Monday, April 12, 2010


I consider myself a relatively nice person.  I try to be friendly and polite, especially to strangers and employees I come  into contact with when I'm out trying to get things done.  In the past, you might have been able to accurately refer to me as a pushover.  But in the last few years, I've been able to better draw the line between friendly and doormat.

Yesterday, that line was pushed around a bit.  There are a few things we have to get straight before I tell this story.  First of all, formula is expensive.  Especially when your kid eats like someone is going to tell him that in the next 5 minutes all formula everywhere is going to be discontinued and he is never going to get to eat again until he can eat big people food.  Second of all, formula coupons are called "checks" and are supposed to be rung up as vouchers or something - whatever they are, they are not supposed to be rung up as coupons.  Third of all, our preferred brand of formula is one of the stingiest companies with formula checks.  The other brands seem to be more generous, and I regularly get checks from them.  Our brand, however, is not as reliable.  Even though I've signed myself (both home and work addresses), my mom and mother-in-law up to receive checks, we never seem to get as many as we do from the other companies.  I signed myself up when L was born, and my mom/mother-in-law up when we started formula feeding at around 8 weeks.  We've received maybe 4 checks at our house, my mother-in-law has received one and my mom has received none.  

So whenever I get checks for the other brands, I go online and try to barter a trade with people who have checks for my brand.  This has worked out well for me so far, and I often have multiple checks to use on any given purchase.  A lot of stores hassle me when I try to use more than one check on formula, and most won't let me do it.  This really grinds my gears because NOWHERE on the check does it say that using more than one check per purchase is not allowed.  I'm telling you, I have broken out my magnifying glass and scrutinized the fine print and there is not one single word that says multiple checks are not allowed.  

The only store that has always let me use more than one check has been Target.  So Target is our preferred formula retailer, since these checks can often score us a large can of formula for half-price.

Well, we needed wipes and formula yesterday, so I packed up L and off to Target we went.  Which was fun, because I love Target.  I loved Target even more when I saw that our brand of formula was on sale for $3 off.  I had $12 in checks, so I figured it was shaping up to be a good day for  formula.  As I walked to the checkout, I tried to scope out the registers to see which cashiers looked the most experienced and the least interested in giving me any sort of trouble.  When that failed, I just went for the nicest-looking cashier.

She ooh'ed and aah'ed over L as I placed my assorted baby items on the checkout, and I set my coupons (for the wipes) and checks on the little counter next to the credit card swiper.  When she told me the total, I slid my coupons her way and she went through them.  As soon as she saw that I had more than one check, she started hemming and hawing, saying things like, "Ohh.....I don't think I can use more than one..."  As I was already prepared for this (having been put through this fun little game every. single. time.), so I immediately (but politely) said, "Well, I've been allowed to multiple times, at Target in particular."

She again expressed her doubts that I could use more than one check.  The old me would have backed off and said "Oh ok, sorry to be such a pain!" and then I would have apologized probably 3 more times and then begged her forgiveness for living.  But the new me realizes that there's a time to stand up for yourself and be a little assertive, and paying the ridiculously high cost of formula is one of those times.

So I politely said, "Well, I've used multiple checks many times, and nowhere on the check does it say that you can't use more than one."  She again told me that she couldn't use more than one, so I sweetly requested that she please check  with someone else.  As I've  expressed in a previous post, conflict makes me uncomfortable.  But I was determined to stand my ground, and I warmly apologized to the irritated man behind me as the cashier went off to get someone else.  She found some other lady (not the manager) who came up to me.  Here is the conversation that followed.

