Remember the milk

24 March 2010

On the way back from work I pop into the convenience store by the bus stop, before I run out of milk for the hot chocolate.

During the snow, they were down to two four-pinters of semi-skimmed, which was the first time I thought, ‘Actually, this isn’t a normal winter, is it?’ Except that their supply chain has been as scanty ever since.

I hand over a £5 note and then I tip the change into my purse. It comes as four coins, all the same diameter: one bicoloured £2, one silver and two copper.

I know convenience stores mark goods up so that it’s profitable to open late, but £2-and-something for two pints of milk? I ask for the receipt and tell the shop assistant she’s given the wrong change.

‘I don’t even have that much in my purse,’ I say.

She points to an £1 coin left over from this morning. I empty my purse and pull out the two large coins plus at least 30p in 1s and 2s. There’s nothing that would even add up to the £4-and-shrapnel change unless she’d given me an entire bag of coppers.

‘We’ll have to check it on the camera,’ she says. She asks the young man on the other till to go to the manager’s office and check the tape.

The young man comes back. He nods at the assistant. She opens the till and hands me £2. She says, ‘Sorry.’

And I say, ‘Sorry.’

Yes, I say ‘Sorry’. Apparently I really am English enough to apologise for being given the wrong change, or rather, for exposing a fellow human being to social embarrassment instead of taking the economic hit of pretending nothing ever happened…


10 Responses to “Remember the milk”

  1. Karen Gowen Says:

    Great story! It is so British. I felt like I was watching the BBC, all those coppers and pounds. But you don’t need to be British to say thank you for the silliest things. I do it too. Like when a cop gives me a ticket. “Thank you,” I say. Or when someone calls to give me bad news. “Ok, thank you. Goodbye.” Then I think, Did I just say thank you? Sometimes my thank yous really mean, “Go away now.”

  2. Old Kitty Says:


    The cheeky &%^^%$%$$$$ cow!!! Oh no, no, no, no, no!!! What?!?!

    Oh so Outraged from Bishop’s Stortford here!!!

    But well done you for sticking to your guns and not be intimidated. And for being oh so English and fighting the injustice in such a calm and lovely way! Good for you!!!


    Take care

  3. @ Karen – It would be even better if I were Canadian – I could have had it happen to me with coins called loonies and toonies!

    A lot of it is just saying something because the interaction needs *some* kind of word to be said, idn’t it…? (There’s a name for this but it’s on the tip of my tongue….)

    @ Old Kitty – the thing that does make it a bit embarrassing is I think the manager might actually be her! Which means I’ll almost certainly see her at least once a week, I have to go in there all the time…. 🙂

    The camera part was news to me though – we just had to get the manager to come and do a till check when I worked in a shop!

  4. AlexJ Says:

    Odd response, but you did take the high road I guess!

  5. Old Kitty Says:

    Awwwww hampshireflyer!

    I just read your comment about my floppy disk thing – thank you so much for offering. But as I calmed down from my MASSIVE HISSY FIT yesterday LOL! I realised that I had also password protected that floppy. I must have been so crazy and so silly three years ago! Actually to be honest I was in coupledom then and I didn’t really want “the other ex-half” to stumble across it. You can see why that relationship was not meant to be!

    But thank you, thank you, thank you for offering to read the floppy!

    Take care

  6. I love it. It is so English to say I’m sorry for something when you have clearly been wronged. Could only happen in the UK. Here, they think I’m quite extraordinary for the number of times I say please.

  7. Hi there and welcome, or should that be dobro došli!

    I routinely tie myself up in knots trying to express myself with English politeness formulas in east European languages… then again I tie myself up in knots with them in English too…. 🙂

  8. B. Miller Says:

    Don’t feel bad. Here in the Southern states of the US, we’re so polite we hold the door open for bank robbers!

  9. I’m glad that you stood up for yourself. Between being British and a woman, of course you said you were sorry. I read somewhere that woman apologize much more than men. I do it all the time!

  10. Bernita Says:

    I would have said “I’m sorry too,” and added “That’s alright.”
    My only excuse is that I’m Canadian.
    But what is one supposed to do? Make a scene?

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