their Chichester (NH) Church, a congregation of about 200. On the same row as my husband and myself were seated a young man and his wife. After the service the young man asked, “Are you from Cincinnati?”

We nodded, “Yes, we used to be from there.”

He said, “Mr. Boy-ell, I think you were my high school math teacher when I was a freshman.” Recognition came, and we laughed at this pleasant “coincident.” This young man had even worshiped at our first Cincinnati church of about 120 people.

But the coincident grew. Part of our vacation was for my husband to meet his cousin Jeannine for the first time. The two had corresponded for years with a mutual interest in genealogy.

Rep. Tacky Chan  in the Rep. Chamber

Jeannine works at the Massachusetts State House, and she insisted we let her arrange a tour. She said something like, “Rep. Tacky Chan gives the best private tours; I asked him and he said yes.” So there we were having a first-time meeting with energetic Jeannine and enjoying the State House with a gracious Rep. Chan.

Cousin Jeannine
Cousin Jeannine


In the middle of the tour Jeannine said something like, “My Rep. Keiko isn’t in today, or I would have had you meet her. She’s a great boss.”

“What’s Keiko’s last name?” my husband asked.

Jeannine said, “Keiko Orrall.”

He said, “Oh! We know her!”

Jeannine said, “You mean you’ve seen her on Facebook?”

“No,” he replied. “We went to the same church in Cincinnati about 18 years ago.” (It was the same 120-member church mentioned above!).

I chimed in that we were good friends back then but had lost contact over the years.

Rep. Keiko Orrall with Chuck Boyll
Rep. Keiko Orrall with Chuck Boyll

Jeannine was almost speechless at this coincidence. But she recovered to call Keiko immediately, and we arranged a special reunion lunch.

During the conversation I said, “Keiko, the last thing I knew about you was that you were home schooling your children near a cranberry bog.”

Keiko nodded. “Yes, I know. It’s amazing. A lot has happened.”

Amazing indeed! Representative Keiko Orrall is the first Asian American woman to serve in the Massachusetts’ legislature. She is passionate, caring and smart. Go Rep. Keiko!

The next day Jeannine sent us an email that said she felt like she had received a big hug from God in this coincident of her cousin knowing her boss. Indeed, we all felt that way.

So as the Randomness and Divine Providence meetings wrap up in California, this story is one for the supporters of divine providence.

I know there is so much sadness and evil in this world. It can seem insanely random. Yet, there is also purpose and joy. God gives hugs and surprises– sometimes when we least expect them. When these loving gifts do pop up, we can be reassured of the Giver’s care for us.

Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT)

I drove the Amphibian Duck!
I drove one of Boston’s Amphibian Ducks! Quack!