Updated on 04.13.09

Ten Dollars, Twenty Minutes

Trent Hamm

A few days ago, I was standing in the checkout line at Target behind a woman who was arguing about the price of two stools that she was purchasing. The lady held an old rain check in her hand that claimed the price per stool was $24.99, but the price on the shelf was $29.99. Thus, the argument was about $10 total. The manager of the store was there, along with an assistant manager, and they had just agreed to give her the price on her rain check, mostly in order to get her on her way and out of the store because, frankly, it had become a bit of a scene.

The woman checking me out just rolled her eyes when I asked her about it. She told me, quite simply, that “it’s not worth ten bucks to me to stand around annoying everyone for twenty minutes.”

While I understood the checkout lady’s frustration, I was much more intrigued by the thought process behind the person buying the stools.

When I first considered it, I thought that I would probably do the same thing as the complainer. I’d likely be willing to argue on behalf of saving $10 at the check out line, even if the manager were called over. $10 is $10, after all.

The more I thought about it, though, the less it made sense to me. This person was quite willing to exchange twenty minutes of her time for ten dollars. That means that she values her time to be worth at most $30 per hour.

I thought about my own family. Would I take $30 to lose an hour’s worth of family time one day? No, I wouldn’t. Would I take $10 to lose 20 minutes worth of family time? No, I wouldn’t. To me, the family time is substantially more valuable than that.

If I stood there in the checkout line and argued for that $10, that’s the exact exchange I would be making. By not arguing, I’d get out of the store twenty minutes earlier, get home twenty minutes earlier, and likely get in a bout of wrestling in the living room with my daughter and a quick game of Memory with my son with that twenty minutes. That’s well worth ten dollars to me..

One might think, “Why not call the manager over and see whether or not it can get resolved quickly?” Those types of situations are often dangerous, because once you begin to invest time in these situations, you begin to convince yourself that you’re obligated to see it through. This is the same reason why people remain on hold for half an hour on a technical support line instead of hanging up and trying a different approach – if they’ve already waited some number of minutes, it would be a waste to hang up now, since the result we want might be right around the corner.

I’ve found, time and time again, that you’re better off avoiding those types of situations entirely. Time spent waiting is time lost (unless you can multitask), so I try to avoid situations where I have to wait, especially for a small reward (like a relatively unimportant chat with a customer service representative or $10 saved on price at a department store).

So what would I do in this situation, then? I’d probably request the price change from the cashier, but if the cashier wouldn’t/couldn’t make the change and had to involve more staff, I’d probably tell the cashier not to bother. Then, as I left, I’d put a big mental negative mark against that store’s customer service – just like I would against any service that would ask me to wait a long time for a small benefit.

In other words, thinking the situation out a little bit brings me to a different conclusion about such situations than my snap response would have been.

Now, I don’t believe this is necessarily the right response for everyone. If I were single, for example, I’d likely be willing to protest to get that $10 in exchange for my twenty minutes. If I were a very high wage earner or an entrepreneur with a successful business, I might not find it worth my time even if I were single. Others might believe deeply in the principle of the point and wouldn’t want to “give” Target their $10 in a situation like this.

It really comes down to a handful of factors that are more defined by individual personality than by any hard facts.

Is your free time worth $30 an hour? For some people, it will be. For others, it won’t be.

How about you? Where do you stand on a situation like this? Would you wait around for the price checking and the manager’s decision to save $10, or would you leave? Why?

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  1. JP says:

    In most of these discussions I think people overvalue there time. Now I am sure some people are busy enough that there is very little free time, but I have a feeling there are a lot of people that would go home and watch TV for 2 hours – but say there time is more valuable than $30 an hour.

  2. Amber says:

    Most of the time, I find that a cashier will just take care of a price change, or call a manager and have it taken care of within 5 minutes. If it takes any longer than that I’ll tell them not to bother unless its a significant amount of money. Then, I’d go over to the Customer Service desk afterwards and try to get it straightened out in a timely fashion without forcing others in line to wait.

    Of course, I’m single so the only person I’m taking time away from is myself. If I’m out running errands and I can save myself a few bucks, I’ll try to do it.

  3. CtfromNH says:

    I don’t know if I would have followed through that long for $10.00, either. Another option that came to my mind, though, would be to not make the purchase at all. Just walk away. Maybe make the purchase somewhere else, or at a later time, or after a phone call or e-mail to someone else in the company involved, if I was determined to get that discount. If I walked away, I would still have the $59.98 (or $49.98 at the rain check price) in my pocket, and the 20 minutes free to decide if I really needed the stools, or to check out similar stools at another store. Could always go back to the store later, knowing I probably wouldn’t get the rain check price.

  4. Ken M says:

    Remember that it’s $30 after taxes, so actually about $40 per hour.

  5. Laura says:

    Target actually has a policy where if the customer disputes the price and the item is under a certain amount of money the cashier is supposed to just change the price for customer satisfaction. I loved this policy when I worked there because a customer would come up ready for a fight and I would just agree and change the price. This drastically changed their tune.

  6. Suzie says:

    I almost never feel it’s worth it to make a fuss then and there, as it often gets you nowhere and it holds everyone else up. I know how stressful it must be for the cashier if they can’t help but someone keeps insisting. I’d probably do the same as you, Trent, though more out of consideration for other customers than any net gain in my time/money.

  7. SJ says:

    LOL @ Ken M.

    I agree w/ JP tho… I waste lotsa time… look at what i’m doing now!

    Or what abt if she hates home =)

  8. Ed says:

    Seeing as how I make $14 an hour at my job, $30 an hour looks much nicer.

  9. Jonathan says:

    I can completely identify with this situation due to the fact that I work in a grocery store. So many times I have seen people simply say they were not interested in the item, or pay up the extra money because they don’t want to take the time to resolve the situation to their benefit.

    My own philosophy would be to stick out the hassle for $10. If I have nothing pressing like a major business meeting or something that would cost me more, I would definitely vie for my part of the discount. Every little bit counts.

  10. Elevated Sky says:

    Oh certainly I would wait 20 minutes for my $10 unless I had an event to go to, and in that case, I wouldn’t be shopping!

    If I go shopping, I will take as much time as I need to to get the most value for those hard earned dead presidents.

  11. Michael says:

    If the whole trip took 30 minutes, it cost her -$25/hour instead of -$30. That’s the right way to look at it. Still a ways off from “saving” money.

  12. J says:

    I’ve found that politeness and not losing your temper are much more effective was of resolving issues.

    I’m more intrigued by the thought process of the cashier and the manager about not accepting a (I’m making an assumption here) valid raincheck. I’d be steamed about that, too. If the thing was months out of date, then they had something. If it wasn’t, then I’d want to know why they were not honoring it.

    This would be even more annoying, since the presence of the rain check means this was at least their second trip to the store, and they likely had to do something “special” to get the rain check.

  13. Nick says:

    What are the actual ramifications of putting a “big mental negative mark” on the store? That seems completely passive aggressive to me. If you aren’t going to actually voice a complaint then you can’t hold it against the store.

    I bet you will still return to the store so it seems like the store is just +10 bucks in this instance.

    And if that negative mental mark means you are going to bad mouth the store that also seems unfair because they may not even realize they did something wrong…

    Seems like a pretty empty response to me…

  14. Rachel says:

    I would totally argue for it! I’m in an extremely tight budget situation, if I allotted $25 to something and then have to pay $35 that would mean no cereal and milk for two weeks, or no chips for a month, or worse no SODA for a month. Heck, I will argue over a coupon that says 55 cents if it rings up as 50 cents.

    I don’t have children, but I am married and working on canceling my debt.

  15. Kim says:

    From your article in March (here: https://www.thesimpledollar.com/2009/03/17/is-a-frugality-tip-that-saves-you-a-quarter-a-waste-of-time-some-notes-on-economies-of-scale/) you figure making your own detergent saves you an equivalent of $37.44 an hour, and thus is worth your time. However, from this article you’ve decided that $30 isn’t worth it for you.

    I guess you value your time around $35 an hour? ;)

    Yes, I would argue it. $30 after tax is more than I make.

  16. Baker @ ManVsDebt says:

    The comment about this being more like $40 an hour is dead on.

    It’s pretty cocky to say that you wouldn’t spend 20 minutes of your time to make the equiv of $40 an hour. There is a large percentage of the population that would die for that opportunity. I definitely wouldn’t be able to say that this was “beneath” me.

  17. Jason Z. says:

    Oh course you traded 20 minutes of time with your family for nothing by virtue of being in line behind this woman.

    She didn’t just waste her time, but yours too.

    Surely, she didn’t think about it that way. But I wish more people would consider how their actions affect others. For example, conserving energy or driving a fuel-efficient vehicle may not be important to you if saving money isn’t an issue. But conservation or waste affect everyone. Sometimes you have to consider more than the financial impact of the decisions you make.

  18. Mrs. Micah says:

    It depends on my plans for the day. If I had projects to do, clients lined up, etc, then I’d either pay for it or leave and buy elsewhere/later. If I had a whole day of free time, then I might haggle.

  19. momof4 says:

    I wouldn’t make a scene, but as the cfo of the family, I wouldn’t consider it to be an infringement on my free time. It would be my job. Same with grocery shopping. Taking the time to scan ads collect coupons and come up with a list to save significant cash is part of the job and the $30 per hour is worth it

  20. knittinandnoodlin says:

    Eh, I don’t necessarily agree that every thing we do should be broken down into an hourly wage. I mean, where does that stop?

    For example, if I’m out grocery shopping I’m spending actual money, plus the equivalent of my hourly wage in time (whatever that is), so it’s a losing proposition — so the only way to “make” money on that deal is to pay someone else to do my shopping for me so I can get to the things I’d like to get to?

    And really, $30 or $40 an hour would be a money-making proposition for me lol. I’d politely argue my case just on principle, though.

  21. cappycobra says:

    I would totally dispute the price just on principal. Kinda defeats the purpose of a raincheck does it not?

    I usually dont buy a whole lot from Target to warrant a cart so It’s not a big deal for me to check the price on one of the scanners there. There were several times when it scanned higher that it was priced. My solution? I took a picture of the price tag of where it was on the shelf/hook. When they say they have to get a manager, I just tell them “would you like to see the photo of the price?”, they usually adjust it right there and then.

  22. KM says:

    I wouldn’t argue over 10 cents, but I definitely would for 10 dollars. Especially because that’s a large percentage of the total purchase price. And I really doubt that the customer *literally* spent 20 minutes on it…sounds like an exaggeration by the cashier.

  23. jaime says:

    I’m with Rachel! If I pay more in one area of my life right now, it comes from somewhere else! I’ve recently had a baby and have drastically reduced my income. I was actually just thinking about the worth of my time. I’ve been baking homemade bread, packaging jello, pudding, fruit, etc. for school lunches instead of buying convenience sizes. I’ve been investing tons of time to save money. But I have more time than money right now. I realize this is a different situation… but while I stand at the island in my kitchen cooking, stirring, baking… my kids are chatting around me, helping me, etc. I’m so broke I couldn’t afford two stools right now. If I could, maybe I wouldn’t be too upset over $10. But when you don’t have it, you don’t have it, and don’t mind giving of yourself to provide it.

  24. Meg says:

    As a woman with a very limited decorating budget, if all I have in my “buy stools at Target” budget is $50, then I would be very willing wait to get the price changed. Especially since not negotiating either might mean only buying one stool or not buying stools at all. A mere 20 minutes to save $10 AND supply my home with a functional, attractive & in-budget stool? Count me in.

    Some hours my time has much greater value than others. The hours I spend preparing our taxes have far greater monetary value than the hours I spend menu-planning but both are worthwhile pursuits.

  25. Johanna says:

    So was the old rain check actually valid or not? If it wasn’t, why did the woman think it was? And if it was, why did the employees think it wasn’t?

    I guess I’m one of those “principle of the point” people – I just hate the old bait-and-switch tactic. If I’m led to believe that I’ll be charged one price, but I end up being charged a different price, I’ll either insist on paying the price that I expected to pay or I’ll decline to make the purchase (unless it’s something that I really do need and I really can’t get anywhere else). I’ve walked out of a store before over a surcharge of 99 pence (less than $2) that the store had deliberately buried in the fine print.

  26. Nowooski says:

    Being the amateur consumer advocate that I am, I will sometimes fight it out. Not because of the money involved, but because if I don’t I will spend much of the rest of the day being vaguely angry about being bested by the store.

  27. Neil says:

    It’s primarily a quesiton of wages. If you make less than $30/hour, you’ve already made the bargain that your free time is worth less than that. Most people do work for less than $30/hour. So it seems perfectly rational that if I’m willing to give up 9 hours every day for $20/hour, I should be willing to give up an extra 20 minutes for $30/hour…it’s the same as getting time and a half for overtime.

  28. Deborah says:

    knittinandnoodlin – I completely agree about not breaking things down to an hourly rate.

    But I also think that the store IS accountable. If everyone just shrugged their shoulders and said “Fine, I’ll pay it”, or just walked out, then the store wouldn’t have as much of a reason to honor their policies. In reality, a lot more people will just pay the difference because they get embarressed by having a crowd of managers around them. I saw this when I worked in grocery stores and when I worked in restaurants. Most people don’t want to look like they’re the problem. And the cashier that rolled her eyes obviously thought the customer was wrong, not the store.

    I agree that there are things – staying on hold for an hour is a great example – that are not worth the time put into them. But I don’t think this is one of them.

  29. emmaleigh says:

    My husband recently discovered that if he parks the car in a garage 5 blocks away (a 10 min walk each way) instead of next door he saves $13 a day – that’s $233 a month! It may mean he is home from work a few minutes later but he also gets a few minutes of fresh air, And he saves a boat load of money.

    I’d definitely argue that that time is worth it for us – but probably wouldn’t be if we had to spend it haggling with someone instead of taking a walk – so perhaps it is the way the time would be spent making the money that makes it not worth it, rather than the 10 minutes itself.

  30. Andrew Baldwin says:

    I see a contradiction here:

    from today’s post:
    “I thought about my own family. Would I take $30 to lose an hour’s worth of family time one day? No, I wouldn’t”

    from last week (and several other posts):
    “Is this actually a worthwhile use of my time? If I can’t save money at an hourly rate of $20 per hour invested in the frugal task, it’s not worth it to me”

    There are other variables we’re not taking into account here (availability of family, nature of the task) but I couldn’t help but call that out.

  31. Adrienne says:

    It makes no sense that you spend 15 minutes to save $9.36 by making your own detergent but think it’s not worth your time to spend 20 minutes to save $10 (almost the same).

    I would definately try to save $10. You can be argue your point without being mean. Unless I had somewhere urgent to be it would be worth my time.

  32. Kari says:

    I am a single mom saving money in this one income family is pretty big. If I took the time out to ask for a rain check I’m going to get the savings.

    However, I really try not to get my blood pressure up so I’d likely just leave and write an email or letter to the store/corporation. I wouldn’t have bought the stools at regular price though thats for sure.

    Oh and $25, $30, $40 per hour!!! Yeah I’d die for that kind of wage… that is way way above what I currently make at my job so if I could make that for just some of my time I might be inclined to do so. I mean for a much smaller wage I’m out of my home away from my child for 40 working hours then if you include travel time etc… well I’m really making a low low wage.

