Thursday, September 07, 2006

Deli Karma

Delis are such a New York way of life. I'd guess 90% of the people in this city go into one every day at least once. Nobody wants to live more than a block or two away from a deli. There are all kinds of places that many people tend to think of as "delis," from the Spanish bodegas with their yellow awnings, to Korean delis that stock lots of fruit and vegetables, to various lunch spots that have salad bars and make sandwiches and sell as many other convenience items as they can cram onto their floor-to-ceiling shelves. It's funny, the kind of deli I go to the least is the traditional Jewish delicatessen, which bears little resemblance to what most people refer to as delis nowadays. And I'm sure some people don't even call these stores "delis," but no one refers to them as "convenience stores." Deli, bodega, corner store... I've even heard some referred to as "the little supermarket," though that is usually a bit of a stretch.
What do I tend to buy at delis? The occasional banana or bottle of Gatorade. Maybe a candy bar. Lately, my morning paper, since I have suspended my NY Times subscription. In a pinch, I'll buy milk but I don't like to do that, since it tends not to be as fresh, especially in the summer. And of course there are those times when I suddenly need some late-night emergency thing, like ice cream.
Then there are my everyday delis: one place where I buy my breakfast, and 3 places that I tend to rotate among for lunch. And this is what got me thinking about delis-- I'm not about to launch into an analysis of prices at delis vs. other locations, or tell another wacky salad bar story. I just thought it was funny that this morning, I was charged $3.14 for my bagel and coffee instead of the usual $2.93. This happened once before and I thought maybe the price had gone up, but I guess it was just a mistake. And yesterday at lunchtime, for the salad that usually costs me $6.79, I was only charged $6.50. In one case, it was probably just a random error (though that is the same deli that gouges you on the peanut butter). In the other, it might have been an error, or it may have been that the cashiers at that deli like me because I always try to speak Spanish with them. For all that I track every penny I spend, and pick up change, and agonize over my finances, it's as if there's this weird little slush account where overages and shortages ebb and flow between me and the various delis I go to. I notice the errors, but I rarely say anything. I'll spend half an hour trying to get $6 back from Verizon, but the deli is the valve that lets the pressure off, the place where you just shrug and let a little money go for no better reason than that there are other people behind you in line and it just seems like too much of a hassle, and since you're there everyday, it might just come back to you sometime anyway.


Anonymous said...

It sorta sounds like delis are New York's version of Cheers...

Anonymous said...

And of course there are those times when I suddenly need some late-night emergency thing, like ice cream.

I thought that I was the only one who makes those late night runs!

Do you shrug it off because delis are local and you'll see the return immediately with good service and a vested interest in the area while Verizon is a huge conglomerate that really could care less if it loses one customer or a thousand?