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Think Before you Spend

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Think Before you SpendFree movie ticket?  Who wouldn't want that?  Well, almost a free movie ticket.

The local movie theater in town was having its annual "Cans" film festival. It's an event that helps stock the local food shelf. A person could get a movie ticket in exchange for a donation of five cans of food. At an average cost of 50 cents per can, it ends up being about $2.50 per movie ticket.

Not bad.

For an additional 15 cans of food per person, an additional movie ticket could be had for a future visit. So, we stopped by the local club store, and purchased a total of 80 cans of food for about $40. That would get both movie passes for each member of my family of four.  As we got to the move theater, I started to do the math . . . the first ticket was certainly a steal, but how about the second ticket?

The additional 15 cans (at 50 cents per can) for the second ticket ended up being about $7.50 for the second ticket. A matinee pass (which is when we normally go see a movie) is $5.  We would actually be overpaying for the second ticket. My wife and I talked about it, and even though the food donation was for a good cause, we decided to only donate enough cans of food to get the first ticket, and return the rest for a refund of around $30.

When I went to return the extra cans of food, however, the conversation at the customer service counter went something like this:

Me: "Turns out we didn't need all of these, so I'd like to return them."

Customer service representative: "Are you sure you want to do that?"

Me: "Yes, it's about $30 worth of stuff we don't need."

Customer service representative: "Well, sir, I can certainly do that, but just to let you know, once food items leave the store, if they're returned we have to destroy them. Are you sure you don't want to just keep them, or donate them?"

I certainly didn't want to see the food destroyed, so I took the cans home, and jammed 20 cans each of corn, chili beans, and diced tomatoes into our cupboard. Every time I open my cupboard and am confronted by this wall of canned goods, I can't help but replay this entire string of events back in my head.

The bottom line is that I could have avoided all of this by simply thinking more carefully before I purchased the cans of food. Had I done the math before heading out the door I could have made an educated, conscious decision as to whether I wanted to purchase the full 80 cans of food to donate to a good cause, or just the 20 cans for the single movie ticket for each member of my family.

Instead, I was left deciding whether to get money back and have perfectly good food destroyed, or have a cupboard full of canned goods that, although I will eventually use, didn't really want or need at the time.

What would you have done?

Related Links:

How Far Would You go to Save Money?

Getting out of Debt is a Constant State of Mind

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Travis Pizel, My Journey out of Debt Customer Blogger for CareOne Services, Inc.Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt blog and is a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis very candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family. You can also follow along with Travis on his personal blog, Our Journey to Zero. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

Follow Travis on Twitter @DebtChronicles


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  • I would have asked for my 30 dollars back and then asked the cashier why they destroyed food instead of donating them. Doesn't make much sense to me, but you did the right thing. Good Karma is coming your way!

    And if there is a zombie apocalypse--you will be SET! :)

  • Great point L Bee.....why wouldn't the store just donate them?  I appreciate the can never have enough good Karma - especially if a zombie apocalypse happens.  Thanks for your comment!

  • I am personally shocked that the store would try to guilt someone to pay for something they didn't want or need.  That is not good customer service if you ask me.  As stated by L Bee the store could have donated the cans of food rather than destroy them.  I am going to have to ask someone that works in a grocery store if that is truly the case.

    I would have probably done the same thing as you did.  Who wants to feel responsible for wasting food?

  • LOL I always try to do the math on things before acting, but sometimes these deals do get the best of you. I would have done the same actually. Tried to return the cans of food... I may have just ended up donating them, because to me - a movie ticket would be more useful than canned goods. This way, I get my movie ticket and I'm supporting a good cause!

  • I admit, mdavis1964, I wondered whether the employee really cared about the food being disposed of, or if she just didn't want  to go through the hassle of returning 60 pieces of canned goods.

  • I agree with you From Shopping To Saving, had I known that I could not return the canned goods, I would have donated them and got the movie ticket.  But by the time I got  around to trying to return them, the festival was over.  My options were 1.) return the food and have it wasted, 2.) donate the food somewhere else or 3.) keep the food.  Since 1 didn't sit well with me, option 3 seemed better for me than 2 ..... since I would eventually use the stuff.  

    And of course, if I had done the math up front I would have avoided this whole situation.  Unfortunately, we were hurried in the morning and I didn't do enough preparation to figure it out.  That's what you get for waiting to buy the cans of food until we were on our way to the movie theater.  :)

  • That's so weird about the store not accepting returns without destroying them.  I can understand them doing that with perishable food but canned goods?  And yes, I would have asked them about that policy.  I've worked in grocery store type places and have never heard of that....  I probably would have kept them too--I'd use them eventually and it would "save" me money on my next few grocery bills.

  • Bogofdebt, I just may call the store and see if that is really their policy or not.  While I will use the canned goods, it will take quite a bit of time.  The canned corn we used up pretty quickly.  But the chilli beans and diced tomatoes are things that I commonly use only for making chilli - and since it's now summer we don't normally make chili.  Canned goods stay good for a long time, so they'll be fine - but I think I may go hunting for some new recipes to try to use them sooner!  :)

  • We've done this for a few years now, and know how much this preparation can cost; we have found ways to make it as inexpensive as possible:

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