  33. Mercedes says:

    Are you serious? There are a lot of people who work for less than $30 an hour. What if this woman’s husband or even herself works for less than that an hour. should she just fold her arms and have the store take her hard earned money just because she didn’t want to bother annoying them? It could take HER more than an hour of work to make up that money. THAT’s time taken away from her family too and way more than the 20 mins spent arguing.


  34. August says:

    If you check with the bureau of labor statistics, at $30/hr after taxes, this woman was making what the average US home economics teacher makes before taxes.

  35. Luke says:

    I’ve had similar disagreements with stores over less. Not because I don’t value my time, but beceause it is the principle of it – the store should honor the price of the rain check/advertisement/display. But like you said, Trent, there is a point when I just walk away and find the item somewhere else and never return.

  36. Peter says:

    Please come shop at my stores. I will get you out the door an hour before you arrive, as long as you are willing to let me scam you $5 or $10 at a time. Please also consider not writing posts that encourage people to be even more naive and stupid than they already are.

    And remember, you can buy 1 for $5, but if you order today, I’ll give you 2 for just $24.99 – better act now, before this deal is gone! Get your credit card ready – I’ll even let you make 4 easy payments of just $9.99 if you order in the next 2 and a half seconds!

  37. Johnny Dozer says:

    To me, it’s more about the principal behind it. Think about all collective money they’d be making off people if no one else stood up for it. That amount would add up to well over $10, I’m sure. When you make a fuss about it, they’re sure to change their shelf price, thus preventing more people from being ripped off. And you get your rightful $10.

    Would you rip up a $10 bill for fun?? Why would you NOT stand up for your hard earned money?

  38. Gina says:

    If I specifically came in the store to purchase the items and had other items to check out, I would probably leave the disputed items with the cashier and proceed with the purchase of my other items. If the only reason I came to the store was to get the disputed items, I probably would argue my case since price would be a major factor in my purchase and I make quite a bit less than $30 per hour but I don’t think I would be arguing if I was clearly in the wrong as this lady may have been, trying to use an expired rain check. On the other hand, if the store didn’t restock the items until after the rain check expired, I might see how far I could get with a supervisor.

  39. Moneyblogga says:

    The principle of the matter is that Target issued a raincheck which the store obviously didn’t want to honor. From my experience, Target is usually pretty good about refunds and the like. Nevertheless, when one is trying to hang on to hard earned money, every dollar counts. I would argue the point. It’s not as if I have to argue for 20 minutes in every store I go into is it? Arguing with store managers is not something I do on the regular but, if the situation warrants it, I expect a proper resolution.

  40. SteveJ says:

    Agree with Johanna. If I took the time to find a deal and make time to go shopping the first time and find out the store couldn’t make good(Strike 1).

    I take the time to collect the rain check, keep it around, and remember to bring it with me and return to the store. Then it’s not honored(Strike 2)….

    There’s only two possible outcomes, either I’m getting my stools and an apology for wasting my time, or I’m walking out of the store forever (Strike 3). The $10 doesn’t enter into it one way or the other.

    Now would I hold up the cashier’s line? Probably not, this is essentially what Customer Service is for and I assume they can handle ringing up my items there. I would have gone there first with my rain check.

    I’m also kinda surprised by your mental mark solution Trent. You talk about wanting to get involved in politics, how can anyone make a difference by keeping their mouth shut?

  41. Mike says:

    Anyone who mentioned about the validity of the rain check is spot on. That’s what this boils down to.

    If the rain check had expired and thus was invalid, then the customer is wrong and wasted everyone’s time.
    If the rain check had not expired and thus was valid, then the clerk and/or manager was in the wrong and should have honoured the lower price and not have wasted everyone’s time waiting in line.

  42. vga says:

    Is my free time worth $30 an hour? Yes.

    Is my free time worth elevating the collective blood pressure of everyone involved in the argument for 20 minutes? No.

    It’s the second part that matters the most. I don’t want to get mad and argue with people. I don’t like arguing nor do I feel good about it afterwords even when I win. What’s the point of saving money if you are going to feel bad for the rest of the day because of the arguement?

  43. almost there says:

    I have had a tussle with Best Buy over something like this. Purchased IPOD, didn’t get the $15 itunes gift card. Long phone conversation. Their research proves I am owed it. Was backordered and cancelled. Now I finally await the credit to my CC. Worth 5 month hassle? No. Arguement worth principle? Yes.

  44. If the raincheck is valid, there’s absolutely no reason why the store shouldn’t honor it — I would definitely argue the point on principle (though perhaps I’d pay for my other items and move the discussion to the customer service desk if it seemed like it was becoming an ordeal for other customers). I think it’s absolutely essential to keep companies honest, lest shady business become the norm.

    If the raincheck wasn’t valid, but only recently expired or otherwise nearly valid, I might go to the customer service desk _before_ going to buy the item and see if they’d cut me a break, but not make a stink if they didn’t. Depending on the size of the discount, they might be willing to “buy” your goodwill and get the sale, especially if they think you won’t make the purchase at all without the discount.

    If the raincheck is way past its expiration, then there’s no argument — you missed the sale price, and there’s no reason to haggle about it.

    As for the hourly wage figure, I agree with some of the other comments: once you factor in the time you’ve already spent in the store (twice, given that this is a raincheck), consider whether or not you had other business in the store, and so on, it’s not a simple minutes-to-dollars conversion. That said, I think the general point still stands: it’s good to be conscious of how much time & energy you’re investing in an activity, and to judge whether you’re getting something you value out of it.

  45. Katie says:

    Seeing how I make $5 at my job (less than minimum wage, I know, don’t rub it in) $30 an hour looks pretty good to me.

    I’d have to work 2 hours to get the benefit of 20 minutes of arguing. Of course I wouldn’t be buying $30/$25 stools to begin with.

  46. *sara* says:

    Yeah, its often about the principle. If the store tells me they’re going to charge me a particular price, and then they charge me more at the check out, there’s a problem! If I just decided I was going to pay less than I had promised I would pay, they’d call security on me. Its important that the store honors their advertised price, and I often feel like the negative feelings I have toward a store about their refusal to honor my coupon or request seriously can’t be worth the monetary cost to them!

  47. Carol says:

    What does being single have to do with anything?

  48. Laura says:

    I agree that as a home manager, I would be more likely to try to get the $10. I don’t bring in an income; my job, in our family, is to conserve and stretch my husband’s income the best I can. In that sense, my time only has value according to how much of HIS time I’m able to save by saving the money he earns. Not sure if that makes sense, and I’m sure this situation would be different if we had kids, but right now, I consider it “my end of the bargain” to spend money as wisely and consciously as possible.

  49. Steve says:

    I would either spend the time haggling, or I would not buy the item. If it started to take more than a few minutes I would lean towards the latter. Also, there’s no excuse for causing a scene, but on the other than there’s nothing rude nor embarassing about insisting on your due. It’s not the customer’s fault that Trent got stuck behind her for 20 minutes, it’s the store’s fault (they could have opened another checkout line, brought the customer to the service desk, or something else.) Also, for the most part I do consider my time to be worth less than $30/hour tax free. I make more than that in my day job, but I don’t have unlimited opportunities to trade my time for money at that rate. On the other hand, not buying the stools in the first place is like an infinite rate of pay! :)

  50. Amelia says:

    This is in reference to comment #30 – In what state and with what degree and how many years of experience for that home economics teacher who’s making $30/hour after taxes?

    I taught English in Florida (with a Masters degree) at a rate of $22/hour BEFORE taxes. And yes, I took into account that I had two weeks off in December and the entire summer off. I just find the comment a little hard to believe. I would guess that the average person who shops at Target is not making that amount of money per hour.

  51. rob says:

    The cost isn’t just twenty minutes, it’s the added stress and energy spent arguing about the price, which has a toll on health and well-being.

  52. Johanna says:

    Also, if the managers really did allow the woman to argue and hold up the line for 20 minutes, that was pretty poor managing on their part. Either the woman had a reasonable case for the store to argue the rain check, or she didn’t. If she did, they should have honored the rain check right away. If she didn’t (e.g., if the rain check was obviously expired or obviously a forgery), they should have sent her out the door, or called security. How could it be any more complicated than that?

  53. tambo says:

    At least they had the rain-checked item. We wanted to buy some solid wood bookcases on sale a couple of months ago for our newly remodeled living room and one Sunday Target had some nice looking ones 30% off. They were sold out by the time I could drag my husband to the store and we were issued a rain-check. Then, days later, the shelves were completely discontinued. We were not happy about being issued a rain check that was worthless (why not just put the shelves on clearance instead of on sale and don’t issue a freaking rain-checks??). Store manager was NOT helpful (or even seemed to care that we were frustrated) and it was a big black mark against Target for us. One would think that in these tough economic times businesses would do more to keep their customers coming back instead of ticking them off.

  54. Jenny says:

    First of all, the cashier should have just honored the lower price. Target gives it’s cashiers the authority to accept the customer’s word on the pricing of an item if the price seems reasonable and is not more than $20. You can’t claim a $500 TV is marked down to $300 for example, but $480 – probably. Target does this specifically so that it’s customers won’t have to wait for a small discrepancy.

    I would definitely wait to get the lower price if I’m entitled to it. The company is going to wring every drop out of me that they’re “entitled” to, so I’ll do the same just on principal. The feeling of “winning” overrides the negative emotions of arguing for the discount and leaves me with a natural high. Money plus a natural high for a few minutes of arguing? Great!

  55. Nick S. says:

    If my free time was worth more than $30/hour after tax, I probably wouldn’t work as much. I don’t imagine many other people would either given that $30/hour equals $62,400/year after tax. Assuming a conservative 25% tax rate, it’s equivalent to $83,200 per year or $40/hour, which is more than the average person’s annual income. This suggests that the average person would make more arguing for $10 off the stools than they would working their regular job.

    I get your point, Trent, but the example doesn’t support it well.

  56. Trevor R says:

    Are you kidding? The lady must have made a trip out there just to fulfill her raincheck only to be told they won’t honor it and you wouldn’t fight for the $10? That is assinine! I would fight for every penny of that. Not only did I waste my time making another trip for something but I had budgeted that amount and was promised that amount. A lot of store clerks don’t have the ability to change prices without calling managers…you need a special key often times.

  57. stephanie says:

    is the free time you spend making laundry detergent qualitatively distinct from the free time you spend haggling for stools? I can see an argument for that, but you don’t seem to put it in so many words. Anyway, I’m kind of surprised that someone who preaches the latté principle and makes their own laundry detergent would just walk away from $10 that target was basically lifting off them gratis. I mean, you could have turned around and spent the $10 you saved on stools on some laundry detergent.

  58. Cath says:

    When I was in high school 20-some years ago, I worked as a cashier at a drug store. These were the days before scanners and computerized registers. One day I was nearly done ringing up, by hand, one item at a time, a cart full of items when the customer informed me that I had over-charged her on two bottles of soda. The difference was 10 cents each. It took time to have another employee go back to the shelf and confirm that I had rung up the correct price. After a brief debate, she said to just take the sodas off. Well, in the olden days we had to have a manager come over to void the transaction and bring another cashier up to open another register to handle the line that was building up behind her, while I tediously re-rang each item all over again by hand.
    I remember thinking, “All this over 20 cents???”

  59. Aleisha says:

    I’m a huge fan of your site, but this post just annoys me. While I am not one to argue and hassle cashiers over every nickel and dime (in fact ,I worked at Target for years in high school and then college), $10 is lot. I teach preschool and it takes me about an hour to make that much money — and that’s before taxes. So $30 an hour sounds incredible to me. Your tone seemed a bit judgemental to me — implying that I value money over my family. Not true, but $30 an hour could make a huge difference in the life of my family.

    Besides, if Target gave the lady a raincheck — why were they wasting their manager’s time with this? I think they are the ones at fault here, and as long as she was being polite in her firmness, I say good for her.

  60. Kim @ money for disney says:

    I am my household manager…the gatekeeper of the family funds and twenty minutes to save $10 seems like a great investment of time to me. Figuring that $30 per hour take home is really $40 per hour that’s a salary of $80,000 per year. I would not walk away from an $80,000 a year job! I also value my family time. However, as a stay home parent I’m dripping with contact time with my kids. I actually have the time avoid needless expenses like overcharging. I guess that’s just another feather in the cap for one income families!

  61. amy says:

    How in the world would you know whether it will take 2 minutes or 20 minutes before you start? So I don’t really see the time argument as a valid basis for not arguing. Unsurprisingly, I also agree with those who say it’s worth it as a matter of principle.

  62. Bill in Houston says:

    While I earn more than that in ten minutes, ten bucks is ten bucks. As someone else said, it adds up. Look at the inverse: Suppose everyone just rolled over and didn’t question a price. Think of the money squandered!

    My wife and I bought a car a year ago. We drove 75 miles to College Station, Texas, to purchase the car. Why? Because this was the Nissan dealer that partnered with Costco in their auto program. We saved $1500 on the car price AND got 1.9% financing. A friend said, it isn’t worth $1500 to drive the 150 miles. That’s only 25 bucks a month. I told him that it was technically $31.25 (four year note) a month. We also got the lower finance rate, so we saved $2200 in finance charges, so that was an additional $45.83. In total, that 75 mile drive, made once, saved us $77.08 a month. Over $900 a year.

    Never squander money, even if you think you can afford to do so.

  63. Rob says:

    People waste alot of time with twitter, email, facebook, etc etc. Sorry, I’ll wait in line for 20 min for ten bucks. Better than sitting in front of a tv for 2 hours to ” unwind”. Seems this blog is veering from the original commen frugal sense it used to be.

  64. Justin says:

    @stephanie, haha, can’t we get over the laundry detergent thing? I read that post once, and I knew I’d never do it. He might not even do it…I mean, he does stuff all the time just to put together a blog article!

    As for the $10, I’m not much for making a scene. I make a pretty good wage as a college grad, and I’ve never been a good negotiator/haggler/complainter anyway. To me, $10 is losing at most 30 minutes of work…which doesn’t bother me at all.

  65. lgt says:

    It seems to me that Trent doesn’t want to argue for 30 dollars an hour, but is willing to blog, make home detergent, drink home brewed coffee instead of starbucks latte’s, etc for 30 dollars or less an hour. It is the nature of the activity that is being rejected, ie arguing. Some people would not hold up a line or argue for any amount of money, while in nyc where I live, I have seen (many, many times) people hold up a line for twenty minutes for over ten cents.

    And as to snubbing thirty dollars an hour, well how about some compassion and empathy for the unemployed Trent? Now that I am unemployed, I have unlimited time and limited money, so saving ten dollars is important. When I earned a large income, I would have walked out of the store without buying the chairs, or would not have been looking for a sale. (I still would not buy from a store that did a bait and switch as Target did, just as a matter of principle) To those who have limited funds, thirty dollars an hour sounds pretty good.

  66. NMPatricia says:

    This blog really hit a nerve. And you bet ya, I would argue for that money. $10 looks pretty good to me right now. I consider what I can get for that and it would be worth it to me. That is a yard of material! And since we are on a fixed income, it would be worth it.

  67. ShootDawg says:

    I take issue with the comment about making a mental note about a negative mark concerning their customer service.
    You state that you would ask for the change, but if the cashier is not able to make that change, and would have to ask a manager over…you give up, and give them a negative mark..
    how do you know it would take a long time? every situation is different…another manager might have come over and just said to reduce the price…might have taken 5 minutes…
    your negative mark is based on you unwilling to participate in the customer service process, not the actual customer service..

