I make my dinner menu for the week and the shopping list to go with it on Monday. I shop on Tuesday. My friends make fun of me. (“How do you know on Monday what you’ll want to eat on Friday?” they ask. “Easy,” I say. “I’ll want to eat whatever’s on the menu for Friday.”) They think I’m organized.
The reason is not that I’m organized, but I always hated all the family coming in from school or play or work and asking, “What’s for dinner?” There’s a desk in my kitchen, and the menu is always on it. Don’t ask! Look at the menu. I shop on Tuesdays because that’s Senior Discount Day—an extra 5% off of the grocery order. It adds up!
I like to have fish for dinner once a week, and it makes sense to me to have fish on Tuesday, the day I buy it. About eight months ago, I bought some cod on a Tuesday as usual. When I opened the package that evening, a very fishy smell radiated from the filets. I washed the fish off, seasoned it, and cooked it with the exhaust fan on. I served it, but with the first bite in our mouths, Richard and I looked at each other with our noses turned up and that “where-can-I-spit-this-out” look on our faces. It wasn’t going to kill us or anything. Probably wouldn’t even make us sick, but that fish was not good. It went right into the garbage disposal.
About three months ago it happened again. I picked out two fish filets, haddock or cod or tilapia, I can’t remember what it was. That night I opened the package, and there was that smell again. I was furious, and if it hadn’t been pitch black out that night and raining, I might have driven those filets right back to the store and made those ladies at the service desk smell them and give me a refund. Instead I chucked them into the disposal and fried some eggs.
However, I made a vow that evening. I would not get stuck with smelly fish ever again! The next Tuesday I went to the fish counter and chose a couple of filets. Before the fishmonger weighted them or wrapped them up, I said, “I’d like to smell that fish, please. I’ve bought fish here twice in less than a year only to get it home and discover it was past its “use-by” date. It was smelly and inedible, so I’d like to smell that please.” The guy gave me a strange look, but he handed over the little Styrofoam tray with the filets on it. I took a whiff and told him, “Thank you, I’ll take them.” That’s been the fish-buying routine up until last week. If no fishy smell was present, I bought the fish.
Last Tuesday I picked out two cod filets and asked the girl behind the counter (a fishmongress?) to let me smell them.
“I can’t let you do that,” she said.
“Why not?” I asked. “Every other person who works here lets me. I’ve been burned here twice, taking home fish that was so ripe and smelly, we couldn’t eat it.”
“Ma’am, I just put these out. They’re fine.”
“Where did you get them?” I asked.
“From back there in the cooler.”
“How long have they been back there?” I asked.
“I don’t know, but they’re fine.”
“You don’t know how long they’ve been back there, but you’re sure they’re fine? When they arrived here in Little Rock, were they frozen?”
“When were they thawed?”
“I don’t know.”
“It could have been a couple of days ago. Please just let me give them a whiff. I’m not going to put my nose down in them.”
“I can’t let you do that, and I’m sure they’re fine, or they wouldn’t have had me put them out,” she insisted.
“But someone let someone put out lousy fish before. If I can’t smell it, just put it back,” I said, as another monger appeared behind the counter, this person with a look of authority. “Better yet,” I added, “let me speak to your manager.”
That guy’s ears perked up, and he came over to where the girl was standing.
“She wants to smell the fish,” the mongress said, “and I told her I couldn’t let her do that.”
“She’s right,” the guy said. “You can’t do that.”
“Look,” I said, “in less than a year, I’ve gotten bad, smelly, inedible fish from here twice. You really owe me money, but all I want is not to get ripped off again. Just let me smell the fish. Every other person who works here lets me.”
“I can’t let you do that, Ma’am,” he said. “If you smell it, I can’t put it back.”
“Exactly!” I said. “If it smells fine, I’ll buy it. If it smells fishy, you shouldn’t put it back. You should toss it out!”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Do you want to sell smelly, inedible fish? I don’t think so. If it smells fine, I’m going to buy it. If it smells bad, you had better throw it out.”
The guy handed the Styrofoam tray over the counter, let me give it a whiff, and I bought it. Consumer protection shouldn’t be this hard.