Nickeled and Dimed to Death . . .
My mother once told me an amusing story of a storekeeper in my Ozark hometown of Salem, Arkansas back in the 1940s or 50s who must have been a few bales shy of a full load -- or, less colloquially, not the sharpest tool in the shed. If I recall, he was also a bit of a tightwad, but despite his intrinsic stinginess -- probably because he needed business to pick up, and maybe because had some sweets that were getting old -- he decided to offer a special deal on pieces of cheap candy one fine day. He therefore made a sign and taped it to the candy jar:
"Special Sale: two for a nickel, three for a dime."Now, some readers might think that this shopkeeper was out to trick slow-witted customers, but my mother insists that the storekeeper was the slow one. She didn't say how the sale worked out, so I don't know for a fact, but I suspect that he obtained very few dimes, yet got one or two clever folk trying to pay with two nickles . . . and arguing with him about the promised deal:
"Here's two nickels," says a customer. "Gimme four pieces."As admitted above, I don't know for a fact that any scenario like this actually unfolded, but it could have, and I can imagine the shopowner refusing to give two pieces of candy for that second nickel, maintaining that the latter purchase is part and parcel of the first purchase, that the second nickel combines with the first to equal one dime, and refusing to give in despite, or perhaps based on, the wording of his advertised special sale. The verbal altercation could go to court and make for an interesting case as lawyers argue over the ontological vs. monetary status of two nickels.
"Four?" The shopkeeper looks askance. "That's three pieces fer a dime."
"I ain't give you a dime," the customer points out. "Jes' two nickels."
"Hold on," says the shopkeeper, reflecting. "Two nickels is a dime."
"Nah, that ain't right. Two nickels is ten cents," concedes the customer, "but they ain't no dime."
"Wait a second," the shopkeeper cautions, "a dime is ten cents, jes' like two nickels is ten cents. That's three pieces of candy."
"Nah, cain't be right," the customer insists. "A dime is one thang. Two nickels is two thangs, and fer two nickels, I get four pieces of candy."
"Nope," insists the shopowner. "The sale is two fer a nickel. That's one nickel. I ain't wrote nothin' 'bout two nickels."
"Awright," says the customer, "jes' gimme a nickel back and two pieces of candy."
The shopkeeper complies, and the customer steps out, then immediately back in, surprising the shopkeeper. "Fergit somethin'?" he asks.
"Nope," replies the customer. "I'm shoppin' agin. Here's a nickel. Gimme two pieces of that thar candy."
LeRoy Tucker ought maybe to incorporate such a scene into one of his stories . . .