  68. Sarah in Alaska says:

    Are you kidding? I get testy if a store won’t honor its own 50 cent coupon. You bet I’d pitch a fit over a $10 raincheck. I probably wouldn’t have spent 20 minutes on it, but I also wouldn’t have bought the stools.

  69. Todd says:

    Thanks to Jason Z. and others who point out that this isn’t all about your own time. It’s so rare that cashiers or customers stop to think about other people’s time. (I often see customers wait to get out their purse or wallet until the cashier states the total. Is it a really surprise that you’re going to need to pay?)

    On the other hand, thinking about others includes being compassionate for those in front of us in line too. I once got held up while the cashier was learning the cash register system, and someone in line started grumbling at me for taking so long. From then on, I’ve been careful to relax and understand that everyone has a right to use a stack of coupons, or to question a price, or to call a manager over.

    I’ve taught myself to relax in all kinds of lines –it’s not worth raising your blood pressure for twenty minutes in line. Use the time to chat with someone next to you. Or say a little prayer of thanks that you can afford to be shopping for things in the first place.

  70. Brian says:

    I think it’s great that the cashier said it wasn’t worth 20 minutes of her time for $10, because I’m sure she doesn’t make $30/hour working as a cashier at Target. Instead she’s likely trading an hour of her time for $10.

  71. Jim says:

    As stated above its more like $40/hr after taxes. Put another way thats like $80,000 at an annual rate.

    I think the real question is what else could you be doing with your time? If the woman didn’t have anywhere else she really had to be at the moment and has some slack in her overall schedule then sure it makes a lot of sense to spend 20 minuts to net $30. Maybe she just spends 20 minutes more arguing in Target and 20 minutes less doing some other misc. chore that week. But if she’s a busy professional and this 20 minutes would be taken out of the few hours a week she can spend with her family than thats a different situation.

  72. stefanie says:

    I would and I have argued for $10 at a store. It didn’t take 20 minutes to resolve, but if it had, i would have stuck it out; or, like many others said, I would have left w/o buying anything. The best way to handle this is usually to just let the customer be right – it saves them time, the cashier and manager and store time and money by moving on to the next in line, and the rest of the people in line time and headache. if I were in that line and they didn’t give her the money, I also would have re-thought buying at that store that day or in the future.

  73. Kirk Bond says:

    The unknown here is whether her actions were justified and we won’t know that. My guess is that they were not, I really fail to see that Target would hold things up like this unless it was clearly wrong. But again, who knows…?

    If I were in that situation, my greatest concern would be the issue of how I was stealing time from other people. Were people in line with me? Etc… If so, I probably would have handed the stools back and said, “no thank you” and left. The other alternative would have been to take myself out of the line and ask for a manager to come over and assist, limiting the effect on others.

  74. Fred says:

    I’ve used a similar argument to talk myself out of returning my aluminum cans for the deposit.

    1. I’m spending an extra 10 minutes at the store for $2 every couple of months
    2. I usually manage to dump weeks old soda on myself
    3. The cans add clutter to 3 square feet of my house, which I’m implicitly paying for each month

    Seems like the least stressful and cost effective thing to do is just use curbside recycling.

  75. Maureen says:

    I would absolutely expect to get that $10 raincheck. Firstly, the store erred in not having sufficient stock to cover demand. This error necessitated a return trip to get the stools. Since the customer had already invested a second trip to buy the stools, it would be it would be pretty foolish to walk away without getting the discount too. Secondly, the raincheck should have been immediately honoured and therefor not cost the customer ANY additional time. I am not too concerned about the matter consuming the cashier or manager’s time. The manager should have opened another cash so that other customers were not held up.

    I would absolutely expect the store to honour their promise. Should a business throw away a customer’s good will (plus that of the other customers witnessing the exchange) and their integrity for a mere $10 profit?

    It also comes down to the principle of the matter. In such situations I am always polite but firm. It is unusual for a resolution to take that long. (Shame on you Target). It may be ‘only $30’ THIS time, but next time it could be much more.

  76. Leslie says:

    The hourly wage argument that is constantly trotted out to justify or debunk various money saving ideas makes me CRAZY. It WAAAAAY oversimplifies things and doesn’t take into consideration all sorts of other variables. It is even worse when people that make a high hourly wage justify not doing certain things (like cooking or cleaning their own toilets) because they can pay someone else to do it for far less than they would make during that same amount of time. Really people, unless you are working 24 hours a day the hourly rate argument is pretty lame.

  77. Amy says:

    I don’t disagree with you about the value of your time, but even if the price difference is only $2 to start worth, for a single parent trying to raise kids, $5 is a big deal — it’s not necessarily about their time. It could be about another meal on the table, or his/her child being able to go on the school field day trip everyone else gets to go on. The less money you have, the more important every little bit of it becomes.

  78. dave says:

    $30 an hour is $60K/year.. seems like easy money to me.

  79. Paul says:

    In Ontario Canada, at my tax bracket, including the reduced sales tax, $10 is almost $50/hr.

    The thing I always consider is the people in line behind me. If the store was really busy and the lines really long. Or if the store was empty and the lines non-existent.

  80. Dawn says:

    It’s all about consumer education. Know or research the policies (especially of rain checks, returns and price adjustments) of the stores you shop frequently, thus giving you a platform for an educated discussion with a sales clerk. Read the fine print always!

  81. Michele says:

    Heck yeah, I’d spend twenty minutes for even less. I guess I’m cheap, but I like to get the best price. I spent two hours online getting the best price for a rental car, ultimately saving about $25, and that was worth it to me. When I work I make more than that. But when I’m not at work, I make nothing so any money I can save is worth it to me unless I’m in a big rush.

  82. Kristin R says:

    I think I would stick it out for the $10 because for me, even though I value my time as priceless, cash in hand is cash in hand and most likely that $10 would come out of my budget somewhere else leaving me short.

  83. Karen M says:

    I would have argued for the money, too. And, actually, I doubt that it was twenty minutes. People often over-exaggerate the time they spent doing something, especially waiting (for food, in line, etc.). Twenty minutes is a long time. In which case, this is probably ten dollars for about 5 minutes of time– and that is definitely worth it.

  84. sunny says:

    I wouldn’t have made a scene but I would have told them to keep the stools.

  85. Wow Trent,I think you really missed the boat on this. First of all, in most states a raincheck can be considered to be a written binding agreement, a contract so to speak. I’m pretty sure if someone entered into a contract with you, and decided not to execute it, you would be pretty peeved as well.

    And since the federal minimum wage is $6.55, that woman could very well be choosing between coming in under budget, or spending an additional two hours away from her family.

    I’m glad you are in a position where you can look at that as $30 an hour, but your math really doesn’t jive. The average person doesn’t make anywhere near $30 for an hour of their time, and these days, everyone needs to save what they can.

    If a store tells me I want you to come back to my store so badly that I will guarantee you this item at this price, and then waits until I come into the store to tell me “Nevermind” we’re going to have a serious problem.

  86. Kathryn says:

    Well, afraid i don’t have time to spend on reading all 79 comments!

    My situation has been more of being behind the lady who spends 20 minutes trying to get her money. This has happened in a Marshall’s store. One register open. I didn’t get anything for my 20 minutes. My husband was angry & wanted to walk out. My thought was, “I can stand to be patient.”

    However, in thinking it over, he was right. They never had the courtesy to open another register. He felt i was “rewarding” their bad customer service. In retrospect, he is right. I’ve tried that store 2 other times, & the service was just as bad & those times i left. It is not worth it to me to give them my money. I’ve not gone back again.

  87. kay says:

    I will spend my time to correct an error in the checkout line. I usually buy a lot of the items at the grocery store that are on sale and therefore I may have a higher rate of errors on my bill. I watch the charges carefully and generally about a third of the time there are errors on my bill. I usually take the time to have this corrected. I’d say about 1 in 100 the error is in my favor (which I point out also.) When I realized how often there are errors I started to make an effort to have them corrected every time in hopes that the store would become more accurate. This happens at all 3 of the regular chain grocery stores in my area.

  88. bunny says:

    Since I’m probably making close to $10-11 an hour after taxes, that $10 would mean a lot to me. Why would I exchange an hour of my work week for Target’s incompetency? I just checked back and realized that you said the raincheck was “old.” If that means the terms had expired, then I would consider that my fault and would probably just not buy the chairs at all.

  89. Marcus Murphy says:

    I think the other way you need to look at it is, what if the manager came out didn’t “ok” the rain check price? What if that 20 minutes was spent in vain only to pay the same price or go home empty handed? Well then your time better be worth nothing as well, in that case. There will be a certain percentage of the time where this will happen. That weighs in more heavily to the equation as well…

  90. Nutty says:

    I have to say, I was in Target the other day and tried to use a coupon, which they told me wasn’t valid. I told them, “fine take it off my bill and give me my coupon back, I’ll use ti at Walmart.” The cashier started to argue with me that Walmart wouldn’t take it either … I finally reached over, took the item out of my bag, and told her to remove it from my total. She did, but again spent the whole time agruing with me … and continued to argue until I walked away. I then went across the street and bought the same exact item with the same exact coupon at Walmart. To me it wasn’t worth arguing because I knew I could get the same results elsewhere, but I’m sure the three people behind me in line saw the situation very different and probably thought that I was arguing about the coupon.

    However, if Target was going to be the only store that carried that item you bet I was going to fight for my coupon. $5 off is $5 off in my case, as $10 off is $10 off in this lady’s case. I’m sorry, but $10 is 20% of my food budget for a week. If I had spent the time and effort to save that much money to afford those stools and then get a raincheck, you bet I am going to fight for that money.

  91. Marvin says:

    This kind of mentality filters down the system.

    Basically, it translates to ->

    “It’s not worth my time to stand up for principles.”

    To rephrase the question, if you were overcharged $10, if the waiter/cashier/store clerk simply stonewalled you for 20 minutes, you’d give up?

  92. Michael says:

    You wouldn’t spend 20 minutes to get $10?!? You say your time is worth more than $30 an hour? While there are some people to whom this may be true, I am pretty sure a majority of your readers, myself included, make less than $30 per hour, yet we keep going to work everyday.

  93. Jeff says:

    Even if 30/hour is a good deal – This is inconsiderate because of the inconvenience to others. Suppose there are 4 people in line, plus the grouchy lady. (Let’s ignore the cashier and manager for a second) That’s 5 people. 5 people X 20 minutes = 100 man minutes wasted on $10. This is $6/hour. She values HER time at $30/hour. BUT She values EVERYONE else’s time at $6/hour.

    If someone made me work so they could get $6/hour off my time and then didn’t even pay me for it – I would be hacked off.

  94. sarah says:

    i agree with the idea that time is more valuable than $. i have always lived my life on this principle. for me, being single, i would probably take the time to deal with it if it were 10 but not much less. i have never been one for making others wait because i hate it myself when someone else is wasting my time. therefore i would do my best not to cause a scene and to have it finished quickly. if not, it just isn’t worth all the fuss unless it is alot of $. i could be out with friends and family or getting something more important accomplished.

  95. Grandma says:

    Today I called my cable tv company. I had finally decided to cut the cord and do without expanded cable and the DVR – I told them I needed to cut my bill to the bare minimum – and they told me they would cut my bill by $35.00 and I could keep the same level of service.

    Was that worth the 10 minute phone call (plus the 10 minutes on hold) Absolutely.

  96. Rich Lykyu says:

    I trade my time everyday for less than $30 per hour in the form of a job, after taking into consideration taxes, + the value of my job benefits I am trading it at about $23 per hour on average. This estimate excludes the time I commit to my commute, and 5 weeks of vacation per year. Is it worth ti to me? not really,, but it is what keeps a roof over my children’s heads, food on the table and the power and water running.

    I am working to posture myself into a position where I dont have to exchange my time for this amount of money, but if I were in that ladies position I would likely spend 10 minutes (i doubt she spent 20 minutes arguing with management over it)to keep $10 of my post tax dollars (which probably amount to $70 per hour pre tax.

    I have also spent a lot of time arguing over principal rather than money. I think business should honor the terms of their offers to their customers, and a rain check is an offer.

  97. Gabriel says:

    I’ve just made a “mental mark” on your site, Trent. You’re starting to sound a little silly, buddy. I find it funny that you’d take the time to shave up some soap, buy washing soda and borax, mix it all up, to save about $40/year, but wouldn’t bother waiting for 20 minutes to save $10? And as for making others behind you wait…the cashier should’ve been smart enough to ring up the others while the manager was working on the problem. And if your arguement is honestly about using that 20 minutes with your daughter instead of “working” (after all, you’d “earn” that $10), then why do anything at all?

  98. PointSpecial says:

    I’m currently in grad school, supporting a family of four on student loans and a $10 an hour retail job. From an employee point of view, there isn’t much incentive to argue this… I’m not getting any of the $10 I would be “saving” my company and if she has a rain check, then it should be honored. From a consumer’s point of view, $10 for 20 minutes of work is three times my working wage. I’m more efficient arguing things like this than I am with my job. It would be more worth it for me to argue this than it it would be for me to work overtime at my job. And this is during time that I’m not normally earning money. This is an extra bonus.

  99. Tabitha P says:

    Wow, I think $10 is a half a tank of gas, a grocery bag with milk, eggs, and bread, a lunch out with friends, craft supplies for the kids etc. etc. It’s a total judgment call but if I REALLY wanted the stools and I had nowhere else to be, I’d argue it. And I don’t think it’s the customer’s fault for the delay. The store should remedy these things more quickly or pull her out of line if it’s really a long convo.

  100. gettingboredwthisblog says:

    i think you are getting a little too into the ‘time is money’ thing. stop calculating every minute to decide if it is ‘worth’ it. you’d probably enjoy life more

  101. Christine says:

    Depends on what time of day we are talking. If I was on my lunch hour and could not shave any time off my day, then why not earn $30 an hour away from my desk. If I had a day off with my family, maybe not. Of course, if my family were waiting in the car for just 10 min and in that time, I could get back $10, enough for us to go to the zoo, then perhaps I would.

    Simply, sometimes it is worth it, sometimes not!

  102. My girlfriend and I were just having this same conversation, but instead of wasting time standing in line arguing over X amount of dollars we were discussing how some people put work ahead of their families. It is amazing how we get confused about what is important, especially when there is money involved. I have no doubt that a child would rather have daddy at home to play with for a couple of hours more each day than to have him gone so that he can earn money and in turn purchases “plastic daddy replacements” to keep the child occupied.

    That’s my two cents.

  103. Sara says:

    You said in a past post you were willing to invest time in frugal activities that would save you a minimum of $20 an hour. This would have saved more than that according to your hourly wage assessment of her situation. Almost all frugal activities require more time than the more expensive alternatives. This is time you could be spending playing with your family, rather than working on the frugal activity (with or without them present). So, I’d be interested to hear you clarify how you prioritize your frugal activities – which you’d do and which you wouldn’t do.

  104. Jennifer Thompson says:

    Why, exactly, is single people’s time worth less? Why the assumption that my time with my friends, parents, or self is less important than a married man’s time with his kids? Hm. I notice this bias a lot in personal finance blogs, with the exception of Queer Cents. I’d love to find a personal finance blog that serves single, childless people as well as this one serves married people who have or plan to have children.

  105. imelda says:

    There are 2 parts to this story that make little sense to me.

    First: seriously, 20 minutes is such a valuable chunk of time that you need to rush home and spend it with your children? I’ve found that obsessing over every minute of the day to maximize my use of time is very stressful and ineffective.

