PUERTO PLATA, Dominican Republic– Two Ways to Argue when Traveling, A lesson in conflict resolution
When I don’t get my way when traveling, when tossed through the rounds of some kind of costumer service system, my reaction is to become a little irate. I try to force my way towards getting what I want. This usually works reasonably well.
But this is not the only way to navigate through a situation in travel where you are standing on the precipice of being ripped off or through those situations where you try to assuage an error of your own judgment.
I was taught a new strategy today.
We went to a very large, 21st century style department store today called La Sirena in Puerto Plata. We went in search of a cheap shirt, but did find one worth wearing. We picked up a few other items.
I picked up one product that did not have a price on the shelf beneath it, but I did not think that it would be more than one dollar or two. But when going through the checkout line I saw, in a flash, that this item rang up at 250 pesos, or around seven dollars.
The cash registers in the Dominican Republic first show the price of the individual item that is scanned and then very quickly flip to the total bill which increases as the sale is added up. If you want to keep an eye on how much you are being charged for each item, you need to observe very closely.
“How much was that?” I asked the checkout clerk about the item that seemed to have rang up for far more that I thought it would.
She replied that it was 133 pesos. I assumed that I was mistaken when I saw it ring up at 250. 133 pesos was still far too much for what I bought, but I sucked it up and proceeded to pay a grocery bill that seemed far too top heavy. To make matters more dire, I unexpectedly paid out nearly all the money I had — leaving me without enough change to get back to Sosua, where we are staying.
I checked the receipt as I walked away, the item in question did cost 250 pesos.
A stupid circumstance.
My wife, Chaya, was up in the supermarket restaurant nursing Petra, and the last thing I wanted to tell her was that we had no money to get home because I found it necessary to buy us new toothbrushes and a stupid bottle of hand sanitizer.
” . . . well, at least we will have clean teeth and hands . . .”
So I walked over to the service desk, explained that I had no idea that a small bottle of hand sanitizer would cost seven dollars, and asked for a refund. She confirmed the price that I paid. I told her this was the problem. She punched some keys into a computer.
I did not think this would be a major problem. I thought that I would just be given my money back — I had only walked from the cash register to the service desk with the item to be returned.
“We can give you 250 pesos of credit,” the lady told me in Spanish with a smile.
Chaya and Petra returned to my side to find me in my stupid scenario.
I told her that I just wanted the cash, not store credit. She called over a manager. I have a tendency of becoming irate when being tossed through rounds of customer service anywhere. I argued with the lady, I did not understand what the problem was — just give me the money back for the item I just paid for 60 seconds ago and I will go away!
The lady seemed reasonably angry and tried to suck me into a round of askance logic as to why I could not have my money back — “We don’t have prices on a lot of our items because you are suppose to check the price yourself on the scanners we have around the store . . . did you ask the cashier what the price was before or after she rang it up . . . there are actually two sizes for this item and the cashier told you the price of the smaller one.”
I had enough. I told Chaya to take care of it, adding quickly that I had unexpected spent all of our money, and no longer had any for our ride home.
. . . but we will have clean teeth and hands . . .
Chaya began talking to the manager politely, and she politely listened to her argument as to how I screwed up, and how the store was not responsible for my screw ups over their unexpectedly high priced items.
I became more irritated and told Chaya in English to repeat the words that I was saying to the lady in Spanish. I launched into some harsh words that I did not have a working knowledge of in Spanish, but Chaya would repeat no such things.
She, apparently, wanted to have enough money to get home.
So she listened to the manager talk her blather with a polite ear. When she finished, Chaya cocked her head to one side, gave the lady a you know this is ridiculous too kind of look, and spoke sweetly:
“Yes, but we did not know that was what we were suppose to do, we are not from around here. Could we please have our money back this one time only?”
My wife had flipped a switch.
The manager shrugged simply and said OK without hesitation.
She scribbled something on our receipt, walked over to a cash register, and told a cashier to get us out 250 pesos. The money was placed into my hand without delay.
“You get more bees with honey, Wade.”