Sunday, May 9, 2010

Count with Me

I am now notorious.

I went shopping at my local pharmacy and the cashier that checked out my items said "I know you" with a laugh. Well, I remember her as well. :)

A few weeks ago, I shopped at the said pharmacy with a rain cheque. Actually, since the given shop almost always runs out of sale items by the time I go shopping on Sunday, I typically have rain cheques when they ring up my purchases.

However, the rain cheque that day was unusual. Rather than stating a sale price, the rain cheque was for 40% of the regular price. I had the same cashier as I did today, and she said, "Oh, I'm not good with math". She called the assistant manager. While we were waiting, I said to her, "Look, 10% of $21.99 is $2.19, right? So $2.19 x 4 = $8.76". She said, no that wasn't right.

By then, the assistant manager arrived. I went through my calculations again with her. She said, no, it should be something like $18. When I started doing my calculation yet again, the cashier decided they should call one of the guys from the back. "_____ is good at math", said the cashier; "_____ is real smart", said the assistant manager. They decided to call both guys to the front to assist.

Mr. Good with Math said it should be $7-ish. I started yet again chanting out loud, when Mr. Smart decided to whip out a calculator. He announced that I was right. The assistant manager then said that no, I had been saying $8.76, when the amount was $13.23.

That's when I realised: I had been stating the amount to be deducted from the full price. So I said to her "I'm sorry, I wasn't clear: I meant that we needed to subtract $8.76 from the original price". She then softened and we all made nice. We had both been right. ;)

Now the part of this whole saga that disturbed me is that these were all college-age workers. That they had gone through the New York school system and remained unable to do basic calculations in their head was, well, shocking. Maybe I'm naive, but that it should have taken 4 workers 10 minutes to calculate what to charge me is a complete disgrace. At fifteen, my very first job involved bookkeeping. And you'd better believe there were no digital devices involved: I calculated in my head or by long-hand.

To their credit, the people who work at the pharmacy are really nice. Certainly more cordial than another pharmacy on Kings Highway, which shall remain nameless. So while it's selection may not be on par with yet another pharmacy on Kings Highway, the rain cheque pharmacy remains my preferred shopping location. Why deal with snippy cashiers if you can deal with nice ones?

Still, where the 3 Rs are concerned, I think Mr. Bloomberg might want to reconsider that teacher budget cut he just announced, if my experience that Sunday is any indication. Because do we want another generation of New Yorkers who are handicapped where basic life skills are concerned? I sure hope not...


  1. This is not a comment on the budget cuts. However, there comes a time in everyone's life when one can no longer blame parents/teachers/etc for the shortcomings. Ability to do math in one's head is a skill, something that must be practiced, something a teacher cannot do for you.

  2. Dude, one of the entrance math test question in Poly was adding 1/3 and 1/4 and this is private college. In CUNY, it was converting .8 to percent...
    In Poly, engineering professors couldn't divide simple numbers without a calculator and I'm not even gonna mention CUNY.

  3. M, I must be so naive, because I thought CUNY was supposed to be an excellent school. Pretty freakin' pathetic, imho.

  4. I took math in CUNY, I think it was logic. Professor was very lazy and gave multiple choice homework and midterm and final were homework questions with answers switched around. Not only did not everyone get a 100, I think only around 5, but some actually failed!!!