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Would You Have Gone Back and Paid For It?

by J. Money on Friday, November 16, 2012

good vs evil

You know those times when you REALLY want to be bad and disregard that little angel sitting there on your shoulders? But you know for a fact the Big Man upstairs would give you one of those disappointed-like head shakes if you did? Well, Mrs. BudgetsAreSexy just had one such situation, and I believe she made the right decision even though it pained her to do so ;)

The situation: We were out shopping at TJ Maxx for some birthday gifts yesterday, and right before she went to check out I found an AWESOME hoodie that at the last minute asked if she could throw in her cart and buy for me (she was in line, but I wasn’t). She gladly accepted it, and then mentioned it could be a future Christmas gift to me to look forward to later :) Which is great ‘cuz I ALWAYS forget when we do stuff like that, and then get re-excited again when I go to open it later! Haha…

So she plops it in her cart, moves right on up to the check-out, and 3 minutes later we’re out the door and putting everything into the car we  just picked up. And that’s where the dilemma pops up:

The cashier forgot to ring her up for the $20 hoodie!

Which meant either: A) Woohoo! Their loss = our gain! or B) Dammit – Now I have to go all the way back there, wait in line, and then pay for the stupid thing and rush right back before the baby starts crying again! They just caused us more headache :(

Now, I already told you what she ended up doing in the end (she went back and then paid for it), but for a few seconds there we had a nice little debate :) It wasn’t so much whether or not it was the right thing to do or not – we both agreed it was – but we were trying to figure out if it was WORTH even going through the trouble or not? Which is when I then found out Mrs. BudgetsAreSexy had her own little rule in cases like these. Maybe you guys do too?

Here’s what she tries to do:

“If we’re still in the parking lot, I’ll go back and pay for the thing no matter what the cost – even if it’s only a dollar. If we’re already in the car though, or I don’t notice it until we’re already home, then it has to be at least $30 in that case for me to go back and mess with it.”

Haha… So pretty much a mostly Good Samaritan ;) And honestly, as much as I wish I could say I’d be better myself, I also fall along pretty similar to those guidelines there. Only maybe I’d drive back if the item was $10 or $20 instead of $30, not that the money should matter all the way anyways – technically it would still be stealing, right? Or does that fall into that gray area since there was no intent involved? (Any lawyers out there? :))

Another thought that usually crosses our minds? –> “Could the cashier get fired for this?” Yeah it sucks for a company to lose product and all that stuff, but on a more direct and personal level would be the fate of that cashier that just slipped up. If we all knew they’d get let go or reprimanded in  severe way, that alone would probably change our actions too, eh? Though I guess in this specific case there’s no way to even tie it back to them anyways since it never got documented through *anyone’s* hands, but still…

At any rate, I thought it would make for a good blog post today and promptly told the Mrs. so too after she had made her decision ;) I said it was a good thing she went back and paid that money or else all my blog readers would know she didn’t! Haha…

Speaking of which… How would you have handled the situation here? Anyone deal with this recently too? Do you have your own set of rules yourself? I know it’s always easier to do the “right thing” when you’re not smack dab in the middle of things, but do your best to put yourself in the situation here and let us know what you think you’d do. Maybe it’ll help you decide quicker if it ever happens to you in the future? I know I always need the extra reminders! ;)

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PS: Here’s another similar post we did a while back too if you like this kinda stuff: The $20 Discount that Shouldn’t Have Been. Happy Friday!

Photo credit: allyaubry


{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Econowiser November 16, 2012 at 6:10 am

I would have gone back as well.

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2 Nick November 16, 2012 at 6:46 am

I’ve had this happened to me twice actually. The first time my family and I were getting decorations and gifts for Christmas at Ames..we were in line FOREVER. When we were finally putting our items in the car we realized the cashier forgot to ring up some ribbon (maybe 3 bucks at most) for the tree. I couldn’t bring myself to put “stolen” ribbon on a Christmas tree of all things so I just ran it back in the store (was not going to stand in that long line again). Second time was at Footlocker where they have those buy 5 shirts for $25 deals. I THOUGHT I had grabbed 5 shirts, but when I got home I had 6. WHOOPS! I put it to the side with the intention of taking it back, but it never happened. I think I’m pretty comfy with your wife’s rule on this one lol.

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3 Lance @ Money Life and More November 16, 2012 at 7:23 am

I would have gone back. I have been at walmart before and noticed they didn’t ring something up when I got home. If I’m home I normally won’t go back to make it right. I think it is their responsibility and if it greatly inconveniences me I’m not too worried about it. Sad, but true, the companies budget for this stuff and you pay for it in the prices.