Cashier:  "Sorry, honey, you can only use one."
Me:  "Well, I've been able to use more than one in the past, particularly at this store."
C:  "Oh no, I'm certain that if you'll look on the check, it says right there that you can only use one....Yes, right here it says."  (Points to the line that reads, Only good on the purchase of any X brand product.)
M:  "I'm not sure I understand.  How does that say I can only use one per purchase?"
C:  "Well right here, it says 'any pro-DUCT.'"
M:  (Looking on expectantly for her to illuminate how the h she is getting "only one per purchase" out of the word "product.")  "Yes...And I'm buying one product."
C:  "No, no, no.  See, it says, 'any pro-DUCT.'"
M:  "Yes, and I'm buying a pro-DUCT."  (Have you ever seen the Blue Collar Comedy Tour?  This whole "pro-DUCT" exchange reminded me of the whole Ron White bit where he talks about being "drunk in pubLICK.")
C:  (Getting exasperated that we seem to have learned a different version of English and that her English dictates that "pro-DUCT" means "only one check per purchase")  "Well, I can check with the manager..."
M:  "Yes please, I'd appreciate it."
So she goes to get the manager, whom I think I'll have the opportunity to speak with.  But she comes back alone.
C:  "Sorry, manager says only one per purchase."
M:  "Well that must be your store policy then because nowhere on the check does it say I can only use one per purchase."
C:  "Oh, ok, sure."  And she scurried off.

So then my cashier, who was just kind-of awkwardly standing there watching this ridiculous conversation looks at me with her sweet, sympathetic face and goes, "So do you still want it?"

And I had been really polite up to this point.  I was not rude, I was not snotty, I was not sassy.  My voice was not exasperated nor angry.  But when she asked this, it took every ounce of my self-control to not say, "Oh no thanks.  My son just heard how expensive it will be and he told me he doesn't need to eat for a while.  Isn't he considerate?"

Instead, I just said in a friendly but duh tone, "Yep, I need it."

She apologized and told me she'd love to let me use all the checks but that they would ask her why she used more than one and she'd get into trouble.  I told her I understood and that I knew it wasn't her fault.  But you better believe I'm going to be writing and/or calling the store manager of that Target and asking him (or her) what the problem is when they will get reimbursed for every cent the checks were worth and why they won't let me use more than one WHEN IT DOESN'T SAY ANYWHERE ON THE CHECK THAT THAT'S NOT PERMITTED!

This whole incident just reinforced the realization that I'll probably be feeding my future children breast milk until they are old enough to say, "Mommy, I want McDonalds."


The Dissingers said...

Wow. Love her enunciation of the word "product," like you don't know what it is or what it means. That's pretty messed up. I would call/write a letter too! Good for you for staying calm, you're a better person than I am.

IASoupMama said...

Hi! Stopping by from UBP 2010. I'm a working mama of two and I love that working moms are finding the time to get their voices out!

Your Target encounter sounds putrid -- so sorry for that. I formula-fed my first and remember those checks all too well.

Happy Monday Night!


Jess said...

Girl if X brand equals Similac the holler at me. They seem to LOVE me and I'd happily send you $50 worth of checks.

BTW- I was lauging through this entire post... You should have asked to speak to the manager him/herself... what a bunch of "smarties"

Nicole Everitt said...

First, somebody please tell me where I can get more of these dumb checks. We buy enfamil... I can't wait for the day my daughter can drink regular milk. Four more months to go! Formula might just be the most overpriced proDUCT on the planet (hehe).
Second, if it doesn't say you can only use one............. Yknow, I actually might've told her I would buy it somewhere else, just to see if she'd crumble and let you use them all.
Happy Tuesday!

shasta said...

I, too, am conflict-avoidant so I applaud your efforts to be more assertive. It really does take practice!

And since you're a fan of Target, I thought I'd mention this: The Target brand formula is pretty much the same as the Enfamil Premium stuff, and my doc OKed it. Switching literally cut my cost in half.

Mrs. Nichole J. said...

I was also ROFL thru this whole post! Awesome! Good for you standing up! Your not doing ANYTHING wrong and they just are not ed-ju-ma-cated.... hehe ('any pro-DUCT.')

See ya around!