    Second, ENOUGH WITH THE TALK ABOUT HOW IF YOU WERE SINGLE, THINGS WOULD MATTER LESS. My time is just as important to me as yours is to you. It’s just as important to my family as it is to yours. I know you love your kids, Trent, but please stop acting like parents are more special or important than the childless.

    Also, Trent, lately it sounds like you’re getting a bit defensive because of recent attacks on your frugality focus. This post continues that trend. Don’t waste your time with those attacks!! We all read your blog because your advice is good and we value frugality. To people who scorn it…let them!

  106. Jerry says:

    With the story as presented, Target lost more than ten bucks just in Management’s time needed to handle the issue.
    Personally, if the raincheck was valid I would have given the Manager, or assistant if he/she were there first, 30 seconds to approve the lower price before walking out with a comment that they just lost a customer. Based on my spending habits at Target, there would probably been several other items for the stock clerk to return to the shelf as well as the stools.

  107. Sierra says:

    I see your point here, and agree in principle. But I have much more time than money these days. Like Kim said above, being a stay-at-home parent gives me plenty of contact with my kids. I’d rather spend my 20 minutes playing games with the little ones, but I don’t necessarily have the money to trade. Ten dollars is kind of a big deal to me.

  108. Being single or having kids should not be an issue for discussion. I am single without kids but still value my time and maximize it.

    In terms of that cashier that rolled her eyes, I would like to see her lifestyle and credit score if $10 is such a minor issue. I would, and have in the past, brought up price problems in various situations. Be it a rain check, a price match on competitor ad, or even price adjustment on a recent purchase. I did not get debt free by throwing away opportunities to retain money.

  109. Joey says:

    Another day, another contradictory entry from Trent. At some point, you may want to ensure your next post isn’t the direct opposite of one you’ve made in the last few weeks, because it seems be happening on a regular basis now.

  110. Dale says:

    College student waiting to start paying graduate tuition next fall working for $11 bucks an hour with a wife and two little boys….$10 bucks is pretty good for 20 minutes. It’s about the same as donating plasma which I would do if they were open during the times I was not working.

  111. Dale says:

    Oh, not to mention $10 is about 2-3 days worth of food for us. Yeah, it’s worth it.

  112. kristiine says:

    Saying that the woman values her time at 30/hour at most, sounds snobbish. Many people make much less than that. How do you now the person was not a minimum wage earner- that 10 dollars representing 2 hours of after-tax pay? It would make sense to argue the 10 dollars if it represented time already spent. It would dilute the wage, but at the same time preserve it.

  113. alejandro says:

    Stephanie (#51) wrote what I was thinking while reading your post. You propose a lot of (really nice) ways of saving money, that require lots of time, just to save… much less than 10 dollars! And why should I give away my money to people who makes mistakes all the time doing their job? is it a joke, or what?
    Also: i’m italian… what is a rain check?

  114. MattW says:

    I think it is important to look at your overall situation before deciding on an hourly rate that governs all your decisions. If you are unemployed then the minimum hourly rate to do something is pretty close to zero. You are time rich/money poor. At the other end of the spectrum if you worked 80 hours a week the only way someone could get you to spend another hour doing something is by paying you significantly more than your normal hourly rate.

    Your hourly rate could be matched to the percentage of your time awake that you spend earning/saving money. You only have 112 waking hours to use per week, the first 40 (36%) go for a reasonable rate but after that its going to take more and more to get you to give up your time. If you earn $18 per hour for a 40 hour week then your rate is $0.50 per % of your time. If your boss wanted you to work another 11 hours that would be 10% of your time so you would want a raise of $5/hour to make it worthwhile. Trent, it seems like you spend a much greater proportion of your time earning and saving money (maybe 70%) so at the time valuing rate ($0.50/%) your last valuable hours are worth ~$35 per hour.

    I think this post is a symptom telling you that you need to work less (delegate more) if your perspective on how valuable your time is seemly biased so much towards time.

  115. philo says:

    Judging from your previous posts, Trent, I find your attitude surprisingly glib. You are seeing this episode with the gimlet eye of hindsight. The customer KNEW it would take 20 minutes? Does one keep rainchecks and use them by some formula guaranteeing the transaction will take under five minutes? Furthermore, the employee at the cash register was unprofessional in having a discussion, complete with eye-rolling, about another patron’s behaviour, and you didn’t need to engage in it either.

  116. Steve says:

    I read somewhere that when you get a 30 year mortgage, your first couple of payments end up paying less than $10 on the principle. Thus, if you paid an extra $10 on your principal at the beginning of your loan, you would end up paying off your mortgage a couple of months early. Case in point: the $10 (not $30 or $40) saved in those 20 minutes could be worth $$$ at some point.

  117. Steve says:

    I read somewhere that when you get a 30 year mortgage, your first couple of payments end up paying less than $10 on the principal. Thus, if you paid an extra $10 on your principal at the beginning of your loan, you would end up paying off your mortgage a couple of months early. Case in point: the $10 (not $30 or $40) saved in those 20 minutes could be worth $$$ at some point.

  118. JonFrance says:

    What? $30/hour, for a full time worker (40-hour weeks, 52 weeks a year) is $62,400 a year after taxes! According to the stats below, that’s more than 85% of people in the United States earn. Good for you if you’re doing better than that, but surely for the vast majority of people it’s more than worth their time (especially taking into account that 20 minutes is probably an exageration).


  119. Harry Adams says:

    I would not have purchased as the transaction was tainted by the store. I was intrigued by the fact that people behind the woman in Q stood for 20 minutes. I would have moved to a quicker line or dumped my trolley and left. No ways would I stand in any Q for 20 minutes, they want my custom then move it on…

  120. Carole says:

    I would definately spend the time! Yes I’m old and have no kids at home, but when a store gibes you an offer, they are obligated to live with it. 20 minutes of my time is well worth $10!

  121. racehl says:

    I would argue for the discount. I am a single mum and every penny counts for me. That money might be used elsewhere and I still give my children lots of time and attention.
    I think it depends on your circumstances and income.

  122. tightwadfan says:

    I understand the point Trent is trying to make but I don’t think this is a good example because of the other people factor. I definitely wouldn’t hold up a line for 20 minutes to “save” $10. As Jason Z pointed out, everyone else in line loses 20 minutes for nothing. That is so inconsiderate!!! Although I have to agree that it’s also really poor management of the situation on Target’s part.

    But if it meant spending 20 minutes in line at customer service, or going to a store that was 20 minutes further from my house, I might consider those 20 minutes worthwhile.

  123. Mae says:

    Are you kidding me?!? 30$/hour is $60,000/year at a 40 hr/week job AFTER taxes! You might not think that is enough money, but it’s more than the average American makes a year! Get some perspective!

  124. Michelle says:

    Wow, you struck a nerve here! You did offer an out in your article – that “for some people” that $30 is sufficient…but the issue for me here is threefold: I agree 100% with Johanna and Peter above – if business can ‘get away’ with scamming customers 5 and 10 dollars at a time, then you’ll eventually pay out of your pocket for that woman not holding Target accountible for their practices and policies. Bait and switch is pretty dang common – unfortunately, so people taking their time (and there were other lines you could have used, so your time wasn’t taken) to catch these errors protects all consumers. I remember my mother making what my teenage brain called “A Scene” at Sears over a suit on a clearance rack that rang up at full price – she ‘won’ at the expense of 20 minutes of time and got the sale percentage taken off the suit. Lo and behold, 60 Minutes a month later did an expose on this intentional practice by Sears (or Montgomery Ward?). We need to be active consumers, because businesses are NOT on our side. Second, budgets are budgets. This is why MANY of us take the hour or so every week to read store circulars, clip coupons, plan menus and consult our price books and save a few $$…My grocery bill is consistently $20 to $40 cheaper this way – but that doesn’t mean my family is only worth that same amount of money. I also pay attention at the register – and stuff does scan incorrectly. Why should I budget if I then don’t follow through on ensuring I stick to the plan?? Another instance of time-value – Would you pay an extra $10 in interest or a late penalty to avoid taking 20 min. to review your bill, write and mail a check to pay your credit card on time? Prolly not. last – and most important, my family is not worth the $65K I get paid to spend time away from them ($31.41 per hour)…they are worth 100 tmies that amount! But putting a roof over their heads is worth holding the job and spending roughly 1800 hours away from them each year. It’s pretty presumptuous to equate time with family to money – family time IS precious and priceless.

  125. Denise says:

    Go imelda. I question the remark that spending time enforcing a rain check is taking time directly away from the kids. Unless an actual, timed event is planned, I say ‘not really”. How often do we waste time. I would look at it as time taken away from the entire day, be it reading the newspaper, playing on the computer or whatever. And yes, the savings is worth it to me as well as the principal of honoring the rain check.

  126. TeresaA says:

    I am thinking a lot of people are working for way less than $30.00 and hour, so saving $10.00 would be substantial and worth fighting for. That’s dinner for a family of four.

  127. Funkyhead says:

    For me (as most Europeans) Taxes work like this:
    you have (in Austria) about 10.000 Euros per Year

    Tax Free (taxes include real taxes and social taxs for schools, unemployment, etc.)
    After that each €/$ you earn is taxed, starting with about 30% and increasing to i think 50% or 60% the more you earn.
    it sounds much but dont forget the 10.000 which are free … and those things like (almost) free schools and universities

    so if i have to earn 10€ more (after taxes) i (specifically) have to earn about 20€
    So if you ask me if 10$ (or €) for 20 Minutes of my time ==> 30€ / Hour after taxes is worth it

    I would so FIGHT for the 10 bucks because i would have to work for an hour to get those 10 bucks … and in the supermarket it only costs me 20 minutes. which means i SAVE time fighting for my money

  128. Brandon says:

    I once stood in line for 15 minutes for an approximately 51 cent refund. I did it mostly on principle though because I was/am slightly anti-Wal-Mart and I was really annoyed that they were charging one penny more for the item in question than they advertised, and I had just noted moments before a sign that hung at the checkout that said any price mismatches on items less than $2 would give you the item free.

    I jokingly considered repeating this until I had a car full of lemons.

  129. brad says:

    my employer values my time at 12.75 an hour. telling me all i had to do for ten bucks was talk for twenty minutes would make me happier than ten ticks on a dog.

    plus for me its a little on the principle deal too. not sure if anyone has heard how best buy will change model number of appliances/electronics so they can weasel out of their price match guarantees, but ive always thought about that as reasoning why its not enough to fight for something until someone tells you no.

  130. denise warner says:

    hi trent, well ive been following you for awhile now and i totally agree with you and its not just about the time aspect verses the dollar what it really boils down to in my opinion is this are we as a society willing to give#1 our power away for a few bucks? and #2 what is the reward? when we can step back from a situation whatever it is and simply ask ourselfs,is it worth it? i beleive we take back our freedom to choose how we are going to live our lives and grow as a society. so brovo for you because i agree!!!

  131. I’ll pay you $30 for me not to spend time with my family!

  132. First off, it’s the principle. The rain check is a binding legal agreement to honor that price. So there should have been no arguement on the part of the store.

    Second, if you were working for a wage, to bring home that $30/hour, you’d have to have an hourly wage of about $45 to account for taxes. Which is an $80K+ / yr job. Not that many people make $80k/year.

    And finally, how do you know the customer had a family and was wasting time otherwise well spent? I often take my 2yo DD shopping with me, and use it as time to teach her about numbers, colors, money, and the things she sees. That is just as “quality” as if I were home twirling her around.

  133. Aaron says:

    not to nitpick, but the difference between $29.99 and $24.99 is not TEN dollars, it’s FIVE dollars. (rounding up to $10 is an error amounting to 20%)

    So this woman was arguing over $5 / 20 minutes of time (or $15 / hr).

    EVEN SO.

    I do agree with you — I had a similar discussion with my wife over whether I should pay H&R block $29.95 online to eFile my state taxes (federal were free). I did some mental estimations and figured that the amount of time it would take me to pick up the forms and do the paperwork costs MORE (using my consulting rate) than the $29.95 and 10 minutes it takes to file online.

  134. NYC reader says:

    I suspect there’s something else behind Trent’s dismissal of the value of fighting for the correct price/honored raincheck, and many of the previous posters have explicitly identified this issue too.

    It’s the social discomfort factor. There are people who “don’t want to make a scene” even if they are 100% correct. They claim they “don’t want to hold up the line,” when the real issue is they don’t want to be judged negatively by a bunch of total strangers. They are, pure and simple, conflict-avoiders.

    They rationalize their need to avoid conflict or negative judgement by others by saying “It’s only 10 cents, it’s not worth it,” or “It’s not worth $30/hour.”

    There are many merchants out there who prey on the unwillingness of some people to stand up for themselves. Merchants count on either the customer’s ignorance of the correct price, unwillingness to call attention to themselves, or willingness to avoid conflict at all costs. They know these psychological needs are so strong that the incorrect inflated price is the one that this customer is willing to pay.

    If the checkout line backs up because of a price dispute, that is neither the fault nor the responsibility of the customer who is complaining about the overcharge. The store management is responsible for opening another line or completing the disputed transaction at the customer service desk.

    Rainchecks are legally enforceable. The local consumer affairs/attorney general office will often intercede and get merchants to do the legally correct thing, which is to honor the price.

    If the raincheck was issued by the store in bad faith (the examples given above of discontinuing the item, or not replenishing stock until the raincheck expired), the store should offer an equivalent discount on a similar item if the original is no longer available, and should honor the price for the restocked item. And if they don’t offer this, the customer should ask for this.

    As for me, I find incorrect prices (always *HIGHER*, never lower) on about 10% of the items I buy in certain stores. I insist on the pricecheck for each item, and haven’t been wrong on one in years (I’m blessed with extremely good memory for numbers). I will often turn to the people in line behind me and apologize for the delay, and conflict-avoiders that they are, they always say, “Oh, that’s ok.”

    It’s my hard-earned money, and whether I make $6 an hour or $60 an hour, I’m not going to throw it away (I only wish I made $60 an hour!).

    And really, who gives a hoot about what a bunch of total strangers in the checkout line think? Get over it folks.

    If the people who read blogs like Trent’s are going to get their financial affairs in order, they can’t be worried and/or obsessed with what other people think. Otherwise they will be doomed to mountains of consumer debt to “Keep up with the Joneses,” worrying what others might think if they drive an older used car, don’t have the latest fancy gadgets, and don’t wear the latest designer fashions.

  135. getagrip says:

    Who really wasted time? I would put it to the manager or assistant manager, not the woman making the raincheck request. That manager didn’t open up another line to take care of other customers. The manager didn’t move the woman and the issue over to customer service to clear the line. The manager chose instead to bottleneck the line and argue with the woman (valid argument or not) when it should have been clear within a moment or two how it was going to play out (protracted discussion or quick resolution).

    Is it worth your time? That’s a personal decision. For myself, if I feel justified, I argue since most of the time it takes less than a couple of minutes to get the answer in your favor. The problem is you often don’t know which time you argue will suck up lots of invested time and overall they are a small percentage in my mind, making it generally worth it to stick to your guns when you feel you are in the right.

  136. Kevin says:

    @Steve (#89 & #90):

    “I read somewhere that when you get a 30 year mortgage, your first couple of payments end up paying less than $10 on the principal.”

    I don’t think that’s accurate. I ran some numbers for myself, and while it of course varies widely based on the other variables (mortgage balance and interest rate), I was unable to find a realistic example that supports your claim.