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4 moneysavingmama November 16, 2012 at 7:40 am

This actually has happened to me on several occasions and I typically follow the same rule. There have been so many times at target where things are not ringing up and I am asked how much the item was, and this really drives me nuts. 1, I am giving the price to the best of my knowledge (which I hope is right, but can also be more than the item is!) 2, I wish the employees would just try to find out. yes it takes more work, but it would make me feel better overall.

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5 Pauline November 16, 2012 at 8:10 am

My baby brother always left the stores with something in his hands when we had him in a stroller, and sometimes we realized after leaving the store. We would go back and give the thing back. In this case I don’t think I would have taken the extra trouble since the error was theirs.

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6 Fern November 16, 2012 at 8:53 am

I’ve gone back with items, even after getting home and realizing that it rang up at the wrong price. Of course, MY ‘baby’ was with me and he was like 7. So it was a Teachable Moment.

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7 Nate St. Pierre November 16, 2012 at 9:03 am

I think I fall somewhere along Mrs. Budget’s rules, too. I’m always honest with everything, but some things are quite small in the grand scheme of things, and if there’s no intent there, it’s not actually stealing, because you didn’t mean to do it – it’s just an accident, same as if someone had spilled coffee on the hoodie, and they had to pull it off the rack for sale, know what I mean? Loss does occur in any retail store – it’s built into the business model.

So yes, if I’m close, I’ll do it no matter how cheap it is. If I’m already done and gone, and it’s an inexpensive item, such is life.

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8 terri November 16, 2012 at 9:08 am

I once accidentally conned a checkout operator – I was buying a bottle of wine with a £20 note and while he was getting my change I asked if Bombay Sapphire Gin was blue or if it was just the bottle – out of genuine curiosity (it’s just the bottle by the by). He got a little bit flustered, and when I got home I realised he’d given me my £20 back along with the change… I wasn’t the richest of students at the time, and it broke my heart to bring it back but I did. The shop it happened in docks the employees wages if the till is under so it would have been stealing from him personally if I hadn’t!

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9 Laura Brown November 16, 2012 at 9:10 am

I actually had something similar happen at Claire’s – and I tried to pay for it, but the cashier wouldn’t let me! I had purchased 2 pairs of earrings, but was only rung up for one, and noticed when I got home. I called the store to let them know, and her words to me were “our loss – your gain.” Sometimes, depending on the item, I’ve had stores give it to us, as we were honest and there was no intent to steal. Sometimes, we just return it, and other times we pay for it. We are always honest to the best of our ability. Once, hubby broke a tea cup at an antiques mall, and we weren’t charged. That was a savings of $8! We then spent about $50 on other stuff, so it all worked out in the end.

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10 J. Money November 16, 2012 at 9:34 am

We’ve got a lot of honest people out there! :)

@Econowiser – It’s def. hard sometimes, but it feels good when it’s all over :)
@Nick – I wouldn’t have waited on line again either! But probably wouldn’t have been smart enough to just go back and drop it off instead of saying “oh well” and kept going, haha… I like your route better :)
@Lance @ Money Life and More – I think a lot of people feel that way, and honestly I don’t blame them. Or me when I do that, haha… at least with smaller items.
@moneysavingmama – I feel like Target is one of the top culprits with this stuff as it happens to us frequently there too, just as much as TJ Maxx… Though they’re also the top two stores we really only shop at, haha…
@Pauline – Ohhhh I bet that DOES happen all the time! Something for us to watch out for then when little Money starts turning into bigger Money ;)
@Fern – I like that! I wonder how *different* we act when we’re around our friends or children when this stuff happens? Like if the chances raises or goes down? Would be a cool research project/study :)
@Nate St. Pierre – Remember that time you spilled coffee all over MY hoodie? My brand new, WHITE, one?? Man I was gonna pop you one, haha… Who tosses half-full coffee up in the air?? :)
@terri – Oh wow well GREAT job in doing that!! I bet they totally appreciated it :) And now we all know about the blue bottle! Haha… (I had wondered that myself actually)
@Laura Brown – How cool! I’ve never heard of that before, haha, but awesome :) Just gives you even more motivation to keep being honest and doing the right thing! Thanks so much for stopping by.

