Dear Local Grocery Store,
I do not shop at you for your fantastic prices or weekly specials (frankly, your prices are on the slightly higher end) and I do not shop at you because your selection is that much superior. Plain and simply, I drag myself and my four children through your doors only because of the convenience of your location to the post office. (And yes, the fun truck-carriage is a selling point too.) But if I’m being honest, you are not particularly special to me, you just happen to be a convenient one-stop shop (which all mother’s can appreciate.)
Today, as I went to you for toilet paper, (after my daughter had spent the morning dunking the rolls remaining in my bathroom into the toilet), as usual, I wound up at the register with more than I intended – about fifty dollars worth of produce (and chocolate – did I mention that my daughter made a toilet paper disaster out of my bathroom this morning?)
As I piled my bags of papaya and bananas and raspberries to the belt, I heard the woman ahead of me explaining that she was certain there was money in the account she was attempting to pay from. The cashier responded, rather tersely and loud enough for anyone with ears to hear, No, it’s not the system. It’s your card. It’s saying there’s no money.
That makes no sense. I know there’s at least seventy dollars in there!
Before I could turn from my carriage to offer to cover the woman’s two small bags and bottle of Mountain Dew, she was practically running from the store, arms in the air, frustrated, most likely embarrassed.
Here’s the part where my stomach turned. Here’s the part where the convenience of your store’s location to the post office started to matter quite a bit less, even to me with four children and precious little time. Your staff, the clerks and the baggers, they all snickered. They laughed. The girl who came to void the transaction, she was rolling her eyes and chuckled when the cashier quipped, her food stamp card was empty and she just wouldn’t believe me.
I have known the embarrassment of sliding a debit card and having the bank not clear the payment. I’ve walked that walk, out the doors of a grocery store, knowing that I have money in an account, but that something just wasn’t processing.
And I am not on food stamps (but would I be if it were the only means I had to feed my family? You betcha), but like most Americans, I have friends or family who have been on them. I have known people who relied on them as needed, and sure, I’ve known people who have abused the system.
Where on the spectrum was this woman at the grocery store today? I have no idea, and it shouldn’t really even matter. She’s not a joke to be laughed at when her account runs dry, she’s a human being.
All this to say, rather than rearranging how your check-out lanes are organized (which still throws me for a loop every now and then), perhaps you might want to take a look at how gracious your clerks are with your customers. I know they are hired to scan bar codes and stuff bags as quickly as they can (and not necessarily to empathize with frustrated patrons,) but at the end of the day, they don’t need to embarrass anyone.
A little compassion can go a long, long way.
And a little lack of compassion might make this mother start going further out of her way for her post post-office chocolate and fruit purchases, even if the other store doesn’t have race car carriages.