My teenage son Aarick was walking down the candy aisle at Walmart last Saturday, intent on buying the treats I’d instructed (jelly beans as incentives for Foster Baby Boy who still doesn’t tell us when he needs to pee [check], and lollipops for a sister who loves lollipops [check]), when he saw an elderly woman bend down to look at items on a low shelf.
WHUMP. Without warning, a large bag of candy fell from a shelf above her, and glanced off her head. Her glasses were knocked to the floor, and she looked around, bewildered.
My son, God bless him, went over to her to explain what happened. He picked up her glasses for her and made sure she was okay.
(I would really like to have a movie of this experience. I would have been so worried about her, and so proud of him. But I do not.)
Aarick and I met up near the front of the store later, and he told me the story. Then we separated again. We have gotten pretty good at our shopping systems in recent months. I go through checkout with a cartful of WIC food – it’s a complicated process, and I’m the only one in our family authorized to sign for it – while he takes a cartful of regular purchases through a different line, and pays for them with my card.
(Have I mentioned how much I love shopping with him? He doesn’t charge much, either – just a one dollar pack of Simply Caramel Milky Ways. So worth it.)
While I waited in an endless line, Aarick finished his purchases and left the store to load them into our vehicle. He was stopped on his way out by the Walmart greeter, who said, “I want to check your receipt. We need to look sometimes. Just doin my job.” He went over Aarick’s receipt, matching items in the cart to items on the receipt. Among other things, we had a large package of Maxwell House coffee in the cart, worth ten dollars. The man couldn’t find it on the receipt, and said so. He sent my son back through the checkout lanes to buy it. “Just doin my job,” he said again.
And Aarick cooperated, thinking, Whatever! My cashier must not have checked it out properly!
Then he took it to the van and sat there waiting for me, stewing a little, feeling unpleasantly suspicioned, caught out and guilty for something that wasn’t his fault. And over coffee grounds, for heaven’s sake! When he begins his shoplifting career, it won’t be there.
He looked at the second receipt, the way the coffee was labelled on it. MH numbers numbers numbers – not visibly coffee at all. Wait a minute. He looked back at his original receipt, and sure enough. The same sequence was there. $9.98. He’d bought it twice.
He brought the coffee package back into the store, his mouth tight with frustration and misjudgment, and found me still in line. He told me what happened. What a day. I said, “Let’s go over to customer service and get a refund first, then we’ll go talk to the greeter guy.”
Walmart refunded our money, although without an apology.
And the greeter? “Sorry, I’m sorry,” he said, bending at the waist with his hands out. “It’s been a nuts morning in here. I missed it.”
I wish I had thought through what I wanted from him before we talked to him. I wanted him to apologize TO MY SON, which didn’t happen. He didn’t say, “I caused you considerable difficulty and unhappiness, and I am sorry for misjudging you. I suspected you because you were so young and apparently on your own. I accused you of making off with store merchandise, when you were doing everything right and honorably. I was sloppy and assuming. I wish I had made certain of my facts first.”
He didn’t say that.
However, I believe he will double check himself the next time he stops a customer for inspection. That is also what I wanted. And to tell him out loud what my son needed to hear, which was, “He may be young, but he’s not a sneak!” Aarick liked that.
I am not always a super accommodating person in the wintertime.
And then we went home, toting that wretched coffee and all the WIC food, and eating Simply Caramel Milky Ways. He earned them.