What’s a Penny Worth?

I buy most of my hair products at Ulta3. I find the people who work there helpful in suggesting the right product for what I need. I also like their sales. My favorite is the one where, if you buy two of something, the third one is free.

Last November I needed some hairspray. I went to Ulta3 and talked with one of the saleswomen. “What hairspray would work best on fine hair that has a mind of its own? I want something to hold it in place. But I don’t want to look like I have a steel helmet on.”

The salesgirl suggested one of the Paul Mitchell products.

I wasn’t sure. “What if it doesn’t work for me? Or, what if I don’t like the way I look?” I asked.

She told me, “Don’t worry”. It’s a Buy 2, Get 1 Free sale. If you’re unhappy, you can bring the unused product back with the receipt and exchange it for something you like.”

That sounded fine. I bought three cans.

When I got home, I put the cans in the bathroom closet because I hadn’t yet finished with the old hairspray I was using.

A few weeks ago, I finally finished the old hairspray and started using one of the new ones. At first it was o.k. But, after a few days, I wasn’t happy with how my hair looked or felt: It felt hard, not fresh and silky, and looked dried out, just like I had a steel helmet on my head. I decided to give it a few more days but nothing improved.

I searched for my receipt, put it and the other two cans in the Ulta3 bag and went back to the store. Once there, I walked to where the Paul Mitchell products are kept and located the hairspray that I was bringing back. I looked around on the shelf to see if they had something else that would look and feel softer on my hair. I read the descriptions on the back of the cans. Finally I found one that sounded good.

I stopped the saleswomen I saw walking by. I told her my problem and asked, “Will this other hairspray work for me?”

“Well,” she said, “The new spray won’t hold your hair as well but it will feel soft and natural.”

I walked to the front of the store to make the exchange. I explained what I wanted to do and the cashier said with a smile, “No problem.” To me, that’s the universal sign that very soon something’s going to go wrong.

The saleswoman entered the product information into the cash register and called for her manager to put in her code to complete the exchange.

The manager came up front. “You know,” she said. “It’s too hard to do it this way. I know an easier way.”

“Fine.” I said. I just wanted to complete the sale and get going. I hadn’t planned on spending this much time at the store.

The manager started ringing up the hairspray. First she swiped the bar codes on the cans I was returning. Then she punched a number of keys. After that she stopped and gazed at the cash register. Lastly, she cancelled everything out and started over.

I watched her do this three times while trying to discreetly peek at my watch to see what time it was now. This was taking much longer than I’d expected.

After the third attempt, something must have gone right, because she asked me to hand her the two new cans of hairspray that I wanted to purchase. She swiped them.

I looked at her expectantly. It looked like everything would be o.k. after all. But then she undid everything and started over again.

At that point I couldn’t help myself. I very obviously looked at my watch. I’d been in the store for almost half an hour.

I looked at the manager again. She was still swiping and pushing buttons on the cash register. I asked her, “What seems to be the problem?”

“The cash register keeps saying you owe a penny in tax, but you don’t.”

“That’s fine. Don’t worry. I’ll pay it.”

“No. You don’t owe it,” she said.

“I don’t care. I’m happy to help fund the government. I’ll pay it.” I put a penny on the counter.

“Are you sure? You really don’t have to do this.”

“I want to.” I picked up my bag with the new hairspray and walked out the door. I felt I had escaped.




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    • Sue Remisiewicz on February 22, 2015 at 4:21 pm
    • Reply

    It was definetly worth a penny to get out of that situation!

      • Claire Murray on February 22, 2015 at 4:33 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks! I couldn’t believe how upset she was over my paying a penny that I didn’t owe.

  1. I enjoyed a few good chuckles, reading your article. I especially liked the observation about “no problem”. They say a penny isn’t worth anything anymore. Well……

      • Claire Murray on February 22, 2015 at 2:17 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks! All I know was a penny was the cost of getting out of there. Otherwise, I think I’d still be standing at the counter.

    • Claire Murray on February 21, 2015 at 3:15 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks, Kook-Wha. You are so right.

    • Kook-Wha Koh on February 21, 2015 at 9:27 am
    • Reply

    It is very interesting and frustrating story. I enjoyed to read it.

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