Shelling Out

Friends and family know that I don’t watch the news or pay close attention to polls, debates or interviews of political parties hawking their interpretations of every event.  But not being fanatical about government politics is not the same as not being political.  I just realized that.  In that case, I’m very political!  Maybe that’s why my friends just stare at me when I’ve claimed neutrality before.

I do so love taking on big business sometimes.  I won with AT&T, even though it took several months and extreme diligence on my part.  I should have been an advocate (save that realization for another day) because I love to fight.  With words. For the little man – be it an immigrant, the elderly, renters, or puppies.

This week, I wrote the Shell Corporation and blatantly accused one of their gas stations of knowingly overcharging  for the car wash. Norma Rae-esque thoughts of being followed along dark country highways with men clad in flannel wielding tire irons against my hapless Pinto popped into my head immediately before I hit send, but I figured this is worth some corporate oversight about what one of its little rogue children is possibly doing.  Or a little media attention.

After buying a full tank of gas for my hungry gas-guzzlin’ car, I bought the supreme car wash for $10 with purchase, directly at the pump.  Driving up to the car wash to enter the code, I noticed the receipt said $11.  But I just bought $67 in gas, so I’m pretty sure I had passed the threshold to get a $1 discount.  Resolving to remember to go to the cashier after the car wash, I relaxed.

As expected, the clerk looked at my receipt and genially gave me a dollar.  She wanted to keep my receipt, saying she had told the manager “many times” and that he hadn’t fixed it, but I said, “no, I need to write down the totals for banking.”

After going home, I felt unsatisfied.  I had received a refund in all legitimacy, but what if I hadn’t looked closely at the receipt?  I would have unknowingly overpaid, chalking it up to gas totals that are always different; and although a dollar is not a big deal, a dollar per person times how many car washes per day times how many days or weeks this has been going on, seems to point to an unethical businessman who is skimming off the top.  I started to wonder if the manager didn’t know how to change the settings, but they change the programming for a tenth of a cent every time the cost of a gallon changes, at least once a week.  No excuse there.

The more I thought about it, the angrier I became – for all of us (aka the underdog).

So I did it.  I brought attention to myself, for the good of the many.  I sent Shell an email detailing the transaction and my conversation with the clerk.  I asked them to fix it asap and I promised to check in a few days by going to get another car wash with gas purchase.  And if it wasn’t fixed, I promised to contact the local news media.

Do I think this is big business trying to skim off the top of every individual to increase their corporate profits?  No.  I think it is more likely an unethical local franchise owner who thinks he’s found a nice little way to get some extra unnoticed profit for himself.  And at only $1 per customer, who’s gonna make a splash?

I am.

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4 thoughts on “Shelling Out

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  1. In some places where there are sales taxes in the precis, the local law requires that you be given a receipt and there is a problem if that doesn’t happen. Here in many places in Washington State I have asked for receipts and the folks are surprised. The hardest place to get on is at the snack bar of a movie theater. The next hardest was in fast-food places, but now I notice I end up with a receipt on my tray without asking. (Since local sales taxes are once again tax deductable, that may have triggered the change.)I have selfish reasons though. One is for expense reports (I am one of those accurate to the penney guys) and non-reimbursed business expenses. But I also like to keep track of all expenses , personal and business, and understand what I do with the cash that I take out of the bank from time to time. It is a habit with me, like fastening my seat belt. I find it useful, especially in the current period of belt-tightening. I even always take bus transfers because I write the fare on them and put them in my stash of receipts until I enter the expenses into my personal finance software (Microsoft Money for a long time, though recent improvements have been getting in my way).

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    1. All fair points Dennis. I guess you are right, part of the aesnwr does come down to personal behavior. I only really track my business expenses to that degree, and I make a point of never claiming anything that I would have bought if I were on my personal time. If eating an Orange Muffin is something that I would have done had I been heading to the coffee stand around the corner from home while on my personal time then I can’t justify that as a business expense when I’m traveling overseas. That is beside the point though. Given your personal desire to track all expenses wouldn’t you be better off with some form of electronic cash? The transaction should be shipped straight to your online (maybe cloud based) expenses system . instead of clicking cash or credit you might choose business or personal, ensuring that the transaction is journaled correctly. For those that you label business, it would make sense to be able to apply an account code while at the point of sale, ensuring that the expense is charged back to the right one of your clients.Cash, receipts, manual payment, risk of theft and corruption, retyping expenses they all feel like processes that are ready for a rethink to me? We have a single global network, a well understood set of application and web standards .

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