OrdinaryTimes 1.12-ShortChange

We stopped for beers after spending the afternoon at the Holocaust Museum.

That’s one lousy way to start a story. Maybe I should start over.

We stepped out of the sweaty afternoon, hoping cast conditioned ales might be on offer at Churchkey.

That’s better...

The Muse found a stout so dark we had to turn on my iPhone flashlight app to hear our conversation. III found a bourbon barrel-aged brew that tasted to me like Sugar Corn Pops. I found a most unlikely Italian IPA called Buracracy; very nice but such a small glass.

III was buying, and he refused to run a tab, handing the server a couple of twenties. “I can run a tab if you’d like.”.

”I would not,” insisted III.

The waiter returned a short time later with change, eleven dollars. III counts up the toll and realizes that the change seems forty cents short. “This is outrageous!” he exclaims. He went on to explain his philosophy and ethical position with perhaps a tad more energy than the situation warranted. “I’m channeling my dad,” he explained.

”I wondered who that was,” I replied.

The next time the waiter stopped by to hector us, III asks if the short change was an oversight or a matter of policy. The waiter, taken aback, fumbled the pass and III took a bit of a hunk out of him. They round up to the nearest quarter, this time he’d rounded up to the nearest dollar. He promised to fetch the forty cents, but III explained that it was too late to undo what he’d already done. “I don’t want the forty cents.”

The next time that waiter passed by, he dropped fifty cents on the table without stopping to comment. I suppose he’d passed off responsibility for the table to someone else because another waiter stopped by a short while later, and III tied into him. This one apologized and offered to fetch the manager. III didn’t want to talk to the manager, but the manager arrived anyway. He offered to comp the whole round so we’d leave happy. III very reluctantly agreed, but refused the proffered happiness. “It’s just not right!”

The manager returned and dropped twenty-nine bucks on the table without comment. III counted out the money and started to pocket it. “Leave it,” I suggested. The Muse agreed. III considered the choice, The Muse wondering out loud who was the bigger man. III didn’t want to tip the original server who’d committed the infraction and he didn’t really want to make Churchkey whole, but the dilemma seemed to warrant an especially insidious resolution. What would leave the most indelible impression? He left the money, explaining that we did, in fact, drink their beer.

Had the establishment adopted a round down policy, returning $11.50 on a $28.60 bill, III would have been delighted, but charging him an extra forty cents incensed him. And should have.

Change can focus so intently upon gaining the $28.60 that it forgets a lousy, insignificant-seeming forty cents. Would you rather gain forty cents or lose a dime? No brainer! Would you rather gain $28.50 or lose it all because you rounded up to an amount in excess of simple propriety? Consider carefully.

Success hovers along the margin. I revere III for standing up and making a fuss. I’d probably forgotten, too, how significant short change can be. The difference between delight and disgust usually turns out to be about a dime. Small change, indeed.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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