I buy a lot of lettuce, but none of it is iceberg. Half the time I buy romaine and half the time it’s something else.
“Something else” is when I run into a problem.
Fifty percent of the time, the cashier asks me what kind of lettuce it is so he or she can ring up the proper price. This happens one hundred percent of the time when I buy Boston lettuce.
No cashier at my grocery store has ever heard of Boston lettuce, despite the fact that the store has stocked it for years and I’m surely not the only one buying it.
I always tell them the truth about what I’ve bought, and they ring up a price that is higher than the cost of iceberg or romaine.
But the devil on my shoulder is always tempting me to tell them it’s green leaf lettuce. I know they wouldn’t believe me if I said iceberg, but they’d ring up the cheaper green leaf lettuce without a second thought.
I don’t do it…but I think about it.
This is a singular case in the modern world. Nearly everything I buy—including produce and bagged lettuce—has a sticker on it with a barcode. The cashier never has to ask me what kind of oranges, apples, or pears I bought. He just rings them up the same way he does the cereal.
And at a farmer’s market, those guys and gals tilled the soil, planted the seeds, picked the weeds, and harvested the crop.
They damn well know what kind of lettuce I’m buying from them.
But these cashiers don’t know Boston from endive from Swiss chard, from green leaf to red leaf.
Do I have a moral obligation to tell them?
I suppose I do.
And so I do.
Then they ask me if I’d like to “round up” my bill for whatever charity they’re supporting that week. For those of you who haven’t encountered this, to “round up” means that instead of asking you for a specific donation, they just round up your bill to the nearest dollar and give the change to the charity.
So if my bill comes to $39.10 for example, they would charge me forty dollars and give ninety cents to the charity.
This sounds like a good idea, and it is—I round up far more often then I’d just straight donate an additional dollar. But sometimes, my bill comes to something like $19.99.
“Do you want to round up?”
Well, the truth is, I do round up, so I don’t have to deal with the penny. Pennies have become annoying—they fill up your change purse, or if you pay online they make the math harder when adding up bills.
So by rounding up, I’m really just passing the burden of dealing with the penny onto the charity.
Do I get to feel good about that? Like I’m helping to save the kids, or the whales, or whatever?
With one measly penny?
But not rounding up seems silly because maybe all those pennies add up.
These are my grocery store moral dilemmas.
Ultimately, I’ve solved them like this—if they ask me what kind of lettuce it is, I tell them the truth. But if they ring up the wrong (and cheaper) lettuce without asking me, I let it slide.
I compensate for this moral failing by rounding up that transaction for charity.
But if the round up is less than a nickel, I’m not allowed to feel good about myself for it.