When I was 20, I did a short lived zine called undumb. It was filled mostly with the kind of stuff I write on this blog, except with more punk rock, and drawings to go with most of the stories. I only did two issues, the second of which made the MAXIMUMROCKNROLL top ten, which I thought was completely awesome even if my favorite songwriter ever didn't think so highly of the rag. Honestly, I never picked it up regularly, and I'm sure I would have been just as happy if I was mentioned on the third page of any magazine available at any decent bookstore.
I was lazy, so when I printed my zine, instead of just copying it myself, I'd drop it off at one of the closest office stores, which was still about half an hour away since I lived in the middle of nowhere. The first issue I dropped off and picked up with no problem, even though they didn't collate it like they were supposed to. The second issue I dropped off with no problem, but when I tried to pick it up, the asshole manager figured he could run a scam on me and steal some extra pocket money for himself.
I had been playing music with my friend Radical Ryan and a drummer who I had just met that day. When we got tired of playing, they came along with me to go pick up my zine.
When we went to the counter, the middle aged guy behind it ignored us for a minute before asking, "Can I help you?" I already had a feeling from his condescending tone and the looks he was giving us that he was going to be a douche. Radical Ryan was a pretty straight-laced looking dude, the drummer was wearing a shirt with the sleeves cut off that said something about punk rock, and I was wearing the usual glue in the hair, rounding out my ensemble with punk band logo patches safety-pinned to my clothes. The guy behind the counter wore a button-up shirt with a collar and a tie underneath his work-issue vest. His name tag said PAUL JACOBSON - MANAGER - COPY DEPARTMENT.
"Yeah, I need to pick up some copies," I said.
"I see. What company is it for?" he asked with a smirk, as if I could only be a jobless hooligan not working for anybody. I was, but there was no reason for him to be a dick about it. I had dropped them off under my name, but the originals had been in a folder with a software company logo on it. I told him they were for that company.
Paul Jacobson looked under the counter and found my copies. He brought out a calculator and did some math, and then told me my total. It was fifteen dollars higher than it had been the last time, and fifteen dollars higher than the total they gave me when I had dropped the new issue off.
"That's not right," I said, and told him how much it should be.
"Hmm...Let me see..." he said, punching in the numbers again, "No, no, I was right."
"That's not the price I paid last time for the exact number of copies, and that's not the price I was given when I dropped these off."
"So, you won't be taking the copies, then?"
"No, I will be taking them, but I'm taking them at the correct price."
"I can't let you take them for less than the price I gave you. That's store policy," he told me. He punched the numbers into the calculator again, shook his head, and gave me the high price.
"That's not right at all," I said.
"Well, here, you take the calculator and try it. I have other things to do."
He turned his back on us, and I typed the numbers. Sure enough, the price I came up with $15 less than the one he gave me. On a whim, I calculated what it would have cost me if I had the zine printed on bigger paper. It was the price Paul Jacobson gave me.
"This guy is trying to rip me off," I said.
"Yeah," Radical Ryan said, "He's busted."
Paul Jacobson ignored us for a few minutes and then finally came back to where we were standing.
"Did you figure it out?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said, "You've been trying to add it up as if I were using legal size, I'm using letter size paper."
"Oh," he said, barely trying to look surprised, "My mistake."
Even if Paul Jacobson wasn't a total condescending asshole to us the entire time, I'd still have an incredibly hard time buying the notion that the manager of the copy department would have made such a ridiculous mistake. He assumed that I was some dumb kid who wouldn't be able to know what he was up to, and he probably assumed I was going to pay in cash and that he would be able to pocket the money.