Talking back

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In general, I try not to get into protracted discussions in the comments to my posts. This isn't because I don't care what you all have to say--I very much do. Rather, it's that I don't think people who read the blog usually come back to older posts and read the comments, so discussions in them tend to feel kind of pointless and secluded. If something catches my attention more than once, I generally try to sit on it for a while, and then, if it's still something I want to say something about, come and re-post about it.

Which is what I am doing now, because this particular something has been stuck in my craw for days.

The comments made by Randy about "racial pricing" at the Blue Hanger stores are as follows:

Watch out for racial pricing!!!! I have been to the Blue Hanger on McNeil three for four times. Shopping is hit or miss, as can be expected. What really gets me is the pricing. Yes the prices are posted but Hispanic customers get charged between .25 cents and .75 cents, where Gringos (White people) get charged full price or more. Today the cashier was very nasty when I commented about this. I got the name and number of the assistant manager and called him from the parking lot. He said they have had complaints about this before and offered to refund the amount of my purchases. I don't feel that this matter should be kept "in house". They need to lay down the law with the employees, one price for everyone. I don't mind paying the posted prices as long as the shoppers in front of me aren't getting a 75% discount based on race. (Comment edited by blog owner to remove names.)
The problem is when prices are at the cashier's discretion, I get charged the highest price. Stuffed animals are priced small medium and large. Some of them are the size of a small child. I would think that is a large. One I had that was less than 12 inches in height, but the cashier charged the large size. I have also been charged more than the posted price, and when asked, the cashier's comment was, "That's what the price is." Either they should have no posted prices and let it be completely up to the cashier and all be a guessing game or FOLLOW THE RULES. (Comment edited by blog owner to remove names.)

Here's what I think about these comments:

First, I can't say for sure if I've ever been charged differently than the person in front of me. Why? Because I never pay the slightest bit of attention to what the person in front of me is being charged. Why should I? It makes absolutely no difference to my transaction.

Secondly, I have no problem believing that the prices are different depending on who you are and who the cashier is and probably what kind of day the cashier is having. That's part and parcel of somewhere with discretionary pricing, and I personally have no problem with it. If I'm quoted a price that seems unreasonable for the item I am interested in, I always have the option to not buy that item. I use this option quite often, as do other shoppers at the Blue Hanger stores. No harm, no foul.

Third, if I did notice a disparity in pricing, my guess would be that it has much more to do with personal relationships between cashiers and customers than with race. At the Blue Hanger store, it's pretty clear that there are regular customers who know the cashiers well. Do these customers get better prices? It's likely. Am I concerned about that? Not really, I think it's just kind of the way things work. Anybody who works in retail and says they've never given a break to a friend either possesses a level of scruples that I don't or is just lying. I also think that if Randy shows the kind of attitude at the store that s/he showed in the comments here, s/he can probably expect even higher prices in the future.

Finally, say there is "racial pricing," meaning Hispanic customers regularly get lower prices at the Blue Hanger store. It's still not something I can get too worried about. Why? Because that would make it the one in a hundred, or one in a thousand, situation in which being white works against me instead of for me in this country. Until I can not only recognize the other 99 (or 999?) situations, but rally against them, I have no right to be too concerned about this one.

I was recently involved in a discussion online about "anti-Christian discrimination" in the U.S. An online friend said that she thinks that people who get used to being treated preferentially often mistake the situation for discrimination when their preferential treatment ends--i.e. they are so used to being discriminated for that they mistake equality for bigotry. I wonder if maybe that isn't the case here.

2 Comments

When I was in Mexico, my teacher asked me how much I had paid for a blouse I bought from a street vendor. When I told her, she said "Oh, man, you paid the tourist tax." It made me laugh and I really didn't mind - I was a visitor in an area where the average daily wage is about $4, so me paying a couple extra bucks for a shirt wasn't hurting me as much as it was helping them. I don't know if I would be so generous in the US though.

I think you're spot on about the removal of discrimination for someone being misinterpreted as discrimination against them. I applaud you for your open-mindedness.

On the topic of thrift shops - are you concerned about the new law Congress passed that goes into effect Feb. 10? Apparently, many thrift shop owners/operators are concerned with it's impact on their businesses.

I will be deeply saddened by the loss of any of my local thrift shops.

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