technology is a wonderful thing until it fails us…

…and then we fail ourselves. at even the simplest tasks.


i don’t know how coupons work. i mean, i do understand the concept of giving a little scrap of paper to the cashier and it gets you money off of goods and services. i understand that on a first date, they make a bad impression…

…learned that one the hard way.

i guess a better statement would be i that i don’t understand how barcodes, which are what is scanned on a coupon, work. i know at least ONE of you does, and there’s no need to explain it to me and nauseating detail – i’m happy knowing what time it is, and could give a fuck less how the watch works.

but god for-fucking-bid that technology fail us. as it did at h.e.b. the other night (for all those outside of texas, “h.e.b.” is a grocery store chain here, and not an anti-semitic thang). i went to the express line, because in theory it’s faster…

…but theory and reality do not always cross paths.


the guy was buying a grill corn roaster (i kinda want one – does that mean i’m getting too domestic for my own good?). for all those not familiar, a “grill corn roaster” is exactly what it sounds like it is – a hinged device that holds ears of corn so you can roast them on your grill and turn them with ease. also holds them in place. and the other night, the guy had an in store coupon…

…that may, or may not, have still been valid. this was the heated debate. it almost got ugly. sure, in other parts of the country men come to blows as to whether or not the war is just. or what team should be in the super bowl this year. or who’s the hotter chick of “desperate housewives”. but in lockhart, texas, on a wednesday night in checkout aisle number thirteen of h.e.b.? it was all about the corn roaster coupon…

(cue “dueling banjos”)


the corn roaster is scanned…


so is the coupon. but it comes up the system with an error message…


it’s scanned again. same error message. at this point, the checker looks at the coupon…

(i guess giving the coupon the “evil eye” is the first level of trouble shooting escalation in the h.e.b. corporate handbook)


again with the error. at this point he reads the coupon, line by line, tracking what he reads with his index finger. (shit, at least he wasn’t having to read it out loud, right? although his lips were moving. god bless the education system today…)


he re-scans the CORN ROASTER!!!

“i’m not payin’ for two of them sumbitches…”, the hillbilly…

…pardon me…the “appalachian american”, yells.

“calm down, sir…”, junior (not my buddy with the same nickname that i haven’t spoken to in forever, but rather just used as an expression, for all those who are confused…) replies, “i just want to see what it scans up as so i know it’s the right product”.

i look up at the computer screen. it says “grill corn roaster”.


is he trying to imply they have multiple models of this thing?

so now junior needs a void. it’s manager time. this should get us to the bottom of things. i mean, hell, this has only taken FIVE MINUTES to transpire…

…good thing i wasn’t on my way to work. and i only know this ’cause there’s a clock on the register screen and i was watching it ’cause i was trying to get home in time for c.s.i.. so, up steps manager boy (used in the literal sense – you never get the “a-team” of a grocery store after 5:00, do you?). he voids the second corn roaster after a sixty second explanation that basically, in abridged form, could have been summed up with three words…

“i fucked up.”

then, as he was walking away, the customer reminds junior about the coupon issue – but manager boy has already disappeared behind the bulletproof, mirrored glass windowed “door of mystery” that all stores have, so junior has to get BACK on the p.a. and summon him out (apparently normal voices can not penetrate the “door of mystery”.)

again he walks up, and gets a three minute explanation of everything that has transpired that could have very easily been summed up with three words…

“coupon’s fucked up.”


manager boy scans the coupon. gets an error message. just like junior said he would. i guess manager boy is MANAGER boy because he knows some sort of coupon “secret handshake” move or something. so, manager boy gives the coupon a dirty look…

(i fucking knew giving the coupon the “evil eye” is the first level of trouble shooting escalation in the h.e.b. corporate handbook)


same error message. so, manager boy reads the coupon top to bottom.


error again. he then picks up the corn roaster and looks at it. (i am then convinced that junior must be in the “manager boy training program” and has just not completed the “just look at the product, don’t scan it…” class yet).


same error on the coupon. apparently giving the evil eye to both the coupon AND the product it was taped to does you no good either. at this point manager boy and junior look at each other. they are stumped. this has brought their little lives to a dead halt, and if SOMEONE doesn’t do something, we would most likely STILL be there.

i looked at the clock. thirteen minutes. fuck this.

i snatch the coupon out of manager boy’s hands and look at it. it’s not even FOR the corn roaster. well, at least not for a discount ON it. it says…


i cock an eye at manager boy and junior and then look up at the screen. two items up, above the grill corn roaster and a twelve pack of pabst blue ribbon (no bullshit) i see it…


i almost bite my lip to the point of bleeding and glance behind me. six people are sitting there in silence, staring at me, waiting for me to snap.

“you mean we have stood here for (i look at the clock again) FIFTEEN MINUTES (i rounded up by two) for one measly, fucking dollar?!?!?!”

manager boy gulped. i think junior almost wet himself. hillbilly boy appeared unphased. having bourbon for breakfast will numb you out like that, i suppose.

i dropped the coupon in a wad on the counter and shot my hand into my pocket. manager boy jumped back BEHIND junior.

“relax…”, i said calmly, “the SIG’s at home – which is lucky for you – cause this was some bullshit for a buck”. i pull out my money clip, drop a dollar on the scanner, and say, “i got your corn (i hand the coupon to hillbilly boy) save this for next time and hope they have their shit together…”

he shrugged, put my dollar with his money, and paid the man. fifteen minutes (not rounding up on that time stamp) after it all started, and after everybody BUT me had been routed to another line, , i got to step up with my ONE item. a half gallon of chocolate milk. since nobody was around, they just bagged it up and handed it to me. i guess they realize my time is worth something after all…

…which given the fact i bought the corn, meant i saved a whopping buck fitty for my time and trouble. hey, every little bit helps, right? and i think in this case, it truly was the principle of the thing. shame i wasn’t getting more shit, though…

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