What a Costly Mistake While Shopping Taught Me About Business (and Life!)

What a Costly Mistake While Shopping Taught Me About Business (and Life!)

5 min read
Elizabeth Faircloth Read More

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One of my favorite activities to do when I am not busy with our investing business is to go hunt for deals at a local consignment store. I go there first thing in the morning so I can avoid crowds. Last week was my birthday, and I love to do things that bring me joy on this day. So, while my mother-in-law was in town, we decided to take a trip to my favorite consignment store here in NJ. Along with my 2 ½ year old son, we left first thing in the morning. It is always an adventure trying to accomplish any shopping with my son since his attention span is about 15 minutes, and I know if I take too long in a store, he will melt down.

So, I was ready for a quick trip to the consignment store. After 30 minutes of shopping, I placed a number of tops in the shopping cart. Although my son was beginning to MELT, I tried everything on in a hurry. I made two piles — one pile that I wanted to buy and one pile of clothes that I would pass on.

When we got to the register, I proceeded to give the cashier all the items I wanted to purchase. After that pile, I handed her the five pieces of clothing that I did NOT want to purchase. I told her that I did not want these items, and I thought she heard me loud and clear. While she was ringing me up, I was sort of paying attention, but I was mostly paying attention to my son who was about to have an enormous meltdown. I paid for my order quickly, and we left the store. As I left the store, I thought the amount I paid was high, but did not think much of it.


When my husband got home that afternoon, I was excited to show him all the items I purchased. I opened the bag, and to my surprise, I proceeded to take out the five pieces of clothing that were the same five items that I told the cashier that I did NOT want to buy.

I was LIVID. I am not only a fairly verbal person and can allow my emotions to get involved at times, but I am also 100 percent Italian. Let me repeat, I was livid! I recall stating in PLAIN ENGLISH to the cashier that I did not want to purchase these five items, and now they were sitting in my bag at home — paid for. I was super frustrated because as a frequent shopper, I was well aware of their store policy — there are no refunds or exchanges. It states this very clearly on the receipt and everywhere in the store.

As I share the rest of the story, I will share the learned lessons I got from this experience.

Stand up for what you think is right.

Although the receipt said “no refunds or exchanges,” that was not going to stop me from going back to the store to demand my money back. After all, this was not an exchange or refund. I told this cashier in PLAIN ENGLISH that I did not want these items. I felt cheated, so I was going to stand up for myself, and I was confident that I would get my money back.

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Sometimes it is just easier to not stand up for what you think it is right. There are lots of reasons for this. One reason that causes me to not stand up for what is right is wanting to avoid conflict with others. However, in this situation, I felt like it was my duty to stand up for myself. I felt wronged, and I was going to make this right.

You are 100 percent responsible for paying attention.

We walk into the store, and I found the cashier who waited on me and explained the situation to her. I said it very nicely. I explained to her that I told her that I did not want to purchase these five items, yet when I got home, I realized that I was charged for them. The cashier said that she did not hear me say anything about not wanting any items. She said that she would speak to the manager and let me know.

So, the cashier proceeded to speak with the manager. The manager then told us that she was going to review the camera and see what happened. Well, 20 minutes later and feeling more frustrated, the manager came back and told us that since I handed all the items to the cashier, there was nothing she could do, and then she kept repeating the same thing over and over again (there are no refunds or exchanges). We did NOT like this answer, so we demanded to see the recording ourselves.

In the back room of the store, we watched the video along with the manager. It was very clear that I gave the cashier two sets of clothes — the first batch (ones I wanted to purchase) and the second batch (the ones I did not want to purchase). Unfortunately, there is no volume on the recording, so it is my word against the cashier about what I said and what I did not say.

As I watched the video of this situation, I noticed something interesting. I noticed that after I gave the two sets of clothing to the woman, I stood there in front of the cashier and was paying attention to both my son and the cashier. I took a step back and said to myself, how could I stand there watching this cashier and be that clueless that I did not even realize she was ringing me up for items I did not want? I realized in that moment I was in the wrong. As hard as that is for me to admit this, I need to take 100 percent responsibility. I need to own the fact that I was not fully paying attention and that it is my responsibility to do so.

Be present and slow down.

If I had been more present to what was happening, and if I slowed down, I would have been more aware of what was going on and been able to catch this mistake as it happened (versus afterwards when I was home).
This was such an important reminder for me.

I find myself not always present in my life. As we all do, I wear a lot of hats — mom, wife, business partner, investor, sister, friend, volunteer, daughter — and I don’t always slow down enough to be 100 percent present to where and what I am doing. I find myself often thinking about my to-do lists wherever I go, whatever I am doing.


Admit you are wrong, put aside your ego, and move on.

Part of me wanted to keep arguing with the manager. Another part of me, after seeing the video, realized that I was ultimately the one wrong. Later in the evening, after I had time to cool off, I processed what happened further with my husband. We had a good laugh about it, too. I told him that if I was paying attention, this would have never happened regardless of what I said to the cashier.

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After taking 100 percent responsibility for what happened, I was able to put my ego aside and move on. I felt more positive and peaceful with the situation. Yes, I lost money by purchasing clothes that did not even fit me. However, it was a cheap way to remind me of some very important lessons that will make me a better real estate investor and better person.

Isn’t that what life is all about? I think so. We are often so caught up in the busy-ness of life that we don’t stop to reflect and ask ourselves — what did I learn here?

I hope this story about a everyday situation helps remind you to stop, reflect, and learn something from all the good things that happen to you, as well as all the frustrating situations that are bound to occur.

I would love to hear from you. What everyday situations have happened recently that caused you to pause and learn something to improve yourself?

Thanks as always for reading and happy investing!