    For example, a $120,000 mortgage at 6.5% for 30 years would have a monthly payment of $758.48. The first payment would knock $108.48 off the principal.

    In fact, in order for my example to produce the result you describe (the first payment only bringing the principal down by $10), you’d have to run the calculations with a 17.32% interest rate, which is absurd for a mortgage. Incidentally, monthly payments would be $1,742, and it would take 5 years just to lower the principal by $1,000.

  137. Kevin says:

    @Aaron (#98):

    Re-read the article, particularly the very first sentence.

    She was buying TWO stools.

  138. mildred lane says:

    I’m retired and if time is worth money then it is well worth it to me. I don’t see the problem -if she had a rainck for the 2 stools, why wasn’t she allowed to use it?

  139. dream says:

    Well others have covered the money part thoroughly so let’s look at “making a scene”. Making a scene and holding others up can be rude, but have you considered that if it weren’t for all those people who do that, businesses would be much less hesitant to run roughshod over their customers? I once read that “it’s better to act upset than be upset”. It really has paid me over the years to pretend I was about to make a HUGE scene.. I’ve accomplished my goal without raising my blood pressure. If you truly are a person who won’t make a scene then thank those who will…. they are one of the main reasons you don’t have to argue over small discrepancies in price.

  140. Linda says:

    The store made an agreement to honor that price when they issued the raincheck.
    Then, refused to honor it, which would be wasting my time and gas. I’d be peeved too.
    $10 will almost get me 5 gallons of gas here. By them refusing to honor that agreement, they would be taking more of my paycheck, which could very well be my gas money for the week. I don’t know about you, but I like to be the one that says how my paycheck is being spent.
    Kudos to her for ‘holding her ground’! I too, go to the service desk, when a cashier forgets to scan a coupon or two. I won’t let the stores decide how much of my money they get to keep.
    If it is taking longer than anticipated, I always take the time, to let the person behind me know the situation, so they can decide themselves whether they should switch lanes. You never know what the person behind you,’s schedule is like for the day. It might not be as freely open as yours.

  141. Julie says:

    So every time I encounter a situation like this I should spend time calculating whether it’s worth time for the amount of money? It was a pretty clear cut decision when I spent 2.5 hours in 3 different phone calls with my insurance company who was refusing to pick up the tab on a $2,000 procedure they had previously promised to pay, but if I really have to come up with some construct of what an hour of my time is worth and that has to be measured using quality time with my kid (not the hum drum time to do the dishes or some other mundane task that is really more likely to be the recipient of my extra time) I’m not sure I’ll really be able to come up with an hourly figure my time is worth. I’m not trying to be snarky…I’ve just seen this argument several times regarding things like clipping coupons or holding a store to a previously agreed upon price and it seems like the time needed to calculate what my time is worth when I don’t actually get paid to spend quality time with my family wastes more time. Perhaps I’m missing something key that would make it worth my time?

  142. Fred Wsihnie says:

    Most people earn far less than $30 an hour, and most probably will do something less productive or family building with their time when they get home, so I think the time spent getting the discount is well worth while.
    Fred Wishnie

  143. Jen says:

    I would absolutely have spent the 20 minutes to argue about the raincheck if I wanted the stools. I regularly spend at least 20 minutes waiting in line to purchase groceries at the super cheap, super crowded grocery store in order to save $10. It would be much easier and less time consuming to go to the less crowded, more expensive grocery store but that’s a lot of $10 that I wouldn’t have to spend on other things.

    I agree that this post is inconsistent with your general MO. I think that you are annoyed that you spent longer in line that you would have liked and therefore are trying to find a reason why this woman shouldn’t have argued for her $10, but it really fell flat.

  144. Tundey says:

    I don’t agree. Sometimes it’s not the money but the principle. Sure my time is worth more than $10 but why would I simply put a negative mark against a perfectively good store and refuse to shop there? You can’t go through life putting a price tag on everything. If I really want the stool, you bet I would argue the point until I get the right price.

    What if your boss decides to short your pay by $10, will you spend 1 hour arguing for the correct pay? Or will you quit in a huff and find another job?

  145. Jacqueline says:

    I actually was that lady!!! Over $2.00!!! Looking back I would have just told the young lady never mind and enjoyed the 15 minutes of my life that ordeal took from me.

  146. Tony says:

    I’d argue for the $10. About $44/hr in my tax bracket. Very little of our time is actually free–it’s discretionary time at best. As for the argument of trading dollars for family time, I see your point, but the same argument can be made for every hour at your job or in travel or taking a bath. Since the average wage rate in my area is about 8.70/hr, $44/hr looks pretty good. Maybe she can recover the family time by going to work an hour late tomorrow. :)

    BTW, I enjoy your writing.. thanx

  147. Sandy says:

    Amy Decysion (sp?) Tightwad Gazette has a big chunk of space on this very issue. Time vs. Money.
    She analyzes things that take time, for ex: buying a case of peanut butter going to a different store, sewing kids Halloween costumes, washing your own car, packing kids lunches, cooking from scratch, gardening, canning, etc…
    Life is full of choices that we make daily, and those frugal choices all have a dollar/euro value vs time. Each of us has a different view of this. Obviously$80,ooo/yr is to Trent, not enough of a value. I would think that he could have his kids at home a lot more because he works from home, and then he’d save money on day care and work around when his wife was home, but obviously he doesn’t choose to do that, either. He could have a lot more time to play memory or wrestling. Every one of us has time/money value to our lives is all I’m saying.

  148. Hilda says:

    $30 is $30… when you’re counting every penny it matters!

  149. Denise says:

    I like your post until the very end when you said you’d act differently if you were single. When are people going to stop assuming that if you’re single your time is worth nothing (or at least worth less than those who are married with kids)? It’s not true and it’s annoying.

  150. Erin says:

    I recently had a similar situation happen to me at Kroger. When the price rung on the register did not match what the sticker on the shelf displayed I simply told the cashier I did not want the item. It’s just not worth my time to wait and argue. The manager happened to walk by as the cashier was still ringing up my order. The cashier casually stopped him and advised him of the price problem and he gave me the item for free.

  151. Andrew says:

    Sounds to me like YOU wasted 20 minutes watching this person for no money…

  152. appl003 says:

    I agree with many of the arguments that have been posted. The one thing that has been missed is that this person presented to the store with a rain check for an item. This would indicate that the item was on sale at some point, they ran out of the item and gave the customer a rain check that idicates when you return to the store once we do have the item back in stock, we will be selling it to you at this price. I believe that is how rain checks work in general. I have used them many times with no problems. This cashier, manager or store was in the wrong. Time is valuable to everyone, but principle is important too. I personally have walked away from an item to avoid a hassel as well, but with a raincheck that promises me a price, I would take on that battle.

  153. emma says:

    Agree with those who say you have NO way of knowing if the raincheck conversation will take 2 minutes or 20. Maybe it would have netted her the equivalent of $100/hour if the manager had caved a little sooner. At what point to you cut the discussion off, assuming it’s no longer worth your time?

    And how likely is it that you will use those spare 18 minutes to wrestle with your child — were you counting lost wrestling minutes when you took an extra 5 in the shower that morning? (rating your shower higher priority than your family time)? Or when you called a friend (friend more important than family) or chose not to take your child to Target with you (convenience of shopping alone more important than family time)? Etc etc.

    At least the woman got her stools AND $40/hour (pre-tax) for her perseverance. Perhaps it was a mark of pride to her, perhaps that was all the money she had, perhaps she’d already walked away from 5 unfair situations at Target, rationalizing that it wasn’t worth her time to argue, and she finally decided to take a stand, thinking it was worth 20 minutes of her time to give her kids/grandkids a nice place to sit when they did their art at her counter.

  154. aura says:

    wow, there are so many comments on this already, but I have actually encountered this too, recently. This is long.
    Being that I have been trying to track spending, be frugal etceteraetcetera… I went to my dentist recently…(they are expensive and we don’t have insurance with my husbands company, we pay out of pocket), but they called me and advertised a 69.95 deal due to the economy. Well, I said great! I even said at the beginning of the visit are you sure that this will only cost about $70 bcuz i only work pt and have zilch insurance. After the visit which was without xray and no dr exam, I was charged $124 and some change. My appt had lasted 1 and 1/2 hours and my childcare situation dictacted I need to leave fast..so I paid it and called back later. The short version was secretary said she would be able to refund $24. I said ok. This did not happen. I called back 4 days later, hoping maybe their paperwork was delayed or something, after 20 mins of talking, she said again it would be refunded. This still has not happened, 2 wks later. I am mad because I feel ripped off, taken advantage of and I feel like the little person (napoleon complex?) anyway, your discussion has helped me…I have been debating calling them back again, but how much energy should I waste on $24 anyway? Get over it right? or let it go? and don’t go back to the overpriced dentist!

  155. julie says:

    one easy way to handle the problem is to write the companys corportate office and in the letter send a copy of the rain check and name of the manager who refused to honor it then cc it to the store, better buisness service and most times they will take care of the issue with some type of compensation to get rid bad publicity.

  156. Ashley says:

    Some people sit and clip coupons from their Sunday paper or search online for coupons for their groceries and spend well over 20 minutes doing so only to save $5 at the grocery store. So, if it took me 20 minutes of battling it out, I would. If no one stands up in those types of situations, target would think they could do it to another customer as opposed to being more careful with their rain checks. And that lady might not have budgeted $10 extra for that stool. I’d have waited it out, won the battle, and used the money to buy my kids their favorite yogurts at the grocery store.

  157. Maria says:

    I agree w/Carol: What does being single have to do with it?

    Trent, your assumption is that singletons don’t have children or significant others, and their time is therefore worth less. News flash: There are plenty of unmarried parents and unmarried couples–as if parental or romantic relationships were the only two things that make someone’s life “worth” something in the first place!

  158. aura says:

    actually, after reading a lot of the great comments, I think I will write them a letter

  159. PaulT says:

    Yeah, I have to echo the “of course” theme with many posts here.

    First of all, why not? The principle is the same no matter what the item is worth. If a store is trying to get money from you that they’re not entitled to, then they shouldn’t be allowed to have it. It’s your job as a customer to stop yourself from being defrauded. Sure, some people wouldn’t bother for 10c, but $10?

    That leads into the second point – $10 is more than some people earn in an hour at their place of employment. $30/hour is a dream target for a large number of workers, especially in this climate.

    Finally, this is a surprising attitude coming from a blog usually concerned with frugality and making the most of income. It just seems completely contradictory for a site that recommends eliminating unnecessary expenses and saving $9.36 on making detergent, to then go and essentially throw away $10 because it takes 20 mins to retain it. Not to mention that big retailers should not be encouraged to practice such errors – you can bet that if nobody took the time query such errors, less scurpulous managers would overcharge as a matter of course.

    @Aaron: There were 2 stools being discussed, hence 2x$5 difference.

  160. Mary says:

    In this time of decreasing customer service, I would stand with the principle of the matter. The fact that I deliberately shop sales to save money means that10.00 matters to me. Enough 10.00 savings and it adds up. If Target doesn’t want to honor its rainchecks, they shouldn’t issue them. As for the clerk, that attitude seems to be growing. She was, afterall, going to be standing around for twenty minutes at her register regardless of the outcome. Society has replaced much of the “old world etiquette,” (i.e. The customer is always right,) with a lot of meaningless P.C.
    If the register person had just honored the raincheck in the first place, no one would have been standing around “wasting time.”

  161. Gabriel says:

    Adding on to a comment I made earlier (#79)….The clerk who stated “it’s not worth ten bucks to me to stand around annoying everyone for twenty minutes” DIDN’T. If she’s making $10/hr, then she “earned” $3.33 for argueing with the customer. Did she have to? No. She too had the option of not arueing. Either by honoring the raincheck, ringing up the other customers while the mgr. resolved the situation, or quitting. Yes, I said quitting. It is an option, right? I’m sure she gets paid to argue with customers all the time. She doesn’t think it’s worth it? Then quit. Boy, Trent, you did a good job getting people upset with this one. Good for you. You’ve generated many hits. Is this the reason behind your habit of continually contradicting yourself?

  162. It depends on whether you have more time, or more money? For most of us, our time is essentially limitless, but our money is not.

    One also might want to practice assertiveness, something that is often mistaken for being impolite.

    Lastly, at $30 an hour, it’s not insignificant. There are plenty of people working here in Cheyenne that would love to make (or save) $30 an hour.


  163. Bruce says:

    $30 an hour is actually pretty good for most people, especially considered as after-tax income at the marginal tax rate. If you work 2000 hours a year (50 weeks x 40 hours), that comes out to about $60,000 after taxes. In the 28% tax bracket, $30/hour after tax comes out as $41.67/hr before taxes. So I don’t see where it was actually that bad a time investment for her. The stress factors to her health might be another matter.

    If you look at the savings vs. the original price, we’re talking about 10/60 or a 16% savings. That’s a decent savings.

  164. laura in atlanta says:

    In the reality of the moment though, you dont know how LONG resolving an issue might take. So you can’t look at it like this, breaking down how much it costs to stand there and argue. If you feel, at the time, that you are right, then that’s what you go with . . . not the possibility of the time and money you are spending doing it.

  165. mrsmonkey says:

    An important part of my job, as home/house manager is to do just this…save money wherever I can. When I supermarket shop, I usually spend extra time, looking at labels, using coupons, calculating A over B over C, figuring how we can use whatever surprise bargain I uncover. It takes time.

    I would have done exactly what that woman did. She had planned to buy those stools. She took the time to save the coupon, perhaps walking away from other stools in other stores waiting for these stools to restock. She had already invested in them. Walking away would have cost her the time she had already invested and if she needed them, she still had to take the time to buy them.

  166. mrsmonkey says:

    One last thing…Trent, since you’ve become more financially stable, I notice the trend in your writing is more lenient. An example would be your recent vehicle purchase. I’m not against your leniency, only that you seem to be falling into a pattern where you justify NOT saving.

    Just a thought.

  167. Graytham says:

    “Eh, I don’t necessarily agree that every thing we do should be broken down into an hourly wage. I mean, where does that stop?”

    I can’t agree with this enough. If you’re wealthy enough that you can turn up your nose at 10 bucks, fine. That’s reasonable, and many would kill to be in that position. But to say that it’s not worth the time that could have been spent playing with your kids, or whatever…I don’t know, that sounds a bit extreme. Must every minute of every day be accounted for in a productive or meaningful way? Maybe you would have spent those 20 minutes daydreaming- and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    I love your blog, Trent, and agree with much of what you write. But all this making sure that every activity must somehow “earn” its keep…no, I’m not down with that.

  168. Maureen says:

    I will present a counter example. I made a purchase at Costco that rang up at a higher price than that posted on the shelf. I pointed out the discrepancy to the cashier, who immediately called over a supervisor. I was moved over to a second counter so that the lineup behind me wasn’t held up. They checked the price and determined I was correct. They immediately refunded me the difference and paid me an additional $10 to thank me for pointing it out to them. Now THAT is customer service! You can bet I’ll be shopping there again!

  169. NYC reader says:

    Re: Alejandro #113

    A raincheck is a coupon issued by a store for discounted sale items which are not available. In the case of Target, they had stools on sale for $24.99, the regular price was $29.99.

    When the woman first tried to buy the stools, they were not available (sold out, not in stock, whatever). Target issued a raincheck which permitted the woman to buy the stools at the sale prioe at a later date. When she tried to use the coupon at a later date, the situation which Trent described occurred.

