Eight years ago, an old and dear family friend gave Laura and I two $50 gift certificates to Trader Joe's as a wedding present. We were delighted with the gift, having heard rumors of the legendarily magical contents of that high-end grocery chain, but we were somewhat handicapped having no access to an outlet in New York City. (This, children, was back in the days before Trader Joe's came to Manhattan, though I hear tell it's no easier to shop there now than it was before the locations opened.) The gift certificates went into the bottom of a drawer and were, for the most part, forgotten.
Three moves later, with all the jumbling of one's stuff that entails, we live on Chicago's North Side, and Trader Joe's is a frequent shopping destination. In particular, it's about the only place where we buy coffee beans. I make my own Bilmo Blend by grinding together the Trader Joe's House Blend and Trader Joe's Bay Blend in equal proportions. In any event, Laura dug up the gift certificates a few days ago in the course of looking for something else. There was no expiration date, so I took one to our local store this morning and filled my basket.
When I presented my gift certificate at checkout, my cashier was good-naturedly stymied. So was the bagger, who had been working there much longer. "I only know the kind you can swipe," the cashier said. "I don't know what to do with an analog giftcard."
In the end, it took three Trader Joe's employees to figure out how to deal with a gift certificate dated 2001. The nice thing was that they treated it as a challenging puzzle, not an analog annoyance. And I ended up forking over a mere $1.96 for my basket of groceries.
As a postscript, I must confess that more than half that first gift certificate from our dear old Mormon gentleman went toward the purchase of coffee and beer. Sorry, Uncle Lee! It wasn't a deliberate irony.