My mom showed me how to look for blemish-free produce. She taught me to look for packaged meat that had the farthest sell-by date possible. She reminded me to double-check the expiration stamp on the milk. She made a show of examining every egg in the carton.

And after my mom watched every item ring up at the register, she scanned the receipt, line by line, making sure we paid the price as displayed on the shelf sticker. She remembered the exact price of every item she put into her cart. There were many trips up to the customer service counter to dispute an incorrect charge.

It was years later when I’d realize how little my parents took home from their blue-collar jobs. My mom did all the grocery shopping so it was logical that she would be meticulous about the items on her list. I cringe thinking about my poor attitude, every time we walked back into the store to point out mismatched dollars and cents. Sometimes I served as translator for my mom and did little to hide my irritation. 

illustration of grocery store shelf with regular price tag and sale price sticker

I’m not nearly as diligent of a grocery shopper as my mom was (and still is) but I do have a strange memory for price tags.

On the rare occasion that I do question an overcharge while in the checkout line, I think of my mom. I think of the petite, Asian woman, standing at the customer service counter of a suburban, Midwestern supermarket, pointing out the mistakes on her receipt. Her daughter stands beside her and watches, a little embarrassed, but also proud of her mother’s resolve.