    Rainchecks exist because of widespread unethical sales practices; stores would often advertise a sale, and either have no stock of the item or a grossly insufficient stock (e.g. one stool).

    In the US, stores are required to honor the advertised price, and to have sufficient stock to cover anticipated reasonable demand. If the items are unavailable, they are required to issue rainchecks for the items.

    Rainchecks may have an expiration date, but if the expiration date is not reasonable (e.g. 30 days for an item that might not be restocked within that time), the local consumer affairs office will crack down on the offending stores. I usually see expiration dates of 90 days on rainchecks.

    The only exceptions to the raincheck rule are sales which clearly state “limited availability,” “clearance item,” etc. Often, they specifically state “No rainchecks” on the limited items to make sure customers and consumer affairs understand that once the stock is depleted, there are no more.

    The term “raincheck” comes from the sporting event usage. If a baseball game is rained out or postponed, the original ticket may be honored at the makeup game or exchanged for a ticket at another game.

  170. Cynthia says:

    I think that all you really need to do is ask first at the Customer Service desk. This is what I do when I have a question on an offer. In the past I have done this at CVS wtih rainchecks, and Target, Petco and Lowes with expired offers. Each time the Service desk has quickly and easily agreed to honor them. The cashier doesn’t seem like a good way to go because they will often not have the authority to accept something questionable because it may cost them their job.

  171. Barb says:

    Trent – you disappoint me again with your views on married with kids vs singles. I’m married with four grade school and younger kids. My husband makes a nice salary. But I’m m much more likely to argue $10 that was due me at Target than my single sister.
    Think of it this way – our combined salary divided by 6 people is less per person that my sister’s salary (divided only by one). That $10 means a lot more to our budget than it does to my single sister’s budget.
    I’m ok with trading 20 minutes of my time which give my husband 20 more minutes of time alone with the kids. It would be selfish for me to not try to save my family $10 just so I could go home and join my husband and kids a few minutes earlier.

  172. Beth says:

    I agree with Carol and Marie. Being single has nothing to do with it. In fact, our time could be more valuable than married people/parents because we’re the only income earners in our households, our expenses per person are higher and we have obligations to our friends and family as well. Sure, I understand that a spouse and kids need a lot of time and attention — but have you tried dating lately?

  173. Empress Juju says:

    Things I Could Do With That $10:

    Get nearly 4 gallons of gas
    Brown-bag lunch to work all week
    Go to a matinee at the cheap theatre, and take a friend ($4.50 each)
    Have my good suit dry-cleaned for a job interview
    Get a roll of quarters, do 2 weeks’ worth of laundry
    Go to a community-priced yoga class ($9, where I live)
    Take a friend to no-cover night at the local music club, drink PBR for $2 each
    Buy donuts for the office, be hero for a morning!
    Buy a CD from a local musician
    Donate it to charity, get a receipt, save $2.50 on next year’s taxes :)

  174. Sandy says:

    I am a fan of your site but this article really annoyed me. I find it hard to believe you actually stood at checkout for 20 minutes.

  175. jeanie says:

    At first I got a warm fuzzy feeling for all those worried about the people behind them in line. But after thinking about it more the person is helping everyone by making the store accountable.

  176. Lenore says:

    I know it can drive me crazy if a person in front of me in line takes FOREVER for a price dispute, payment problem or whatever. BUT if I had been that lady, I would have fought for the $10 if I really needed those stools.

    Having a raincheck means she’d been to the store before and found them sold out, so she had already invested time and effort toward making this purchase. Some stores still try to Bait and Switch, so she was actually doing all consumers a favor by holding Target to its obligation. How is this different from disputing a price that rings up higher than it ought to? Vigilant shopping is no sin, especially in hard times.

    As a woman who is childfree by choice, I resent any implication that a single person’s time is worth less than someone’s with a family. If anything, I’d think it was even more important to defend my money and teach my kids to do the same if I had extra mouths to feed.

    Who makes $30 for 20 minutes besides lawyers, doctors, plumbers and prostitutes?

  177. Susie says:

    Trent, you should have not wasted your time writing this article and I should not have wasted my time reading it…this blog is focusing away from your intended audience (the make your own soap people ) to the pretentious audience who like to brag about their bursting emergency funds and how they feel they are better than everyone else. You’re loosing us Trent..you’re loosing us…

  178. Golfing Girl says:

    This is what helped me decide what to charge for 1 hour golf lessons (along with a comparison of other instructors in the area).

    I work full-time and have a family. I also still play golf competitively, so to take an hour away from playing/practicing golf or spending time with my family, I determined the minimum is $40/hour. I would do it for free if I had nothing better to do with my time and didn’t need money.

    I would actually like to increase it to $50 or $60, but I’m waiting for the economy to improve. It’s also a good price point given supply and demand. I give about 1-3 lessons per week (3 is ideal for me). If it jumped to 6, I’d up my prices, hoping to get back to 3 lessons/week. That way my free time would increase as a result of a drop in demand. Or if the lessons didn’t decrease, I’d be making a whole lot more money in exchange for giving up those extra hours. :)

  179. Steve says:

    You know, I am so surprised at this article that I wonder if we’ve got it backwards. The story would make sense if the store was right and the woman was just trying to bully her way into a free $10.

    On the other hand, even in that case, it’s not a question of the hourly rate. Again it would be the principle of the matter. So the story would still be missing a little something.

  180. Gibson says:

    I think if the clerk said “I can do this, but it will take 20 minutes,” I might be inclined to say no, but the expectation this women went into the situation with was “this will take 30 seconds, tops,” which means that going after that $10 is a no-brainer. Obviously the longer it drags on the less incentive there is, but she had no idea how long it would take when she started making a fuss.

  181. Gibson says:

    My point in the above post is that it’s not a question of time vs. money, it’s a question of expectations.

  182. Jes says:

    I wouldn’t have argued, but I would have walked away without buying the merchandise.

  183. Kelly says:

    Wow this reminds me of some family friends we have that always travel together. Before the days of credit cards Family A would check out at Wal-Mart, grocery store, whatever and walk to the exit. The husband would routinely take the coin change and throw it on the ground. Family B would follow behind and pick up the change. If $10 was not really worth your time waiting for this woman why not slip her a $10 bill? That way everyone wins, the store doesn’t have to honor a rain check, the customer gets her discount and you get to give up money for time with your kids.

    I do see a shift here from valuing resources to valuing time. It’s a personal choice I suppose but please don’t knock those who must value every $10 or choose it over time.

    As for the comment about being single you’re going to lose a lot of readers, myself included. From where I sit my time is truly my own and I can choose to give it to my employers (I have 3), my friends, my family or myself. Why, necessarily, is your child more important to you than my grandfather is to me? I’m 24 with no CC debt, great jobs, a house and positive net worth AND no regrets about how I spend my time.

  184. Cheryl says:

    Wow, Trent. I’m really disappointed in you. I have followed your blog daily for well over a year, though I rarely comment, but this one threw me for a loop.

    It tells me how your values have changed as your income and “free time” has increased. Some people would feel like millionaires if they were able to make $30/hour.

    Making a negative mark in your head about a store serves absolutely no purpose. Seriously, do you think anyone else is going to stop going to a store because Trent didn’t get a price change? That is ridiculous.

    Finally, I am 98% sure that the “20 minute” comment was a certain exaggeration. I highly doubt that it took that long.

    Generally, I reserve my comments to be eloquently written and less emotional, but I am just so disappointed in how you have changed… apparently, you have lost touch with the rest of America.

  185. Rap says:

    Of course, we’re all assuming the raincheck was valid, correct?

    There’s no possibility that the customer was being unreasonable, that the raincheck was possibly expired, etc etc etc? I mean, I have to say, one reason I like shopping at Target is that they generally have good customer service. That a manager was willing to argue twenty minutes over ten dollars suggests to me a couple of things.

    A) The raincheck probably wasn’t valid.
    B) The woman knows making a scene and holding up the line works.

    I mean look at the assumptions everyone here is making – the store was intentionally trying to gouge this woman etc etc. But in reality, it’s entirely possible that this woman was making an unreasonable request and knows complaining loudly and holding up the line makes the store look bad regardless of whether she’s in the right or not.

    I work with consumer complaints like this and while there are often mistakes made at the store end – it’s just as likely that the store was enforcing a legit policy. Rainchecks aren’t valid *forever* and yes, hard to believe, but there are people out there who believe arguing until you get what you want regardless of whether you’re actually right is a good technique.

    I mean, if it was your business, and someone brought in an old raincheck that wasn’t valid – do you just give it to them?

  186. Kim says:

    Looks like you hit a nerve here with this one, Trent. Would I argue over $10? Probably not at the register, but I WOULD argue my case at customer service. I love the time is money routine. I have often thought about purchases in terms of how many hours it takes to buy it, to decide if it is worth that much time investment, but I do not consider my free time to be in the same level as my working time Since I am an hourly wage earner, I am not making any money in my free time. I don’t have a wage earning opportunity I am missing by being at the store an extra 20 minutes, so while I understand that argument, I disagree with it. You, however, as an entrepreneur, could be finding ways to make money in that 20 minutes. However, what we are doing, when we value the use of our time, and our time spent with people, is leveraging our working hours to enable us to: 1) provide an acceptable standard of living for our families, and 2) enable us to have enough time spent with people. It is a balancing act. Too much time spent making money to provide too high a standard of living and we are out of balance on the time spent with people portion of our life. Too much time spent with the people and we have not made enough money to properly care for our families. Too many people put their focus on the earnings and are totally out of balance on the people side.

    Some people put so little focus on earning and maintaining an income that they wind up impoverished and causing a financial drain on others in their families, or on the rest of us in general. These place too high a value on their free time.

    Ah, to have that balanced correctly.

  187. Beth says:

    While there is a theoretical value to my time (divide my income by the number of hours I work), since I am salaried, working more or less does not earn me more money. I can not argue that I could just work an extra hour and make up the money and spend less time arguing in Target. The reality is, I am paid what I’m paid no matter how late I work and when I need to save $10 so I can buy my nephews a birthday present, I need to save $10 and the only way to do it is to insist I get fair treatment at the store. It is NOT about me demanding something I shouldn’t get, but asking for fair treatment and asking the store to HONOR their advertisment. The 20 minute delay was not because the customer was difficult, but because the store gave bad customer service. If they gave better customer service, it would have taking 5 minutes and none of use would wonder if she should have sacrafice time to get the advertised price.

  188. Rap says:

    “The 20 minute delay was not because the customer was difficult, but because the store gave bad customer service. If they gave better customer service, it would have taking 5 minutes and none of use would wonder if she should have sacrafice time to get the advertised price.”

    But do we know they were just giving bad service? Or is good service now defined as “Give the customer whatever they want regardless of any pre-established advertised policy”?

    If the raincheck was legitamite, then the store was wrong. What I don’t understand is the immediate assumption that the raincheck was legitamite. I mean, am I just being too cynical here? It’s just impossible for a customer to be unreasonable or not correct?

    Good customer service is not defined by simply doing whatever a customer wants regardless of store policy. If the raincheck was old, and *expired* – does the store have to honor it in order to be considered to have good customer service? Far too many people in this world play the game of “Do as I want or else I will say you have poor customer service” with unreasonable demands. It is possible (in fact likely considering the description of this incident) that the customer in question was making an unreasonable demand. I’m not ready to tar Target with the bad customer service tag when I know that people lie, threaten make scenes, and exaggerate all the time to get free stuff.

  189. Tina says:

    I think it is the principle. Recently I purchased some easter candy from a young boy that stopped by my office, it was a school fundraiser and i paid for the candy right then.

    Well, the day after easter I realized that i had never been brought the candy. I knew who his grandmother was so I called and left a message that I had paid for the candy, I either wanted the candy or I wanted my money back. The call took a few minutes out of my day.

    A few hours later, the little boy came in with the candy. It was only $7 but you better believe I was not going to just forget about it, it wouldn’t matter how much money i made an hour, that had nothing to do with it.


  190. Sacha says:

    Enough with the hourly wage comparisons.

    I absolutely would have fought for $10. And so would you, Trent, if this had happened to you. If it had, the entry you’d have posted would have been about importance of making sure your purchases ring up correctly and holding stores accountable for their prices.

    This post is really obnoxious.

  191. Cindy says:

    My comment is about the other people in this line. If they did not want to wait while she resolved her issue, they could move to another line. I really doubt it was the only one open. I wouldn’t want to get overcharged just so the line could move faster.

  192. Johanna says:

    @Rap: Several people, including me, have already acknowledged the possibility that the raincheck was not valid. But regardless of whether it was or not, I think that the Target management was guilty of poor customer service for allowing the dispute to hold up a checkout line for any length of time.

    If the raincheck was obviously valid, they should have honored it immediately. If it was obviously invalid, they should have treated her however they would treat someone demanding to pay $25 for a $30 item without a raincheck (i.e., by showing her out the door, and if she refuses to leave, by calling security). If there was any ambiguity (although I can’t for the life of me think what ambiguity there would be – how complicated can it be to determine whether or not a raincheck is valid?), the managers should have taken the woman over to the customer service desk, or at least off to the side somewhere, and allowed the cashier to serve other customers while the dispute was being settled.

    Regardless of which it was, there’s no way that the line should have been held up for 2 minutes, let alone 20 (although as others have mentioned, it probably wasn’t really 20 minutes – the cashier was probably exaggerating).

  193. AL says:

    I don’t think the hourly wage principle applies to everything. I don’t earn money by doing things other than work. Spending time with family doesn’t bring me money. Reading a book doesn’t bring me money.

    If I were working 24/7, then I would consider “wage” comparisons to see if something was worth my time. But I don’t, so I’ll stick to my budget and argue for $10 if the situation calls for it.

  194. Agatha says:

    WOW, another post highlighting how single people’s time is worthless, WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WOTH MARRIED PEOPLE WITH KIDS? Really, is this how we single people are perceived? Lots of free time, NOTHING to do, NOBODY to care about, completely wasting our lives? This is so disgusting that I cannot say anything else without being too rude.

    And the thing about “$30/h is not worth”… what? How many people make $30/h in these economic times? And even for people who do (I do, by the way), what does that have anything to do with the PRINCIPLE of what had happened?

    You have changed a lot Trent, A LOT. I’m very disappointed with your last posts.

  195. Lynne says:

    My income is limited, so it would be worth the extra time to get the item for the price listed on the rain check. After all, if I had a raincheck, it would mean I had already spent time in Target previously to buy an item that was out of stock. In order to make up for their lack of merchandise, the store issued the raincheck to ensure customer satisfaction. Since we only have a small amount of information we can’t assume the woman lived in the town with the Target store, either. Many people live in small towns with no discount stores, thus making special trips to buy specific items. I would stand my ground if I was the shopper.

  196. Jimbo says:

    Dude, just because you have a family, a wife and kids does not mean you are ‘above’ us or that your time is magically more valuable. $30/hr after-tax wage is a great return even for you notwithstanding the deeep love you have for your family and your never-ending desire to spend every minute with them.

  197. The problem with valuing your time in that way is that no one is actually paying for your time. In terms of mental health, arguing over the price vs. being with your family, friends or pursuing a hobby is apples to apples. If somebody was going to pay me $10 to spend 20 minutes with my kids, heck yes I would choose that option. But since they aren’t, I’d stay and argue on principle — although I do appreciate the point about holding everyone else up. I hate it when I tell a clerk “never mind” and they keep pursuing something like a discount to give me good service, while everyone in line behind me gives me the evil eye.

