Thursday, November 12, 2009

Something Fishy

I wanted some fish, fast food variety, and I bemoaned the lack of a viable option near our house.

Didn't feel like sitting down at Big Boy's, or even our local haunt, Sero's. Not enough dough for Red Lobster. Just wanted some take-out fish, some fries. Fish 'n chips can hit the spot, when I'm so moved.

But nowhere on 12 Mile Road, near our Madison Heights abode, can there be found any fast fish.

Not even on John R or Dequindre or Ryan, the closest north/south trunks.

Then it occurred to me: there had been one, a Seafood Bay on Dequindre just north of 12 Mile, but I put it out of business.

Let me explain.

Sometime in the late-1990s, I cruised over to "the Bay" for some fast fish and some shrimp. I walked in, ordered, and waited. With nothing else to do, I perused my receipt. And, being the human calculator that I am, I noticed something funny.

The cash register charged us nearly seven percent sales tax, instead of the state rate of six percent.

No big deal, you might say. Only about 20 cents on our $20 bill. But fair is fair.

I brought it to the attention of the pimply-faced kid behind the counter. He shrugged and said the register was programmed that way, and he didn't seem to understand why there should be any fuss anyway. Certainly not enough to offer an apology, or even much of an explanation.

I stewed.

Bothered, I called the State of Michigan and after being passed around and explaining several times, I finally reached someone whose department it was.

Their reaction floored me.

Not only didn't they seem bothered by this practice, they in essence told me that as long as the state gets its six percent, they're not all that interested in what places program into their cash registers. No joke.

Now I was really steamed. My little 20 cent overcharge was now turning into a crusade.





Because, at nearly a full percent overcharge per transaction, Seafood Bay's franchise owner on Dequindre could make a pretty penny, if he was doing it on purpose.

I wrote to the State Attorney General, who was still good old Frank Kelley at the time, who was simply one of the finest men to ever serve the folks in Michigan, bar none.

A couple weeks later, I got a reply from Kelley---signed by him---indicating that his people would look into the matter. He was bothered. And if Frank Kelley said he would do something, you could go to the bank on it.

A month or two later, that Seafood Bay was CLOSED.

Coincidence?

I told my wife, partly kidding, that I put Seafood Bay out of business. Me. At least, that location.

Tonight it came back to haunt me. For I was in the mood for some fast fish, and I ended up having to drive all the way to Long John Silver's at 8 Mile and Ryan (whose food is delicious, by the way). Because there was no viable alternative along the 12 Mile/John R/Dequindre/Ryan stretch.

Because I had put the only viable alternative out of business.

Hey, I just call 'em like I see 'em.

Charge the right amount of sales tax. Is that so much to ask?

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