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Dr. Don, The Counterfeiter

November 22, 2014




It is interesting to me how a person can have an unusual experience one day and then several days later, run across a reference in an unrelated source that mirrors the event.   I just started reading Stephen King’s new novel Revival, and came across this passage.

“….but always looked at me the way a storekeeper studies a suspicious twenty-dollar bill.  Maybe it’s all right, the storekeeper thinks, but there’s just a little something…off about it.”

In my case it was a ten-dollar bill.

We have been shopping at Whole Foods for over ten years and I have never experienced anything like what happened to me recently.  Dropping into the Capitola, Ca store for what I thought would be a quick in/out for just a large jug of water and a bag of tortilla chips, became an embarrassing adventure.

The 15 items or less lines we not in use so I got in line behind two people with carts full of groceries.  The clerk either was new or just normally slow but it was taking an inordinate amount of time to ring up each item.  Finally, when he was done with the first customer, the man paid with a hundred-dollar bill.  The clerk looked it over, held it up to the light and after about a minute determined it was good, gave the man change and moved on to the next customer.  She unloaded her cart and divided her things into two groups saying she would pay for one then the other.  The clerk, with his turtle like speed, began ringing her up.  For the first group of groceries she paid with a credit card. When the second had been totaled, she pulled out a hundred-dollar bill.  Yes, as you can guess, the clerk looked it over, held it up to the light and again after about a minute deemed the bill sound, gave the lady her change and off she went.  Now it is my turn.

After waiting very patiently for the two people to get done, my two little items were rung up for a total of $5.38.  Usually I pay with a credit card but this day I actually had cash on me and figured the amount was too small for my Visa.  So I handed the clerk a ten-dollar bill, and almost said “I just printed this one”.  Fortunately, I did not as the clerk looked over the bill and proceeded to hold it up to the light as he had done with the two larger bills.

He was taking longer than he had on those two and after about two minutes said, “I don’t see a watermark”.  He then called over another cashier who looked the ten spot over, held it to the light, said, “I don’t either, you better have a manager look at it”.  She then looked at me and said, “it’s not that we don’t trust you”.  About now my patience was wearing thin.  I had given the clerk an old style ten dollar bill (pre-1996) which doesn’t have a watermark, and offered to give him a different one.  He said, “No, I need to see about this one”.  I looked behind me and there were about five people in line waiting and looking at me like I was some kind of crook.  Anyone that knows me knows that it was taking everything I had not to say something at this point.

Finally, a manager came over, looked at the bill, held it up to the light, and said, “it’s okay”, and walked off.  The clerk then gave me change and said, “have a nice day”.  No “I am sorry”, no apology of any kind for making me wait for at least ten minutes, and for making me look like one of the F.B.I.’s ten most wanted.

As I walked to my car, my brain was going, what the hell just happened?  The more I thought about it, the madder I was getting.  When I got home, I went to the Whole Food’s website and wrote out my story pretty much the way I have here, under the heading of a bad customer experience.  It has been a week now and I have not had any kind of response.

I do understand a store’s concern over counterfeit money, and there have been recent stories in the San Jose Mercury News about people being caught passing phony currency.  My problem is the way I was treated with no effort to acknowledge this was an embarrassing situation.

Will I continue to shop here?  Yes, we like the products, especially the produce.  Will I ever pay with cash again?  Not in this lifetime!

In Stephen King’s novel, Revival, the reference above is about the way the main character’s girlfriend’s mother looks at him.  He says, “looking back, I have to think that Delia Soderberg’s suspicions were justified.  I was a counterfeit twenty.  Good enough to pass in most places, maybe, but not in her store.”

So thank you Whole Foods for making me feel like a counterfeit ten-dollar bill.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Betty permalink
    February 8, 2015 3:19 pm

    I had an experience at Michaels a while back. I handed the clerk my debit card and she dropped it between the counter and register panel. After several attempts to move anything that would move, we ended up using my husband’s debit card. The supervisor said she would have to call maintenance and let me know when they had the card. I went home, called the bank and cancelled my card. Later that week, I visited Michaels and nothing had been done to look for my card. Someday, when the building is excavated by men of the future, my card will be found. I hope it is Martians.

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