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11 Jim November 16, 2012 at 9:39 am

Babies really change the decision dynamic huh? This happened to us once, we had our son in his car seat in the grocery store and gave him an avocado to play with. Well he got bored, it fell to his side, and the dark green color of the avocado matched his seat. We didn’t even notice until we got home and my wife thought she forgot to get avocado… it wasn’t until we took him out of the car seat that we realized our little partner in crime shoplifted it. :)

We didn’t go back to pay for it but my wife mentioned it on a subsequent grocery store visit and the manager said not to worry about it… but added that we shouldn’t be teaching our little guy to steal. hahaha

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12 slug | sunkcostsareirrelevant.com November 16, 2012 at 9:44 am

So….the most important thing is that you take the receipt, put it in your pocket, and not look at it until you get home.

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13 Travis @DebtChronicles November 16, 2012 at 9:59 am

Yeah, I definitely would have gone back. One time I walked out of Walmart, got in the van and noticed I forgot to ring up a can of tuna (I use the self checkout lane). I marched right back in and went back through the line and paid for it. It did require have a rather interesting conversation with the greeter as to why I was carrying a can of tuna BACK into the store though…..

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14 Holly@ClubThrifty November 16, 2012 at 10:04 am

If I realized it in the store or parking lot then I would definitely go in and pay for it. However, if I got home then I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t drive my ass back to the store to fix their mistake!

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15 David Hunter November 16, 2012 at 10:09 am

Mr. and Mrs. J. Money for president!

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16 Bonnie November 16, 2012 at 10:38 am

The other day I was at a Culver’s drive-thru when the very nice teenager at the window gave me $5 too much in change. My 18 month old was in the car fussing, so I was distracted. I knew the change wasn’t right, but couldn’t figure out how! I mentioned it right away, more out of confusion than anything else. Between the two of us, we figured it out and I gave him the extra $ back. He was very grateful and I got the impression that he would have been out that $. I left feeling great that I did the right thing, even if it was mostly by accident!

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17 Nate St. Pierre November 16, 2012 at 10:46 am

Oh, I had forgotten I threw that cup to you, hahaha – my bad.

Not like you didn’t ruin a few yourself during the Love Drop year… ;)

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18 Budget & the Beach November 16, 2012 at 11:04 am

Yes, I had this happen the other day. I went to rite aid to purchase a prescription and a couple small items. I knew the price of all the items, so when the totally came up it was $15 short of where it should be. I didn’t want to look at the receipt until I left the store, then when I got out I noticed that the prescription rang up as $0. I would feel so guilty and worry about karma, so I went back in and told them that it didn’t ring up. They told me under the new Obama care plane the prescription was now free! Yes!

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19 Joe @ Retire By 40 November 16, 2012 at 11:16 am

A couple of weeks ago, my kid grabbed an orange at the grocery store and we forgot to give it to the clerk to ring up. I didn’t go back and pay. :(
Since then I made sure to let him hand his orange/apple to the clerk first at the check out line though.

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20 savvyfinanciallatina November 16, 2012 at 11:48 am

This sometimes happens when we are refilling our 5 gallon bottle. They forget to charge it, and I didn’t even realize it until way later. If it’s not a lot of money like less than $5, I don’t bother. Usually because I’m home by the time I realize it. It takes more time to go through to customer service, then anything. However, if they give me the wrong change, etc. I always go back even if it’s a dollar. This doesn’t happen very often because I rarely pay with cash.

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21 Skint in the City November 16, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Hmm, a pertinent one for me today, j Money cos yesterday I left a cafe without paying and had to go back today to do so! Not the cashier’s fault at all you see, but mine. Was meeting a friend with his new baby. I had baby Skint with me and what with all the goo-ing over them, then the rush home for a feed we left without going up to the counter to pay our bill. Just coffee and cake, but I realised late last night what I’d done and had to go down the road to the cafe and sheepishly make amends this lunchtime! AND buy another slice of cake too – that’s what going back there does – puts you right back in the line of temptation!

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22 Finanical Black Sheep November 16, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Technically, it is stealing if it left the building in your hands, and there was no intent to pay for it. Not saying you were stealing, but it is what it is.

I had a really cool boss and still keep in touch with her. She had this rule that if something broke, she wouldn’t charge anyone for it, not even employees. She had a home décor shop with lots of ornaments, and other breakables. I always scared customers when I picked stuff for them and wasn’t afraid to carry 2 ornaments on each finger and other stuff in my arms. The whole time, I never actually dropped anything. It must have been because I knew I could.

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23 Christa November 16, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Honestly, with baby in tow, I would have ran the item back and handed it to an employee to return to the shelf. But my baby wouldn’t handle a return visit well. If it was an item I really needed, though, I like your wife’s guideline!

