A month or so ago I was on the way home from work and stopped at a local Safeway to pick up some milk and cereal; a quick stop. Most registers were pretty busy, but there was one with only one customer. I took that line.
The woman ahead of me was fiddling with coupons. She glanced up at the cereal I was buying, and said “You know, there’s a five-for-five-dollars coupon for those.”
“Thanks, I have that.” And I did.
She went back to fiddling with coupons, occasionally handing some of her merchandise to the clerk along with a coupon. The clerk sometimes shook his head and handed the coupons back. She continued fiddling, and began to tear coupons out of a collection of circulars and newspapers, matching them up with the items on the conveyer and in her cart. Her money was crumpled up amongst the coupons, and everything kept falling to the floor.
Five minutes passed. The woman behind me in line started to worry out loud about picking her kids up on time. The fiddling and exchanging of merchandise and coupons continued. Coupon Lady started muttering “Free stuff, I love free stuff.” The clerk and I exchanged repeated silent shrugs.
Five more minutes. If I had picked a different line, I would have been halfway home, but to tell the truth I was curious to see how bad the situation could get. The woman behind me in line bailed, leaving her cart and an apology to the clerk. Coupon Lady and the clerk were deeply engaged in exchanging items and reading fine print. A manager was called in over some Jell-O, which turned out to be the wrong kind.
After a final battle over which coupons were three-for-a-dollar and which were two-for-a-dollar on a different size item, Coupon Lady found her cash, paid, and began to leave. This was a laborious procedure involving which bags to choose for which items.
My turn at last. “Don’t be angry with me,” I told the clerk, “But I have a coupon for this cereal.”
He chuckled. “I don’t usually get Marsha,” he said, “But I’m on a different register today.”
Yesterday I went to that Safeway again, and noticed a small sign on the register about serving customers with integrity. “Does that apply to Marsha, the Coupon Lady from Hell?” I asked the clerk.
She nearly doubled over in laughter.