My fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Migaki, ingrained a life principle in my mind that remains to this day. He said something is only a mistake if you can't fix it. Sometimes we got do-overs. He would let us retake our tests to learn from and fix our mistakes. He'd grade our papers with a red pen, and if the do-over fixed the original mistake (he never, ever gave us the right answer), he would applaud the success by crossing through the bad grade and writing an A.
I don't know whether this principle is true across the board, but I couldn't help but think about it and thank Mr. Migaki for that life lesson when I got the following message from Lara.
Dear Mary: I have to tell you how I fell victim to a good salesman the other day. Fortunately, there's a happy ending.
I was shopping for groceries, and there was an announcement to gather around at the end of aisle two in two minutes for an unadvertised giveaway. If you got there right away, you got an eyeglass cleaner cloth, which was promised to be your ticket to something special later, as it was first come, first served. You know the drill, I'm sure!
Anyway, I watched the whole pitch. It was for a Vina Wine Accessory Gift Set. The products did look great, I must admit. And according to the salesperson, the items would cost $170 when purchased separately. QVC, he said, had it all for $99, plus shipping and handling. And that day, he was authorized to sell this set for just $49!
He had us come in closer and told us quietly that if we had our ticket from the beginning, he would also throw in a $20 wine chiller for free. Well, most people were smart enough to walk away. However, I really liked the items, and $49 for everything seemed OK. As I hemmed and hawed, he pulled used his next trick, putting one in my hand. That sealed the deal, and I bought it.
The next day, I had a clear head and went on Amazon. Sure enough, I found essentially the same set for just $18.
As for the happy ending, the grocery store took it back and refunded all my money, no questions asked.
I knew better but still fell for the ploy. I'm just glad I could return it and get my money back. Thanks for your all your columns and advice. You are such a help to people like me! — Lara
Dear Lara: You made a mistake, but you didn't stop at that. You demanded a do-over, and then changed your response to the offer. For that, you get an A!
Dear Mary: I love your column and your wonderful tips. With the cold and flu season upon us, do you have any tips on how to sanitize the refrigerator dispensers for ice and water? I see them as germ collectors. — Sandy
Dear Sandy: Yes! You need a good, effective antibacterial solution to clean surfaces, from cutting boards, to counters, to refrigerators, to those dispensers you mentioned. But don't spend $6 for a 12-ounce bottle of commercial cleaner! Make it yourself.
All you need is 1 gallon of cool water (70 degrees F) and 1 teaspoon of liquid bleach. Any warmer and the bleach evaporates; any more bleach and it will harm some surfaces and fabrics. So don't get obsessive. Just measure carefully and stick with this perfect dirt-cheap solution that will not harm wood, paint, granite, marble or fabric but will kill all kinds of bacteria, including salmonella. Regularly sanitize all surfaces with this bleach water, particularly those that may have come in contact with raw poultry, including the inside of the refrigerator. Use it to regularly clean all of the refrigerator-dispenser surfaces and parts, too. Spray, and then wipe dry with a clean cloth.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.