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24 Evan November 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I am not sure if I would have gone back – would have been a debate for me. Not because of the money but b/c of the pain in the ass factor you mentioned. No matter what I always tell a cashier if he or she gave me wrong change b/c I would hate if an extra $20 in my pocket caused them their job

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25 J C November 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm

This has actually happened to me. We were in PA at a Nike outlet (pit stop from a road trip)and we decided to take an item out in the last minute. We drove 6 hours home when we realized that the cashier gave us the item accidently. Normally, I would have gone back but…. we weren’t going to drive back 6 hours to return $10 pair of shorts

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26 jesse.anne.o November 16, 2012 at 3:18 pm

This happened to me twice that I can remember. Both times I didn’t bring it back due to issues with the cashier – but different issues each time.

1) At Macy’s getting a holiday gift (slippers – by request) my AWESOMELY sweet cashier who ruled the school made a mistake and didn’t charge me for a $25 item. He was SO nice that I was afraid if I went back, he would get in trouble. I was already home after an hour subway trip when I noticed it on the receipt.

2) Last week when we were in a local food shop, we got yelled at by a cashier for waiting in the wrong spot for the line and then ended up with the same cashier. As she was ringing us up, she had her boss behind her and I thought she missed a bag of cashews I had so I asked her if she’d gotten them before I took them off the counter and she told me she had. When we looked at the receipt later not only did she not ring up the cashews but also missed another item. Even though we were right outside the store, she was such a royal B that we didn’t bother going back because we didn’t want to deal with her.

I have definitely pointed out items I think the cashier didn’t scan while on line though!

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27 jesse.anne.o November 16, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Also this comment:

“So….the most important thing is that you take the receipt, put it in your pocket, and not look at it until you get home.”

…can backfire! I was just OVERcharged $50 and had to make a separate trip to get it back. I wish I realized at the time. That’s happened to me a bunch at the food coop, too, but this time it was at a clothing store.

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28 Cat November 16, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Something similar happened to me and a few friends last week. We were out at dinner, and our check was 150 dollars. We were splitting it on two cards. The lady took the two cards, put 75 on one and 14 dollars on the other. We told her the mis-hap, she apologized, ran it again, and did the same thing twice! Then we sat there and debated what to do. I mean she messed up once, then we honestly told her she wouldn’t get half the check, and she messed it up again.

In the end, we told her, and the authorized both cards for the 75 dollars again and thanked us very much for our honesty. I’m sure we would have loved to get a 50% discount, but I think in the end we all felt better being honest.

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29 Donna Freedman November 16, 2012 at 7:32 pm

I’d have gone back in. If I haven’t paid for it, it isn’t mine.

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30 Phyllis November 17, 2012 at 11:22 am

I went to Safeway, paid for my groceries and as I was taking the bags out of the cart I found ONE onion just lying there. Checked my receipt and I had not paid for it. I went back, got in line again and paid for it. The cashier said, “you came all the way back in here to pay for one onion”. Yes I did because I would have been afraid to eat it if I had not paid for it.

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31 CJ :) November 17, 2012 at 1:26 pm

My dad is always sitting on my shoulder in cases like this. I go back if I’m still there and call if I’ve made it all the way home. On the few occasions I have just let it go I always felt so guilty – it isn’t worth it for me.

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32 C The Writer November 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Yeah…this isn’t even a dilemma to me, it’s common decency to pay for something you took from a store, even if the cashier made a mistake.

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33 Eva Smith November 17, 2012 at 5:43 pm

I am fascinated that this is a debate at all. I don’t think there are any shades of grey for stealing. I TOTALLY understand having the baby throwing a wrench into everything, but I think the solution if you need to go, is to call the store and let them know. Then, bring it back another day.

Well, maybe the debate isn’t if it stealing or not, but when is it okay to steal? I can be swayed by bread for your starving children, but hoodies for well clothed grown ups……. Nah ;)

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34 Debra K November 18, 2012 at 12:00 am

I want to set the example for my kids and be able to live with myself, so I would (and have) always gone back. There was one time I called about an error (the store was about 45 minutes away, so I wanted to pay over the phone if I could) and was told that I could keep the item because it was their mistake. It was a $10 item (or less). But that didn’t justify not doing anything in my mind.

