Last week I went into a local Subway shop in San Juan. I looked at the promotional posters offering specials, delicious piping hot bubbling cheese, big big big meatballs and fresh fresh toppings. I pondered my choices. Whatever should I get?
Oh will you look at that, they have a special of the day. $2.99 – cool. What’s today’s special? Roast beef. Excellent. I love roast beef. "I’ll have one of those toasted on wheat."
"What chips would you like," The woman asked.
"I’m okay. No thanks." I didn’t need the chips and I wanted the cheapo sandwich and that was it. I love being a cheap bastard. Just say NO to the combos folks. Just say NO!
As she rung me up she asked me what drink I wanted. Again I informed her that I would not be requiring a combo at this time. She looked puzzled.
"Honey-child (actually she said, mi amor, but honey child is the best translation for the tone… one of sweet condescension), it already comes in combo."
"Oh," I paused, trying to absorb my good fortune. For a second, my shoulder devil had me convinced that I should take the chips and drink and run – run like the wind, but I took a breath and remembered… "Um, are you sure. I thought $2.99 was just for a sandwich. That’s a pretty good deal, maybe too good. Are you sure?"
"Yes, everything is in combo."
"Um, okay. I’ll take sour cream and onion (I like sour cream and onion – did I ever tell you that?)."
I stepped into the hot morning sun, beaming the smile of a cat that had swallowed the canary. I shall frequent this establishment regularly. Cue Mr. Burns – excellent.
So, it was today, the day that I shall have my beautiful cheap sandwich combo. I made plans to fetch my $2.99 lunch at the fine Subway establishment and fairly danced through the front door. Such was my anticipation of hearty roast beef, diet cola, and sour cream chips for myself and PJ.
"That will be $9.50," the nice lady informed me.
Thinking that surely she had erred as to the total, I inquired, "Are you sure? The sign clearly says $2.99."
"But that’s just for the sandwich," she insisted.
I smiled. "You remember me right?" She nodded. "We had this discussion last week. You told me that the $2.99 price was a combo price, NOT a sandwich price."
"Um, well there was another special we were running that just finished."
"Oh, well I didn’t see a sign," I politely countered.
"Well, we never actually put them up."
"Oh…" I paused, biting my lip. "So did you, in fact actually have any offer at all?"
"No sir, I was deliberately wasting your time."
Now that last part was fictitious, a homage to the classic phlegmatic Monty Python Cheese Shop. The true ending consisted of her returning the chips that she had fetched for me, re-stacking the paper cups, and charging me $5.98. I tell this story to you today to emphasize the point that in Puerto Rico, there is a singular true-ism.
There are rules, but they are not posted.
And it is in little moments like these when rules are irregularly applied and responsibility sidestepped, that the cycle that results in lack of social trust gets embedded deeper and deeper into the psyche.
To this woman, acknowledging a mistake was tantamount to lessening her assumed position of power, so she does not accept a mistake and rather tries to reaffirm her position of power by explaining that only she knows when the specials really apply and how. Unfortunately she does not see that her creation of a position of power directly feeds into robbing trust and empowerment to the clients she is supposed to serve and whose trust and patronage she is employed to garner.
How come you’re so much smarter than I am? 🙂
Jim said: “How come you’re so much smarter than I am? :)”
It’s easy, Jim. She’s a woman. 🙂
We have a name for this at my job … it happens all too frequently: “the power of the powerless”.
yup, the strength of the office of the president is nothing comparied to the might wielded by a desk clerk named Ruth.
Nice to hear from you Smecky. Ooo, I see you posted something in the http://lattemanifesto.casablog.com/ cool