The cashier was also a girl in her 20’s, and she had the till screen turned at an angle where I could see what was going on during the transaction. The cashier was ringing up a handful of coupons for this customer, and I noticed that her final total was $5.36. I idly wondered if she was one of those extreme couponers because she had several things already bagged up in her cart.
As I watched, the girl swiped a card (that I assumed was a gift card because it didn’t have any credit card number imprints) and the till screen gave an error something like “Card Number Not Recognized”. The cashier cleared the error and asked the girl to try it again. She swiped it again with the same result.
As it turned out, it was a WIC card and I believe the girl said it was new, i.e., she hadn’t had it very long. The cashier looked very apologetic and said “Oh, I’m sorry. We don’t take WIC.”
The girl didn’t get upset. She just said “Oh, really? Okay.” and started to take a bag out of her cart to return some items. As I watched, she put 4 cans of pinto beans back on the counter.
This was the point where I overcame my social anxiety because I just couldn’t let this young mom take things out of her cart because she couldn’t afford to spend $5.36. I said “No, no! Don’t put anything back! I’ll pay it for you!”
She smiled at me and said “No, it’s fine.” as she stacked these 4 cans of pinto beans back on the counter.
I said “No, really. Please let me pay for it. Don’t put anything back.” and actually started to reach into my purse to get my wallet.
She smiled again and said “No, it’s really okay. Thank you though.”
The cashier looked at me for half a second, judging what to do, but then went ahead and took the beans off the total. That brought the sale total down to $1.34. The customer swiped a different card, packed up her purse and left with her baby. She never got upset. I’m sure she was at least a tiny bit embarrassed but she never showed it. She just politely refused my offer and went on her way.
After she was out of earshot, the cashier looked at me and said “That was really nice of you anyway.”
I gave her a pained, defeated look and said “I tried!”
It honestly broke my heart a bit that this nice-looking, put-together mom with a teeny baby couldn’t afford to spend $5.36 on BEANS. (It sounds so Oliver Twist, I can’t stand it.) Even if she was going to leave Target and immediately head to the grocery store to use her WIC card there to get what she needed, that $3-4 obviously made a big difference in her budget. As I thought about it, I realized the part that really broke my heart was that she wouldn’t let me help when I could afford to do it and would have willingly paid a bill higher than what she couldn’t. I actually considered buying the 4 cans of beans and running out to the parking lot to throw them in her cart but she’d been so polite and “okay” about the entire situation that I felt like it would have been inappropriate somehow. She completely shut me down in the nicest possible way.
We have to be willing to take care of each other, but we also have to be willing to allow people to help us. Rejecting an offer of assistance makes the offerer feel… well, disappointed and rejected. It would have impacted me if she had let me pay for her purchase but it definitely impacted me to a much greater degree, in a completely different way, for my offer to be refused.