Let's Try Again...
'Three Grapes ... ?'
I witnessed something amazing this morning. I stopped at the grocery store on my way to work and felt fortunate to be only second in line at the only register open that early in the morning. The lady in front of me had only four items, including a very small bunch of grapes. She asked to pay for the grapes separately. Not unusual. Maybe she was picking them up for a friend and needed a receipt. The cashier rang up her other purchases ...less than $10 total. She swiped her card and got cash back on that purchase. I'm not sure how much cash she got back ...it was three bills and one of them was a $10 bill. The cashier reached for the bag of grapes and laid them on the scale. She said, 'No, I need you to ring them up SEPARATELY ...one grape at a time.' I'm sure my eyebrows went up, it seemed an odd request. The cashier was undaunted though and pulled the grapes out of the bag. There were three of them and they were all loose, as if she had plucked them separately from a bunch before putting them in the bag.
He put one grape on the scale. The screen read 2 cents for the purchase. The lady swiped her card, then got cash back ...another three bills, one of which was a $10 bill. Okay, now I was intrigued. The cashier placed the second grape on the scale ..again, the total was 2 cents and the lady got three bills in cash back on that purchase. She looked at me apologetically and said, 'Sorry ...just one more. This is the only way I can get all my cash off the card.' I smiled and said, 'No problem ...but how did you figure this out?' She said her mother worked at a grocery store and told her how to do it. Awkward silence and she went on about the business of swiping her card for the last grape. Dumbfounded, I was thinking to myself how ingenious people can be when they are trying to find loop holes.
My train of thought was interrupted at that point when I heard her tell the cashier, 'You can just throw those grapes away.' She had paid for and pocketed her 'cash back' on the last of the three grapes and they had served their purpose. They weren't food to her. They were a means to an end. Each grape merely represented a 2 cent surcharge that allowed her to extract 'her' cash from the food stamp card she was using to pay for them. Is anyone else shaking their head?
Food stamps in Texas are distributed in the form of a debit card and only work for certain purchases. If you buy something that is not an approved item, you have to pay cash for it. Why in the world should 'cash back' be an option on a food stamp card? How is that appropriate?
I could not see the denomination of all the bills the lady got back today. But I could see that one of them was a $10 bill each time. She got three bills back in cash on four separate purchases. Assuming the other two bills each time were only $5 bills, she just 'cashed' $80 worth of food stamps. What if each of the bills I couldn't see were $10 bills ...or $20 bills? The lady in the line in front of me this morning purchased less than $10 of actual food, and left the store with somewhere between $80 and $200 in 'cash back' on her $10 purchase. Adding insult to injury, she told the cashier to throw the grapes away!
Again, I ask, is anyone else shaking their head?