Saturday, September 25, 2010

Money for Nothing

When you give your two teenage sons $140 in cash to pick up their back-to-school items, including a scientific calculator, you expect to get some money back.  Then again, maybe not... "ok, take my debit card with you, if for any reason that's not enough money put the balance on the debit card."  The boys proceeded off to Staples armed with cash and card.

About a half hour later, Mikey sends me a text - "good thing you gave us the card"... "why? what's the tally?"... "the calculator alone cost $120"... ouch, da pain, I say to myself.  In my mind I make a mental note to search eBay with the calculator model # for a better price. We'll return the original to Staples. The boys come home a while later and proceed to hand me $84.12 in change.  "What's this?"  "Your change" "Nice, you didn't get the calculator?"  "yea, we got it"  "Lemme see the receipt"  The total read $195.88.  The receipt also shows two debit transactions of $140 cash for $280 total.  Hmm... let's see, 280-195=85... ah, I see what happened.  "Didn't you understand something was wrong when they didn't charge the card anything?"  Jack: "Well, I didn't really think about it when she gave us the change.. Mikey: nice, huh?  Betcha never thought you'd get money back!"  Sigh... "Well, we'll probably need togo back to return the calculator anyway, I'll give them their money back then, and have them charge the card properly."  "Why would you do that?  They'll never know."  Sigh (again)...

He was right, they would never know.  It was a valid (albeit incorrect) transaction.  I would know, however.  Chance for a lesson.  "Yea, but I would know.  That's stealing.  We don't do things that way in this family."  Point taken.  Nods of understanding from the boys. Ok, so time to head back to Staples... the Manager was grateful, albeit a bit bemused.  It was comical when the Manager struggled completing the transaction, the POS software had no mechanism for handling the return of lost money.  Eventually I received two more receipts, one to back out the original transaction and another with the debit card charge.

Seems to me a flag should have gone up during the original transaction when the $140 cash was logged twice... how many companies are losing money with these entry mistakes?  Or worse yet, how easy it for an employee to run a scam like this with a friend?


  1. Great lesson, Ralph! What a confusing scenario. I can't believe the cashier handed them cash, from a debit card transaction. I can't get more than $20 extra/back when I use my debit card at the grocery store. So, did your boys slog back to Staples with you or did Dad have to handle this transaction by himself?

  2. It was quite confusing at first... I waited a day to see if a charge would show up on the card for $140... the card was never charged. The Staples clerk entered the $140 cash receipt twice... hard to protect against data entry errors... yea, Mikey went back to Staples with me - he had a couple more items to pick up!