Grocery Store Lesson

As a kid, I loved the feeling of confidence that came when my mom handed me a few bucks at the pool and told me I could get what I wanted from the concession stand. Since my main responsibility for the afternoon was to keep the kids occupied, and I was in no rush to get anywhere, I figured we’d do a little arithmetic and economics.

I promised my daughter an ice cream treat in the school cafeteria “if we have time,” which we didn’t. Feeling a bit guilty, I gave her a dollar and told her she could get whatever she wanted at the grocery store.

“What about the tax? Will you pay it if I want something that costs a dollar?”

“You’ll have to pick something that costs less than a dollar.”

After my son announced his intention to save his dollar, my daughter settled on a 59-cent ring pop.

She was nervous standing in the checkout line by herself, and got distracted so another shopper with a full cart slipped right in ahead of her. I watched her from a short distance, pretending to be interested in a magazine.

It turns out that she was charged 96 cents, plus tax, meaning she had to give up the while dollar.

We went back to the candy aisle to doublecheck the price, then I pointed her to the line for the customer service desk, reminding her to be polite.

When the customer in front of her stepped out of line, my daughter assumed that meant she had surrendered her place, so the lady was a little snippy when she reclaimed it. I kept my distance, telling myself that was all part of the real-world experience.

I saw the employees smiling at each other over Carolyn’s head, so I figured it was going well. They checked her receipt, handed her a dollar from the cash register — and then handed the candy right back to her.

“I got to keep it!” she beamed.

I think she learned a lot. What real-world lessons come next? This is going to be a fun summer!