The Village Idiot: Little things add up – and up, and up

Sunday Signal
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By Jim Mullen, Signal Contributing Writer

I just made Japanese-style chicken from a recipe I found online. I printed out a list of ingredients and headed for the grocery store, because for some reason, I couldn’t find anything called mirin in my fridge. Or sesame seeds, or scallions, or a few other things the recipe called for. 

After spending $28 on ingredients — it turns out that you can’t buy a half-cup of sake; you have to buy the whole bottle — and two hours making the sauce, marinating the chicken and then broiling it, I ended up with what turned out to be some mediocre teriyaki chicken. Even though the recipe was called “Chicken Yakatori.” Had I known it was just teriyaki, I would have just bought a bottle of teriyaki sauce for $3.68. Which I did, a few days later. 

On that trip to the store, all I bought was that one bottle of sauce. I paid for it, and then out came the receipt: over a foot long, for one item. How long would it have been if I had bought two things? Six feet? How many times a day does some customer have to wait while they change the roll of paper in the cash register? 

Talk about TMI — this ridiculous receipt had the name of the store, its address and phone number, the store’s ID number, the manager’s name, the cashier’s ID number, how to follow the store on Facebook, an 800 number I can call if I have a problem with the teriyaki sauce, the date and time of the sale, how much I saved using my loyalty card, a QR barcode, a very sincere “Thank you for shopping with us” note, a chance to win $50 by participating in a survey about my shopping experience AND a disclaimer about said contest that was eight lines long.

Why can’t they print this stuff on the back of the receipt and save a foot of paper? Oh, right, because the back side is full of coupons for stuff I don’t normally buy. When I buy one kind of cat food, sure enough, there will be a coupon on the back for a different brand. If I buy my regular coffee, there’s a coupon for another brand of coffee. Have you ever heard your spouse say, “Hey, while you’re at the store, could you buy that brand of coffee I don’t like?” I don’t even want to think about what your cats would do if you came home with another brand of cat food.

Most of these receipts end up in the overflowing trash can by the supermarket’s entrance. Not mine. That store trash can is a hacker’s paradise. There is way too much information on most receipts. I put them in the shredder when I get home, where they join the little confetti pieces of all the junk mail I get. 

Is there any other kind of mail? I think I’ve gotten a total of six pieces of personal mail in the last year. The rest of it is from banks and insurance companies that all say they are better than the bank and the insurance company I’m using now. I even get snail mail from my own bank and insurance company, offering me a better deal. Here’s an idea: Why not just give me the better deal without me having to ask for it?

And just so I don’t have to sort through a shoebox of receipts at tax time, I’ve taken to using a debit or credit card for almost everything.

As I walked out of the store with my teriyaki sauce, my phone buzzed to alert me that I had just spent $3.68. I could also see the transaction online anytime the urge hit. Which would be never. 

Contact Jim Mullen at [email protected].

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