Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nickeled and Dimed to Death . . .

Jefferson Nickel
(Image from Carl's Coins)

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."

"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."
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.

LeRoy Tucker ought maybe to incorporate such a scene into one of his stories . . .

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At 11:11 AM, Anonymous seth said...

"Expanding Dimensions?" Cosmetic surgery advert for breast augmentation in recent Detroit newspaper "two for price of one."

At 12:29 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That reminds me of something in a Woody Allen film . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recall a minor episode at Viola (Arkansas) High School in my youth.
Some upperclassmen were trading their big nickels to the elementary kids for their little dimes. The little ones thought it was ok until their parents found out about it.
I didn't get in on the action, since I didn't have the necessaary funds.


At 10:49 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Uh, Uncle Cran…seem to recall you once had a “necessaary” dime…stolen…taking advantage of a pop and ice cream special in Viola!


At 2:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That first comment kinda threw me but now that I think about it Cran - I do seem to recall your mentioning some "minor" embezzling in one of your recollections. Or was that "theft by deception?"

Gee Cran, now that I think about it, maybe you should run for office.

(Ordinarily I'da typed "Geewhiz" but I didn't want any to get the wrong impression seeing the two words in proximity).


At 4:27 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

If I understand you correctly, Uncle Cran, the only thing that stopped you from becoming a bona fide confidence man was the financial inability to make that opening gambit.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:29 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

But Bill, Uncle Cran had only a dime, which we know is ontologically distinct from two nickels . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 4:33 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Wow, even JK is here! Four hillbillies gathered together. Think of the things that we can accomplish . . . like the verbal equivalent of whittling, maybe.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or dominoes.

Provided I could use a calculator.


At 8:46 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Good Lord, JK! You can use a calculator?!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nephew Bill, Jeffery & JK:

As Bill noted, I spent my one and only dime on ice cream and soda pop, leaving me with no monetary assets to invest.
Now, at age 70 & 3/4, the circumstances remain the same.


At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

However, when my will is read, nephews Bill & Jeffery, and possible friend JK, will be mentioned...."in fond remembrance, to receive one dime each."
Please invest wisely.
horseon the transactions.
Perhaps you three could do the same with said dimes.

My sister in law Pauline liked to relate the story her father told.
He said two of his neighbors traded the same horse to one another several times one winter.
Each claimed to have made $200.00 in the transactions.

Perhaps you three could do the same with your dimes.


At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somehow my tale of Pauline's father got twisted, and I re-typed it, thus the strange sentences after the words, "Please invest wisely."
As usual, this should furnish each of you with a great deal of pleasure as you offer your comments.


At 11:11 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, that 200 dollars was obviously made in derivatives, same as in the stock market . . . until recently.

Ah, the magic of money . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:19 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Uncle Cran,

Should’ve read your later comment, I spent more than a dime searching Google for “horseon the transactions”…thought it was an investment tip.


At 4:18 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Bill, I took it as a coded warning:

'whores on the transactions'.

Something to avoid . . . apparently.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well guys.....there goes your inheritance.
You will have to exist without those dimes.


At 11:05 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

But Uncle Cran . . . I thought that you didn't give a dime what I write.

Oh, right, that's the problem.

Jeffery Hodges

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