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Rediscovering life's beer necessities

Gene Weingarten on

WASHINGTON -- I went into a local liquor store to buy some beer. It's one of those inner-city places -- clean and well-lit, but the staff works behind bulletproof glass and everyone seems a bit wary of everyone else.

As I was paying for the beer, I remembered that when I got home from my previous trip to that store and checked my receipt, I discovered they had undercharged me by about $6. So I mentioned that to the cashier and asked him to add six bucks to my bill.

This seemed to confuse him. Behind the counter, there was much conversation, some of it in broken English. They checked my credit number, checked their records. Blinks. Finally, a triumphant cry. Aha!

Yes, they informed me solemnly, there had indeed been an error. Their tone was ... apologetic. "This has never happened before," a guy assured me.

No, I said, you undercharged me. I am not angry or complaining.

But it turns out I had misunderstood what they were telling me. What they were telling me was that no one had ever come back to correct an undercharge. This was apparently unprecedented!

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Everyone was grinning now.

The owner, a pleasant, middle-aged Asian woman -- an immigrant -- pointed theatrically toward an Asian man beside her. "It his fault," she tattled.

"Well, then you'll just have to fire him," I deadpanned.

"I can't," she said, with a tragic frown. "HE MY HUSBAND."

...continued

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