Staff column: The Jumbo Jim discount card syndrome
It was typical of walking into any convenience store. The place was quiet, unusually so for a store in the middle of the Salt Lake Valley during the morning rush. I thought I had caught it just right.
I walked to the back of the store and poured myself a cop of coffee into one of those styrofoam coffee cups, added a bunch of suger, stirred it up, and put a lid on it. While doing these few little tasks a truck load of cars had pulled up out front and people were swarming through the store. I remembered my years working retail; that's the way it always was - a big rush, then a quiet period.
I nearly ran up to the checkout counter so that I could beat the crowd. I showed the checker the coffee and she started to ring it up.
"Do you have a Jumbo Jim Super Discount Card?" she asked me.
"No, I have never been in one of these stores before and don't live here so I don't need one," I said.
"Well you're here now so you should apply for one," she said as she slapped a four page form that looked like something from the DMV for me to fill out. "Just fill this out and I can give you a discount."
I looked behind me and five people were standing there with drinks and breakfast sandwiches in their hands.
"I really don't need one," I said again.
"Okay," she said kind of irritated that I wouldn't fill out the form. She started in on the cash register. "You owe me a $1.11."
"But it said back there the coffee is a buck a cup," I said. "With six cents for the governor, how do you come up with $1.11?"
"Let's see," she said as she looked at the receipt and handed it to me. "There's a dollar for the coffee, six cents state sales tax and the Jumbo Jim's infrequent customer charge at a nickle. That comes to $1.11."
"I don't understand," I said. "You mean I have to pay you more because I haven't come in here before?"
"Hey, you're the one that told me that," she said. "If you fill out that form I can give you your nickle back and two cents more for the Jumbo Jim Super Discount. We only do that for regular customers."
I had never heard of such a thing. I turned around to look at the line behind me. Now it was 10 people long and they were looking impatient.
She shoved the form at me again and said, "Here fill this out."
"This is just wrong," I said. I heard the guy just behind me groan as he held a bright pink card in his hand.
"Look lady let him use my card," he said as he stood with a pair of identical eight something look alikes. "I just want to get my two kids to school."
"Can't do that," she said. "The cards are non-transferable. He will just have to fill out the form."
"Okay, okay," I said as I looked at the line that had now grown to 12 people long. I also noticed that we had been talking about this so long that the guy behind the man with two kids was leaning against the counter where the donuts were, and cobwebs were starting for form between his arm next to the chocolate donut holes and the glass case. "Just check these other people out so they can get going."
"I can't do that because you can't apply for the card retroactively for a discount," she said. "To get your seven cents you need to fill it out right now before we close out the sale. Oh and along with the form I need three forms of ID, your social security card, a birth certificate and a current electric bill to prove place of residence."
I was wondering if the place was a business or was being run by Congress. The line behind me had grown to 15 people.
"Look we are holding up all these people," I said. "There's another cash register. Can't someone else check?"
"Oh no," she shook her head. "At this time no one else in the store is a Jumbo Jim Certified Checker like me. They're all just stockers."
I noticed that the twins with the man behind me had grown a couple of inches and looked 10 instead of eight. We had been there awhile.
"Here's $1.11. I don't want to hold these people up any longer. I'll just take the form and fill it out later and bring it into a store when I come in again," I said in a statement that was a lie, because I never intended to go in a Jumbo Jims again even if I was dying of thirst. I picked up the form. And the next guy moved up. I noticed his hair was much grayer now.
"If you are going to fill out that form away from a Jumbo Jim location you will need some additional documents," she said as she started to check out the twin's father. "You will need three letters of reference and the form must be notarized."
I didn't even look back. It was also the worst cup of coffee (other than my own) I have ever had.