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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Conscience

I hadn't planned on going to the grocery store this weekend. Trent can tell you that I am not a big fan of shopping during this part of the week. The throng of people is often too much for me, and brings my anxieties to the forefront. So I say again, for the record, that I had no intention of going to the grocery store this weekend. However, I fell victim to the siren song of one of my favorite cereals on sale for a ridiculously low price. A weekend-only sale. So I decided to go to the store. There were some other items that I wanted or needed, so I made my list and set off to brave the throng.

Now, one of the items that I saw in the store's weekly ad was a box of store-brand lancets (poky things used to get a blood sample for blood sugar monitoring) for a dollar. I could probably have gotten them free through my online pharmacy, but it would have required a visit to the doctor, so I decided to put that item on my list. I grabbed my purse and a couple of shopping bags and walked to the store. When I got to the pharmacy area, it was pretty busy. I saw a box of lancets on a table and put them in my cart rather than asking where they might be displayed.

When I went through the checkout, my total was more than twenty dollars higher than I expected. The box of lancets had rung up at a cost of twenty-two dollars! I told my cashier, one of the head clerks, that the product was on sale for a dollar, so he reversed it and rang it up at that price. As I walked home with my bags, my brain flashed a picture of the box that I had picked up. It wasn't lancets, it was testing strips! I had inadvertently cheated the store out of more than twenty dollars!

Since I was nearly home, I put my few cold items in the fridge, put the box and receipt in my purse, and walked back to the store. I won't deny that it felt good to know that I was going to rectify my mistake. I stopped briefly and apologized to the person who had been my cashier and proceeded to the pharmacy to right my wrongs. And that's when things took an unpleasant turn.

When I returned the unopened box of test strips to the pharmacy with my receipt and asked for the lancets instead, I was met with a blank stare. "Can't you use these?" the pharmacy tech asked. I explained again that I had only paid a dollar for them and had intended to pick up lancets, not test strips. She asked if I had the store-brand testing device, which I do not, and I told her that even if I did, I couldn't use the strips in good conscience because I hadn't paid for them.

The tech then informed me that she couldn't re-dispense the testing strips. I pointed out that the box was unopened and the product unused. Couldn't it go in a charity box or something? She told me there was no such thing. She repeated that since they had been dispensed to a customer, they could not be dispensed to anyone else. A comment was made to the effect that I should have come to the pharmacy counter rather than just picking the item up. Of course, this begs the question of why a one dollar item was behind the counter when a twenty-two dollar item was sitting out on a table.

After pouring some more lemon juice into the deep cut to my psyche, she freed the lancets from Fort Knox and told me they were not on sale. She grudgingly gave them to me anyway. I even asked if we could make believe that I had never left the store with the test strips, but she said no, they couldn't be re-dispensed. I walked over to the entrance and got a store ad to bring back to the pharmacy to show the lancets were indeed on sale. I ended up speaking with someone else who also rubbed some lemon juice on my mental wound. Through the whole interchange I was incredibly polite. I can say without a doubt that my courtesy and conscience were equally strong. I did mention as I left that I tried to be a good person and ended up feeling like a jerk. 

I walked home with the lancets in my purse and tears in my eyes. It all seemed so insanely wasteful to me. A perfectly good product was going to waste because I got in a hurry and made a mistake, and then was honest about it. After I got home and thought about it, I knew it wouldn't hurt the pharmaceutical companies. They make obscene amounts of money on diabetes-related products. And I am sure that the store's corporate headquarters won't suffer much from that small loss. I'm just stunned that a fully-sealed product cannot be used simply because I touched it and in their eyes might have tampered with it. 

Wow, I thought. It's incredible that an item that is not ingested can't be sold after it's touched. I can return a bag of potato chips unopened and they can go back on the shelf. And produce - heck, that stuff has been touched by so many hands it isn't even funny. And cold medicine, too. I realize that people have been harmed by medications that have been tampered with and that due diligence is necessary. I realize that the people in the pharmacy don't know me. I also realize that someone who is twisted enough to tamper with test strips is quite possibly twisted enough to return them in an attempt to hurt others. It just seems to me that there could be a simple solution that would make it evident whether the product was opened or not. We can do it with over-the-counter medications, why not other things as well? And I certainly wouldn't object to people not having to feel emotionally flogged when they are honest about making a mistake.

 


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