During the lunch hour, I decided to grab a ready-made salad from H-E-B, the main supermarket here in San Antonio. While the parking lot was full of cars, I was able to get around the store quickly. I found the prepared chef salad near the Deli section, and soon was making my way to the express checkout lane.

The Checkout

There was only one person in front of me, which meant my wait would be minimal. The customer was an elderly lady, and she was pushing the fast lane limit. I calculated about 9 products in her small cart.

When she was done emptying the cart, I noticed that the Seasoned Jalapeno Dip was still in the small basket near the handle. The rest of the items were removed from the cart and promptly scanned by the talkative cashier.

I thought about mentioning to the lady that one item remained in the cart, but quickly changed my mind. Was it really my business if she forgot to pay for it, or if she was planning to pull a fast one on the cashier?

Here is what I thought about saying?

  • “Ma’am. I think you forgot one item in the cart.”
  • “Were you planning to buy the Seasoned Jalapeno Dip”?
  • “Is that your dip, ma’am”?

As you can tell, any question I asked was going to sound silly. The other point is that I arrived to the queue after she had unloaded some of her groceries from the cart. The dip might have been scanned before I got there. There were too many possibilities for me to be nosey and wrong.

She’s Done!

The cashier and lady carried a short conversation about the changing weather, which made my wait a bit longer. I didn’t like it, but my mind was still racing about what to do regarding the Seasoned Jalapeno Dip.

She thanked the young man and prepared to make her away out of the grocery store. Before rolling her cart even a foot, she noticed that dip was still in the basket, and said: “Oh, my! I forgot to pay for this item! So sorry!” The cashier quickly scanned the item, and she paid $1.94 in cash. With all the items paid, she quickly departed the supermarket.

The Lesson

I learned an important lesson by observing this situation. First, it was not my business if the lady forgot to pay for the product. I was not hired by H-E-B to monitor whether customers walk out without paying. In this case, there were too many unknowns, meaning that I lacked enough information to make an accurate judgment.

The most important lesson, though, is noticing first-hand that the lady was ethical. Upon realizing that she failed to pay for the product, she brought it to the attention of the cashier. It would have been super-easy for her to keep rolling the cart out of the store.

I’m glad that I kept quiet and kept to my business. By doing so, this lady taught me a small lessonwith big implications.