  198. DB Cooper says:

    How long did you actually wait in line? How much time did you spend shopping? How long did the commute to and from the store take? Did you calculate the time vs. money factor? Was this a valid use of your time, considering you had children at home that were deprived of your ever-loving attention? Every moment you spend doing anything else is time you’re not spending with your children – how dare you be so selfish!

  199. Susie says:

    This blog is starting to sound more like the Dr. Phil show. Relationship advice?? How to apologize? How does this relate to saving money.

  200. Xi says:

    Once I was behind a woman at Safeway who argued with a cashier over whether or not the small eggs were correctly scanned. The woman claimed they were scanned as medium eggs; the cashier the opposite. This went on for several minutes while the rest of us, who had spent 20-30 minutes in traffic just to GET to Safeway, watched our groceries spoil in their carts.

    End result: the woman got her small eggs correctly scanned. Net: FIVE CENTS. Really. Five. Cents.

  201. erin says:

    maybe the author of the blog should use the time he takes calculating the cost of time and play with his kids. just saying…
    the whole point of a rain check is to honor a price at a later date. i don’t see why there was any argument in the first place.

  202. Regina says:

    This is why I try to get things like this done at work. Sometimes I have significant down time at work with nothing productive to do (but I’m still required to be there 8 hours).

    So if I need to call or e-mail customer service for something, set-up appointments, check bank accounts, pay bills online, comparison shop, etc. I do it during that time. That way, I’m being paid to be at work 8 hours while also saving personal time (and sometimes money) by getting errands done at work.

    This is the best possible time to do administrative life tasks, in my opinion.

  203. Christine says:

    Maybe Trent makes laundry detergent with his family :-)

  204. Skeet says:

    I’m going out on a limb here to say that I don’t think Trent meant to offend folks by their martial status. I think he’s just thinking about the amount of time he has now compared to being single with no children and in no way reflects the experiences of readers, only his own.
    As for a negative mental remark, we all do it, sometimes automatically and unconsciously when we visit a store or restaurant and are displeased with the service. We’re just not sometimes consciously aware that we did so.

  205. J Ro says:

    Two facts here.

    1. It amounts to about $ 30/hr.

    2. It is $10 out of $60 that are being saved.

    Now Trent is saying that the the hourly wage is not worth his time. But how does that relate to you is what you should be asking and he states in his write up. For most of us $30/hr may be worth it especially if we have nothing else planned. The other issue is that the lady is saving 17% on her purchase. Now who wouldn’t drive an extra two minutes somewhere for a sale that was 17%? I guess it would depend on what is being purchased and what that means to us. $10 may not be a lot but if we let 17% get away from us time and time again. It becomes $170 when we spend $1000. I could sure use an extra $170 in my pocket. I like to look at things as percentages and when the percentage of the whole purchase becomes larger I make it worth my time. I do this for the simple reason that it will help me in the long run.

  206. Mister E says:

    Well I’m certainly not the first to say this but I find it hard to believe the guy who makes his own laundry soap to save a few pennies would suggest it’s not worth it to argue for $10.

    Even if it was $0.10 there is the principle to consider. We ALL need to hold businesses accountable. It wasn’t this woman’s fault that you were held up IT WAS THE STORE’S.

    And uhm, I’m glad the whole internet writer thing is working out for you man but you risk seriously alienating a large portion of your readership by acting like $30/hr post-taxes is beneath you. What’s that? An 80K+ salary?

  207. Karen says:

    I do a lot of contract work for the Iowa DNR and earn $20 an hour. I teach full time and earn $18 and hour to teach summer school (after a major fight to get there!) I’d stand in line and fight the manager or cashier in a heart beat. If they denied me the lower price, and maybe even if they did allow it, I would be sure to mental note that store and not go back, plus tell others of my negative experience. I would probably send the store a letter, as well.

    For similar reasons I have not been in a Casey’s store in 3 years. Call me an elephant, but if you cross this hard-working woman I won’t forget and MANY others will hear about it.

  208. Karen says:

    I do a lot of contract work for the Iowa DNR and earn $20 an hour. I teach full time and earn $18 an hour to teach summer school (after a major fight to get there!) I’d stand in line and fight the manager or cashier in a heart beat. If they denied me the lower price, and maybe even if they did allow it, I would be sure to mental note that store and not go back, plus tell others of my negative experience. I would probably send the store a letter, as well.

    For similar reasons I have not been in a Casey’s store in 3 years. Call me an elephant, but if you cross this hard-working woman I won’t forget and MANY others will hear about it.

  209. JP says:

    looks like Trent is getting an early start on his political career – this way of thinking seems to fit the political era of today

  210. Joyce says:

    I had a very similar circumstance just this morning. I was returning a sweater that I had purchased for my Mother, but before I could send it to her, she passed away. The sweater remained in a JC Penney’s bag in my closet and when I was changing out my seasonal items, I found it. I confidently approached the sales clerk with my friendliest, “I’d like to return this please.” She looked at the receipt and stated that I had waited too long as items purchased on sale in November could only be returned within 90 days. She offered to contact an on site manager, but the phone was never answered. I could tell that she was wondering if she should just stuff the sweater into the bag and say a final “I’m sorry”, or if her compasionate side was going to flourish. I told her that I understood the policy,and I could just donate the sweater to the Salvation Army. She must have seen the tears well up in my eyes when I mentioned that my mother never got to wear the sweater because she died. Bless her heart. She rang up the refund as her eyes welled up with tears in sympathy to mine. It was one soul reaching out to another. Bravo Alice!!

  211. Leah says:

    I like this idea, and I especially think the “mental black mark” against a store is key. For years, I’ve avoided shopping at Walmart on principle. Now, I live in a town where the nearest Target/Fleet Farm is 20+ minutes away, so Walmart is the easiest option. But I find that it sucks so much of my time to go there that I often avoid shopping there; the few dollars I’ll save is not worth my time, so I save Target trips for when I’m headed somewhere else.

    The other night, I had to return one bike rack to Walmart and get a different one. They took the exchange without a receipt (+!), but it took them 15 minutes to do the exchange. The price of the new rack was over $50; at that point, the customer service rep has to call a manager, and it took the manager 10 minutes to even show up. I wasn’t in a hurry, so it was fine, but it sure does make me rethink every wanting to return anything or even shop there.

    Similarly, I prefer to spend an extra couple bucks on my single-person grocery bill (maybe ends up as $20 a month?) to shop at the small, local grocery store that is just 5 minutes from my house. I’d save money by going 15 minutes out to Walmart or another big store, but it’s just such a hassle. Again, I’ll only shop at bigger grocery stores if I’m already on my way out there for something else.

    time definitely = money!

  212. cgbascom says:

    I, too, would have spent the time to get the $10.00 break. I didn’t get the raincheck because I wanted to waste my time going back.

    I live 100 miles away from a Target and the nearest department store to me is 48 miles away. This means that I save up my shopping for a day when I have at least three things that need to be done in that particular town. I will spend the 20 minutes for the discount. In my case, I have found that if I get a raincheck for a particular item at this department store, I usually cannot use it (the raincheck, that is). The last time I tried to use a raincheck, the store had the item, but did not carry it in the right size. I found out at the checkout that the item I had a raincheck for was for a specially ordered size and the store didn’t normally carry it in that particular size. It was so nice of them to tell me that when I got the raincheck. Needless to say, while I really have no choice but to shop at that store, I am very careful about buying the things I need, but no longer ask for rainchecks.

  213. KeithS says:

    If the entire transaction took place at the cashier’s station I would be extremely annoyed if I were waiting in line behind this customer. Hopefully the manager would have the sense to take it to the customer service station rather than hold up the rest of the line. If she spent only her own time to save $10 that’s fine, but she spend everyone else’s time in line and they made nothing.

  214. This one really hit a nerve with folks, didn’t it?! I’m going to ignore all the brouhaha about 1) the value of single vs married, 2) $30 an hour and how much that actually is, 3) whether her raincheck was valid, and 4) whether Target was gouging or defending policy. What I want to comment on is how inappropriate it was for the cashier to roll her eyes about another customer and the delay. Yes, we’re talking Target so there is a fair chance this was a young worker with still-developing social and professional skills, so I’ll cut a bit of slack. But that’s just not really appropriate.

    Oh, and if I were the woman (and the raincheck were not expired), I’d fight it too. And be pissed if it actually took the 20 minutes as the cashier said (um, prob took 5 to 7, in my guess).

    I agree with many people that the ultimate issue was not $/hr calculations, but the social embarassment of being “cheap” and making a scene. Which is confusing this issue big-time.

  215. Borealis says:


    There is a flaw in your reasoning. You compare the time spent arguing for the discount to the most important time alternative. You should compare it to the next least valuable alternative, such as watching TV or sleeping.

    What if the store was charging you $10 more than the sticker price? Wouldn’t you fight it or just walk out and never come back.

  216. Donna Marie says:

    I would fight for the $10.00 because I think large corporations in general try to see how much advantage can be taken of the public, and I’m certainly not going to give them permission to take advantage of me.

    In this woman’s case, she had the store’s rain check for a certain price on that item and it should have been honored. Period.

    Imagine this scenario taking place across hundreds of Target stores on dozens of items, and Target knows that most people will simply walk away without making a fuss. In this situation, Target is, to me, taking a dishonest profit by relying upon people’s avoidance of “making a fuss.”

  217. Sharon says:

    Sometimes you go back several times, waiting for them to get the backordered item in. During this interval, the raincheck may “expire.” Is that my fault that they did not get the item in in a timely manner? NO! I expect them to honor it, and with an apology for the lengthy dealy.

    As for “inconveniencing” other shoppers, I fall into the camp of I am protecting them from being scammed by the store. And if they get their knickers in a twist because of that, I see it as THEIR problem. I do not “make” anyone do anything. They make their choices, as I make mine. They can stop shopping, forfeiting the time they already invested in shopping, complain to the manger for his/her failure to manage the dispute reasonably, or simply enjoyed the fact that someone is standing up for principle.

    By this standard of being afraid to inconvenience others, then you should never go anywhere. After all, your presence might inconvenience someone else who is in a hurry. You might buy something that someone else wanted to buy. You might be in front of a driver who needs to get to the emergency room. Etc.

    The upset singles who believe that Trent is dissing them, consider that children grow up VERY fast. Twenty minutes spent with a young child cannot be gotten back. I don’t think that Trent was trying to say if you don’t have children your time is worth less than that of parents. The opportunity to make memories with children is limited.

  218. Louise says:

    Trent, you seem to have offended quite a number of your single readers. Now might be a good time to practice the art of the public apology.

    But only if you’re sincere :-)

  219. Sally says:

    She had already invested the time and gas to get to the store. $10 is worth a little extra time – she had made the decision to purchase these items. Customer service, in general, has deteriorated in a lot of stores. CS is a no-brainer – the customer is always right. Except when the cashiers would rather discuss their boyfriend problems instead of do their job, for instance.

  220. Gina Dee says:

    I think it’s interesting when the woman trying to get the sale price she was promised is viewed as wasting other people’s time, or wasting her own time.

    I would view her insistence as trying to note waste her time. Maybe she could have been a bit more civil, but she already made a commute to the store, picked up the merchandise she wanted, and waited in line to check out. If she decided to just drop the subject because there was a bit of a mix-up, then she would be wasting her own time, and not getting what she came into the store for.

    I also think that people waiting in line are very impatient in general, despite the fact that most of them would probably insist on the price change as well. :P

    And this whole “time is money” thing does get kind of exhausting. I really feel we all worry too much about wasting any second of our day. I personally bring an iPod with me wherever I go, so if there’s a hold up, I’ve got something to enjoy. Or I call someone and catch up on how they are doing. I make use of my time when I am in an idling situation, and anyone who stands around grumbling about their time being wasted, well, that’s their own fault, and it’s pretty immature. People know lines are unavoidable- their lack of finding something useful to do in the meantime is not really anyone’s fault but their own.

    You really shouldn’t decide that a person values something lesser than you might simply because she wants the price she expected to get, or decide that she wasted her time.

  221. Kelly says:

    I think I understand your unstated reasoning that you value time with your children more than you once valued time with friends/family/etc when you were single. Thus, your unwillingness to trade that time for $10 is somewhat understandable. But you’re not at all clear on that fact and at first reading it does sound like “single people don’t have anything important to go home for.” Please revise or explain your position.

    I reread your entry carefully and all 200 comments. Some clarifications that need to be made:

    *the lady held an old rain check in her hand.
    >>doesn’t mean it’s expired, do you know for sure?

    *I was standing in the checkout line… they had just agreed to give the price on her rain check
    >>were you in line the entire time or just for the end of the conversation? If it’s the latter how do you know it took 20 minutes?

    *it had become a bit of a scene
    >>why? because a manager, assistant manager and checker were helping one person? isn’t that their job when the store is in the wrong or a price is in dispute?

    *the woman checking me out just rolled her eyes… annoying everyone for twenty minutes
    >>was this an exaggeration or an honest gauge of time? Why is this employee annoyed that the customer (presumably) found an error? Do you see the subtle implication from the checker that if YOU find a mistake on your receipt you could be the subject of the next eye roll and complaint?

    I work retail (will be there tonight actually) and as a shift manager I would never allow one of my GUEST SERVICE employees get away with that behavior! You are there to serve the guest, period. Convey to the customer the store will adhere to corporate policies and we will do our best to work with each guest. PLEASE inform us if pricing is wrong, the bathroom is dirty or the manager was rude when dealing with you. You know why? Because there’s a competitor across the street, the next town over, online and alternatives everywhere. The person I’m helping may have a blog that reaches 100,000 people and that’s more powerful than a “black mark” in Trent’s mind. It’s about guest relations and good service, not $10.

    Maybe it’s just me, but then again, my store has the highest customer service rating in our county and high sales despite a number of better positioned competitors.

  222. alejandro says:

    NYC reader: thank you. In Italy, advertising of these kind of sales should include the number of available pieces in one store. But I think your rainchecks method is quite better! Sadly, dishonest managers are the same, all over the world… thanks again for your kind explanation

  223. reulte says:

    Good customer service is not always giving the customer what they want; however, it IS acting politely and in a timely manner. The manager should have move the customer over to the service desk to discuss the matter and/or opened another line. However, I don’t think Trent is guilty of ‘wasting’ his time. I rather suspect he was interested in the outcome of this overhead conversation and he did get an article out of it. I disagree with his conclusion and, like this woman, would have pushed for what I believe was my due whether it was 10 cents or 10 dollars. If I didn’t have the time, I would have walked out, leaving all items on the counter (possibly along with my fidelity card) and told the manager on the way out the the store had lost a customer and very likely, my friends business as well.

    It really bothers me that some single people accuse marrieds and parents of thinking their time is more valuable. It isn’t more valuable, however, dealing with children is usually more urgent. You can apologize and explain to another adult, that doesn’t work for kids. Trent doesn’t say (or even imply) time is more/less valuable; he simply point out that this is a conditional situation and in other circumstances he might make different choices. “For example, if I were single”, could as easily be … if I were unemployed … if I were a surgeon who’s beeper had just gone off … if it were $100 instead of $10.

