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Sticker shock in Canada

Fresh from a tax-free life in Dubai, from a comfort zone where what you see on the price tag is what you pay, our first few shopping expeditions in Canada were scenes of much confusion. Like everyone else on the planet, we were, of course, aware of taxes, just not in the habit of paying them at every transaction!

I was introduced to weekly specials by a neighbour in the condo building we first moved to. So many things on sale! I was thrilled to discover cereal, soaps, even fruits and vegetables available for a fraction of their regular price. As it is, compared to what we paid in dirhams in Dubai, everything seemed a lot more expensive and I was determined to stay within my budget. I studied the flyers carefully and drew up my shopping list. At the nearest department store I double-checked the prices of everything before putting them in my shopping basket, mentally keeping a tab in my head.

When the cashier came up with a whole different figure, I told her to check again, certain she had made a mistake. I am proud of my mental math skills and no young cashier was going to show me up! The line grew long behind us as she took everything out of the bag and re-tallied. Same figure. Then I peered closer at her screen. The tax. I had forgotten to factor in the tax.

Never have I felt more foolish. Not only had I held up the line, I was a little short, too. Apologizing profusely, I removed a few items from the basket, explaining the situation to the cashier. She offered to keep everything aside, allowing me time to go home and get more money, but the lady behind me told me she’d pay the balance.
“It’s only a couple of bucks, no big deal,” she shrugged with a smile. “You should not have to run home for a few loonies!”
– Saroja Shanmuganathan

Posted: Feb 1, 2012

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