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35 J. Money November 18, 2012 at 9:18 pm

@Jim – HAH! I guarantee our little one will do the same in no time – he’s just learned to grab things and put ‘em in his mouth! It’s all very exciting stuff :)
@slug | sunkcostsareirrelevant.com – Yes, that is another way of doing things, haha… but you’ve gotta check it just in case there are any mistakes! Like, NOT in your favor ;)
@Travis @DebtChronicles – That’s because you’re a gentlemen and a scholar :) I don’t doubt it for a second.
@Holly@ClubThrifty – You’re def. right that it’s *their* mistake in these cases. Makes you wonder how many OTHER times they did the same thing, right?
@David Hunter – Less than 4 years to go!
@Bonnie – Awww, that wasn’t by accident – you brough it up when you realized something was awry! Very very good job indeed, your 18 mo. old would approve if he/she could talk :) Pretty soon!
@Nate St. Pierre – Yes, but that was my BRAND NEW one and you laughed when it happened! Jerk :)
@Budget & the Beach – What? Really??? That is awesome!! I didn’t realize that stuff went into affect yet?
@Joe @ Retire By 40 – I know, I feel like that would be way too small for me to go back too. Maybe I’d donate money to kinda make up for it or something the next time I got a chance? Do you think that would make it better? Haha…
@savvyfinanciallatina – Huh. That’s interesting that your decision changes when it’s an object vs cash. I guess maybe cuz cash is more noticable when cashiers go to run the numbers so you don’t want anyone to get in trouble?
@Skint in the City – Haha, good for you my friend :) I’m surprised they actually didn’t try and chase you down or anything in the parking lot! Guess it took them a while to realize too.
@Financial Black Sheep – That’s a nice rule to have :)
@Christa – Yeah, mixing in a baby def. complicates certain things!
@Evan – Exactly, that’s what I’d feel the most horrible about too :(
@J C – Now THAT would have been something, haha… I don’t blame you at all :)
@jesse.anne.o – That DEF changes the dynamic for sure. When they’re rude and mess up like that, it makes it 10x harder to do the right thing. I probably wouldn’t have either in your case, but not cuz she was a B, but because you already brought it up once and she said it was all good… Unless it was a huge freakin’ number, I’d have kept on going too. (And YES! That was my fear too about not checking receipts – always smart to do so just so YOU’RE not screwed in any of these cases!)
@Cat – That is tough!! Pretty similar to Jesse Anne’s situation up there, only my rule of it being a “big” number would have kicked in and gotten me to speak up too there :) But after a 3rd time? I’d be too annoyed, haha…
@Donna Freedman – That is the truth!
@Phyllis – Awwww, good for you :) I thought you were gonna say you just walked it back in and put it back. But I guess you really needed it!
@CJ :) – I like the calling idea actually – that’s a nice way to do it. And then maybe you can rectify the next time you’re at the store at your convenience rather than coming back right away?
@C The Writer – Agreed! Only I still fail when put in the situations sometimes :(
@Eva Smith – Haha… yes, stealing hoodies is not so good ;) I do like the calling idea though like CJ above just mentioned too – hadn’t even thought of that route before.
@Debra K – That was nice of the store!

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36 Mercedes November 19, 2012 at 8:47 am

I’m in the “if I make it home before realizing it, i probably wont go back” school of thought. Although I don’t think this has ever happened to me (and if it did, I didn’t notice it) I do know that I have gone back in a hand full of times after walking out the door and realizing in the parking lot that something wasn’t right. (although I usually catch it at the register because I always mentally tally my purchases as I’m walking through the store so I know what my final bill may be, which is how I’ve caught them a few times ringing something up incorrectly for a higher price)

I don’t think there is any way that a cashier would get in trouble/fired for this because there is no way that they would know how it happened. Most stores get audited once, maybe twice a year, and that is when they find out how much merchandise has been “lost”. (mostly by thieves, not through accidentally not scanning something) and they have that contingency built in to the store budget.

Of course, if this associate was known for not scanning things they may have loss prevention looking at them and watching video feeds of them ringing up merchandise and see that they didn’t scan your hoodie. But that wouldn’t be your fault for them losing their job, but their own doing by trying to scam the system.

In the end, good for your wife (and you) for being honest and going back in. I’m sure many other people may not have been quite as honest!

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37 Anne @ Unique Gifter November 19, 2012 at 10:20 am

I once bought a lunch box thing for my spouse, my spouse didn’t want it and I went to return it. Turns out, they never charged me for it in the first place. The really weird part was they absolutely refused to take it back. I’m standing there telling them that it was missed when I paid, that I don’t want it, it’s missing from their inventory and they *will not* take it back! I’m sure the thrift store appreciated it, new with all the tags and whatnot!

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38 J. Money November 19, 2012 at 5:32 pm

@Mercedes – Yeah, I’m sure there are cashiers that DEF do it on purpose too like with their friends or family or something. A quick way to get fired!
@Anne @ Unique Gifter – HAH! Really? I bet it was too much paperwork for them or something… some lucky thrifter will now come across it! :)

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