    Single people can usually spend more time doing what they feel is right (like arguing with store clerk), profitable (like taking the overtime) or enjoyable (sitting in a coffeeshop discussing the latest bestseller with their friends) without having to check in with someone else like a babysitter or partner or teacher. It doesn’t make their time any less or any more valuable — a reason I don’t particularly like those $ per time comparisons, not everything is I do is based only on money. The price of time is based on the values of the individual. Would I trade two hours of my private time for overtime at double pay? No, but there were plenty of other people (married and single) who asked for my assigned overtime. I didn’t do overtime before I had a child and I don’t do it now. Would I spend 2 hours waiting in a hospital while a friend had surgery? Yes. Do I treat my time with my boy, my friends, my self as valuable? Yes, yes, and yes. How do I resolve conflicts? The best I can.

    As an aside, I don’t think anyone considers anyone else’s time quite a valuable as their own – single or married.

  224. kivyn says:

    I make $8/hour at my part-time job – a job that takes me away from my child and husband 2 days each week and leaves me feeling tired and broken for another two days. So, yes, at the moment, my time is certainly worth $30/hour, especially considering the fact that my child (and likely my husband, as well) would be there with me to cheer me on as I took on the big bad manager of the big box store. If I were in another place financially, $10 for a couple of stools wouldn’t be that big a deal to me. Right now, though, I probably wouldn’t pay more than $10 for two stools, total (assuming I actually needed stools, of course). Frugality and thrift, as well as customer service, are dying qualities in this country. There are a few of us, however, who still hold them dear.

  225. blythelight says:

    Wow. As of this writing, we’re up to 213 comments, mine being #214. I’d say that 20 minutes was very well spent.

  226. Beth says:

    Good customer service would have taken into consideration the 12 people waiting behind the woman regarless of the expiration date of her raincheck. A good manager relizes giving her the sales price from last week is worth keeping the rest of the waiting customres happy. If one waiting customre gets mad and leaves, there goes way more than the $10 sale for Target. And regarless of the expiration date, the stools WERE offered at $25 last week, so it’s not like she’s extorting them, it WAS an acceptable price for Target last week and for overall customers relations and keeping the line of customer happy and BUYING, they should have given it to her. The cost to Target of arguing for 20 minutes was WAY more than $10

  227. Rachel says:

    Just because someone has decided to have children, it does not make their decision (and the consequences of that decision) any more important than another’s decision not to have children. Furthermore, I find it infuriating when coworkers of mine are allowed time off more readily simply by using their child or spouse as an excuse. I have nieces and nephews whom I help care for (one of whom is autistic) as well as a second job, but none of this matters when I’m told at the last minute that “So-and-so’s kid has a school program so they are taking today off”. It’s almost as if my decisions, my family commitments, and my other job are seen as less important or somehow more flexible since I did not birth or marry them. Forgive me if I refuse to believe that a single and childless person cannot have a valuable, meaningful life whose time is somehow worth less to them. I respect that children and spouses are a worthy use of one’s time, but so are many, many other things, and it would be nice if marrieds-with-children would stop looking at their lives as a sort of “before and after” situation, wherein the “before” snapshot shows their lives as empty and “after” marriage and children snapshot gave their lives meaning–even if this is true, they need to at the very least stop assuming that since this was the case with their lives, it must be true for all other single people. Heads-up: it is up to each of us to create meaning in our lives, and if you weren’t able to do that prior to marriage and kids, do not look down on me for being able to do it in my life, without either one.

  228. Beth says:

    Kudos, Rachel! Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  229. Agatha says:

    Wondeful post Rachel, I agree 1000000000%. I will even copy your last sentence, because that cannot be said enough:

    “Heads-up: it is up to each of us to create meaning in our lives, and if you weren’t able to do that prior to marriage and kids, do not look down on me for being able to do it in my life, without either one.”

  230. jered says:

    This almost sounds like something for Freakonomics. Very interesting discussion.

  231. Johanna says:

    You know, normally I’ll be the first person in line to complain about the generalizations Trent makes about parenthood versus singletonhood. But here, he kind of does have a point, although maybe he didn’t express it in the most sensitive way.

    I’m unmarried, I live alone, and I like it that way. I don’t have kids, and I don’t want kids. That doesn’t mean that my life is meaningless or that I don’t do fulfilling things with my time, but it does mean that I schedule most of my time with only myself to please, so I do make different choices than I would if my family/living situation were different.

    Several weeks ago, I spent far more than 28 minutes (the $30/hour rate) protesting a $14 bank fee. I didn’t even manage to get it refunded, but I’m fine with how I spent that time, since at least now I know what it was and how to avoid triggering it in the future. But looking back, if I had had friends or family waiting for me to come home for dinner, would I have considered spending the evening at the bank to be a worthwhile use of my time? Certainly not.

    Having said all that, though, I’m not sure Trent really means it that family time is worth $30/hour for him as a general principle. After all, he could shut down the blog, take his kids out of childcare, and have all the family time he wants. Is this blog really so lucrative that it nets him $30/hour after taxes *and* after paying for childcare? If so, I think he’s overpaid.

  232. Leanna says:

    I read your blog regularly and do enjoy it even though I don’t agree with everything you write. This post is great because of all the comments it has stirred up… but what I see missing is YOUR RESPONSE to the comments!! We’re at 217 comments and for you to not check back in with your readers – and ackowledge what has been said here – is insulting. IMO, a blog is 2-way communication; so address some of the comments and questions to show that you value your readers.

  233. viola says:

    Thank you Rachel. I’m married, but no kids. I often get volunteered to work on the weekend or late, when others have the excuse of needing to go home for their kids. Yes, kids are a big responsibility and I understand require more time, but I wish others would vue MY time as equally as valuable.

    The value of the $10 vs. time is all relative. If you have little money and lots of time, then your time spent getting what little more you can is worth it. If you’ve got lots of money and little time, the the $10 extra to pay is worth the time you didn’t waste.

    As for the woman arguing $10, it’s her right to argue over the price she’s paying if she thinks she’s right. Target is a big store. Get in another line behind people that aren’t arguing about rainchecks if you feel she’s wasting your time.

  234. Sandy says:

    I still don’t believe that you stood at checkout for 20 minutes watching someone else arguing. I just don’t believe it.

  235. John says:

    After Christmas I bought two Walmart items on clearance, $5 each. There was no sign saying the items could not be returned. A month later I decided to return them since I had not used them or even taken them out of their packaging. The lady said they were seasonal and could not be returned. I asked for the manager who at first said no and then said I could return one of them. When I said I would just leave them there and get Visa to give my money back, her tune changed and I was given my $10 credit on my visa.

  236. Simple$isgoingoffcourse says:

    I bought a rain gauge last year. There was a cold snap and the water in the gauge froze and cracked the glass. This was a “Pyrex” gauge, and I did not expect freezing or boiling to break it. It cost me $1.97. I grabbed that gauge and headed back to Lowe’s with it. I took it to returns, a girl called someone who she claimed “handled that department, not even a manager. He came over, convinced I would not get a replacement. We argued, he claimed he didn’t even carry that gauge, which was easy to do since I didn’t keep the package, but I did have a two month old receipt for a “rain gauge.” Unbeknownst to him, I had sent my son to retrieve the same gauge from the Lowe’s shelf. After essentially calling me a liar and a cheat, my son showed up with the gauge from the Lowe’s shelf, in packaging. After me, him, my son, the returns clerk and the customers behind me realized he was caught in a lie, he got more defensive. I let him have it. Told him he needed to get a manager here, right now, to get my refund. I didn’t want a replacement, since the package led me to believe it was weather proof or resistant (wasn’t, as a freak, out of season cold snap had defeated it). I had to tell him that I had his name and every middle-manager between him and the Corporate Office would hear this story, so he threatened to call the police. Somehow the manager showed up and gave me the refund, apologizing profusely. An employee like this, wasted his time, my time, the manager’s time, the customer’s behind me, their time, all over a buck ninety-seven. Pathetic. But I got my buck ninety-seven, plus tax, back. Who wants to shop at a store that thinks you’re trying to make a trip back in to swindle them out of $1.97? Who comes up with a broken item that costs so little that they would spend their time arguing over such an amount that they didn’t sincerely have a bad experience with? What does that say about their opinion of their customers? Where do we draw the line on what amount is acceptable to have a store essentially call us liars over?

    So yes, this woman at Target spent her time very wisely. If only Trent had spent his or yours so wisely.

    Also, I would like to know why Trent doesn’t defend himself over the comments in these blogs. I can understand ignoring one or two, but it seems as if he’s been getting reamed on several of these posts, and there is no followup, no answer, no accountability. Perhaps we should all make ‘mental marks’ and leave him with no more advertising revenue and send him packing back to a regular person’s job so he can get a good dose of reality.

  237. Rebecca says:

    Some of us have more time than money and $10 is very important to us. In this economy, there are probably even more people than ever before who would devote their time to getting an extra $10 and consider it being done for their family. No matter what it equals to in an hourly wage, this isn’t something you would hire out and it isn’t time that anyone is paying you for anyway unless it’s keeping you from work. Ten bucks is ten bucks and it buys stuff you need.

    And, Trent, didn’t you ever post about knowing your audience? Don’t you realize that many of your readers must make well under $30 dollars an hour?

  238. Swap Savers says:

    I have thought about this issue many times and have been on both sides. I don’t think it is really about $10 in fact it could have been $1. I think it boils down to emotion–the woman was obviously angry and was not thinking about the time she was spending since her emotions were taking over.

  239. reulte says:

    Rachel — I agree with you and love your end line. When your boss pulls that on you, “Sonsos is leaving early for a school program,” definitly tell them — “I’m so sorry you did that as I have plans this evening that I can not and will not change” or “I hope you aren’t asking me to cover for them because I have plans this evening that I can not and will not change” or — for a change of pace :-) — “Other people are counting on me so I can not and will not change my plans”. Of course, this works best is (1) you really do have plans, (2) you have not made a pattern of regularly staying after-hours, (3) you are willing to stand up to your immediate supervisor and (4) if the Sonsos have made earlier indications of the kid-inspired event you have indicated that you’d love to work that time but you have a previous engagement. As an alternate, let your boss and co-workers know that you are unavailable for after-hours on Tuesdays (or whatever day) for a given reason (schooling, visiting relatives, book club meeting, after-work coffee with my mentor).

    Viola. Other people are not going to value your time as equally valuable as theirs (no matter if they are married, single, childless, whatever). Stand up for your own values — and that includes your time.

  240. This post reminded me of something that happened in a supermarket a few years ago.

    I was behind a woman arguing over a 50 cent discount– this went on for two minutes when I reached into my pocket, handed her two quarters, and asked her to leave. She took the quarters, looked at me stunned and embarassed (I think she realized how stupid the situation was), but she left.

    Probably the best 50 cents I ever spent . . .

  241. Valerie says:

    If she really needed the stools and had to spend her time looking for them elsewhere, even for the same price, it would end up costing her more time. So, arguing 20 minutes for the $10 seems worth it.

  242. Shannon says:

    I find this post a bit disrespectful and the line of reasoning more than a bit flawed.

    First of all, you don’t know a thing about this woman that you are criticizing. Perhaps the woman in front of you was following a budget developed after months of religious personal finance blog following, and all of her kids were at school/work. Or perhaps she was poor. Or single. Or trying to get of the house for a couple hours.

    Others have already pointed this out, but there are millions of people who work for less than $30/hour after taxes, and it’s likely that you yourself and anyone else who makes more would do so, too, if for some reason your/their current money-making techniques dried up. Many people do this even if (gasp!) they have children, families, parents, or friends.

    And your reasoning is flawed because there is a difference between refusing extra money (that you never planned on having in the first place) and spending extra money (that you planned on having but are losing because of an unexpectedly high tab at a store). I would expect someone writing a personal finance blog to know the difference.

  243. $30 an hour is $60K/year.. seems like easy money to me.

  244. John says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever read another PF blog that has such angry readers.

  245. Ellie says:

    The lady with the stool sold her dignity for $10.00. But people devalue their dignity all the time

    I started cashiering when I was laid off of my teaching job and it has really changed my outlook on humanity. When I started I was shocked by how poorly people acted in public, now I’m used to it.

    I’ve seen customers throw temper tantrums in public far worse than their children because they don’t get their way. I’ve seen people throw objects, cry, threaten and yell in a store. I’ve been the one yelled at.

    It’s an awful feeling to be accused, blamed and threatened if you make a mistake or just suffer a lack of communication, but life goes on, I’m used to it now.

    I wonder what goes through the customers’ minds when they go home after having made a scene. Do they feel embarrassed? regretful? I feel embarrassed for them. Do they have some sort of problem? some sort of unaddressed issue that allows them to feel o.k. about acting out in public? Is it a poor sense of boundaries that keeps them from understanding and dealing with the word NO?

    There is a crisis in social, critical thinking and problem solving skills in this country. There is a stunning sense of entitlement and lack of boundaries and context.

    When a customer screams out loud, in public because the item she thought was on sale was no longer on sale, I wish I could say something about how lucky we have it here. She complains about $5.00, I think of starvation, disease, wars and how privileged we are to have a safe place to go home to.

    How many different ways could these problems be solved? If people can’t even communicate in a civil way about the price of a chair or a rain gauge- if assumptions, resentments and other frustrations regularly thwart simple transactions, how on earth are we going to solve real problems?

    I finally realized that my time and emotional health were not worth the pay that a cashier gets. I put in my notice after having listened to the umteenth customer unload their hardships on me. I’m there to try and help and I honestly try, but I can’t always fix everything, and I can’t always take the time to explain company policy and procedure. To be perfectly honest, if a customer is respectful I will bend over backward to help. If someone is demanding or rude I feel like they should not have that behavior rewarded (there’s the teacher in me!)

    Everyone needs to stop, take a deep breath and realize that we’re all human.

    If the cashier is short on patience, that happens too. I’ve dealt with bad customer service myself, but now I really think carefully about how I present myself and really try to take the humanity of that other person in mind. As a result I’ve gotten fast and courteous solutions to a number of problems. Its not always the answer I want, but at least all parties involved have their dignity.

    Cashiering has truly changed my outlook on people for the worse. Whereas I used to have a sunny outlook I now have to resist the urge to judge people defensively.

    I still force myself to look each customer in the eye and try to value their humanity. To be honest, I’m done on the 26th and I hope to never be in a job where I have to see that side of people again.

  246. Karen604 says:

    Another part of the story is from all of the other folks waiting BEHIND the lady arguing for her $10. I have experienced this type of thing more than a few times, in what used to be my favorite hobby and craft store. I now think several times before deciding if I even want to shop there. It used to be a store that I would visit at least once a week and spend $10-$30 at a time. I now visit every 2-3 months and purchase $0-20, when I do. They lost me as much of a customer to other stores and online shopping.
    That store would better serve its customers by getting the problems out of the way quickly. They have shown me that any problem I have will be a BIG issue. Why should I bother with them?

  247. David045 says:

    Hey, 10 bucks is 10 bucks.

  248. Amanda says:

    Yesterday I waited in the customer service line while a $6 error was corrected. It probably took 15 minutes. Their computer was programmed wrong and a couple of ounces of nutritional yeast was charged $7 instead of $1. It’s worth $6 to me because I clip coupons trying to save $.25! My situation is different though. We’re DINKS but I only work for 3 months of the year 3 days a week. I love my free time! In order to keep it I have to cut corners on simple things.

    It’s also why I made my own laundry detergent and dishwasher soap yesterday. I have time!

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