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When I first moved here, I began investigating all the local “daily needs” stores. These stores are more common here than Starbucks in Seattle. I began discovering which ones carried the most products I buy. I also took note of which storekeepers gave me a fair(ish) price right away and which ones thought “SUCKER!” and instantly tried to rip me off.

Slowly I established my weekly shopping route and storekeepers have become friends of a sort. They now remember the things I buy (and occasionally remind me when I’ve forgotten something!). They explain to their other shocked and open-mouthed customers, “Oh, she’s not a tourist, she lives here and, yes, speaks Hindi”. And the more we become friends, the more I notice the original fair(ish) prices coming down bit by bit to what everyone else pays…

Overall, life is good when storekeepers are you friends. Except…

Last week, I arrived to make my last purchases of shopping day at what my roommate Rachel and I affectionately call “the little old man’s shop”. We frequent it four or five times weekly for such essentials as chocolate, snacks, soft drinks, and toilet paper. He’s a little odd, but in a crazy-grandpa-kind-of-way.

I set my other bags on the counter while I examined the things I needed from his shop. As he handed me my favorite fizzy apple drink from behind the counter, his eyes fell upon one of my bags. It clearly contained eight rolls of toilet paper. I’d gotten it at a store having a buy-one-bag-of-four-get-one-free sale. Can’t beat that!

Our neighborhood “little old man”, however, was rather horrified and offended to see me with another store’s toilet paper. He dug into my bag, squishing the rolls to see how much there was on a roll. Then he rummaged around, found the bill and checked the price of my toilet paper.

One mistaken math equation later, he was pulling down a roll of his toilet paper to compare with the clearly inferior stuff in my bag.

“These are skinny rolls! These are more expensive! I have toilet paper! You buy here! You buy here! Cheap!”

Mortified that he’d just been through one of my shopping bags and fearing excursions into the others, I failed to explain his math error. I simply left the correct change for my drink on his counter and hurried out.

Just a random experience with a slightly crazy old man, you say? Well, a few days later as I stopped by another store to pick up one last item, the lady behind the counter saw some cereal in my other bag and sullenly declared, “You can buy that here, you know. Cheaper.”

I’m glad I’ve got the type of relationships with storekeepers that mean they no longer rip me off.

I’m just not sure about the part where they jealously examine my other bags…