As a general rule, I try to be as nice to the people behind the proverbial counter as possible. I took my fair share of abuse in my short time as a customer service rep for what was at the time the nation's largest credit card company. So the last thing I ever want to do is put that crap on anyone who's just trying to earn a buck, but there is an exception to every rule.
Yesterday I ran out to lay in some last second supplies for the big game. My first stop was Turkey Hill which is a Central PA convenience store. I picked up some snacks and a six pack of Mt. Dew 20 Oz bottles and laid them on the counter. The girl behind the counter told me that the six pack was 4.11 but they had a two for $6 deal on them, so I grabbed another one. That was where my "world class customer service" ended for the day.
From there I went to a Quick 6 beer distributor to get some Yuengling for Inky. I pulled a cold sixer from the case and slid it on the counter where the girl rung it up at $6.35. I handed her my Visa Check card, at which point she informed me that there was a minimum of $8.50 to use plastic. She followed that with all the things I could get for a buck each to put me over the limit, saying "Most people get a bag of pretzels or something to put them over" going on to basically admit that the minimum had been set just above the highest priced six pack on purpose to get people to buy more.
At this point I had a few options. I could: A) Buy a bag of pretzels and some candy cigarettes and charge $8.75 and go on my merry way. B) Leave and get my beer at a store that doesn't try to make you buy things you don't want/need, or C) Inform the counter girl that minimum charge amounts are against the Visa merchant agreement and have a protracted discussion with her and her manager. I chose C.
After I told her that, having worked for a credit card company, I knew that minimums were against the rules and subject to a $10,000 fine she pretty much told me that she didn't care. She reminded me that it wasn't her policy, but one set by the owner of the store, who I got to meet after a few more moments of back and forth. He started his portion of this exchange by saying that it was only a few bucks and I should just buy something else. By the end, he was offering to give me the beer for free after I pointed out that he had admitted to knowingly breaking the rules.
He told me that he hadn't posted a sign saying that there was a minimum because, as he understood it, that was what got most people fined. I responded with something like "so you think that the sign is the problem, not the policy" which he apparently did. Shortly thereafter, he offered to ring me up for the six pack, and I told him that it was a moot point, and that I'd still be reporting him, at which point he told me to just take the beer.
What happened next might surprise you. I didn't take the beer, and I drove to the other side of town where I spent $9 on a 12 pack, because they were out of cold 6 packs. It was a clear cut case of principal winning out over inconvenience and added cost. Frankly, I'd make that decision every time, because we as a country too often take the easy way, when the hard way would make us a better society. I'd like to think that I did my part in changing that yesterday.