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More Scary Tales from the Grocery Store
Mom with a View

More Scary Tales from the Grocery Store

The cashier didn’t acknowledge my existence and here’s why it matters.


Unlike my last experience at the grocery store, this time there were no irate customers or angry cashiers. There was something worse – complete and utter indifference.

The woman checking me out didn’t bother to acknowledge my existence. It wasn’t because she was on the phone with a friend or chatting with a fellow cashier across the aisles.

It seemed she just really didn’t care. She didn’t say hello. She didn’t offer the token, “Did you find everything you need?” She just silently rang me up, not even bothering to glance up and actually look at me.

I bagged my own groceries and she made no effort to help. And I walked away a little sad.

A world of indifference is a very alienating one. It is the opposite of the Torah vision of a world of kindness, a world built on giving.

I’m not looking for friendship. I’m not looking for personal questions (the opposite problem!). Just decency. Just what we used to call “common courtesy”.

Because without it the world is a cold and lonely place.

You may think I’m exaggerating. It was just grocery shopping for heaven’s sake! But when our days are made up of small interaction after small interaction and there actually is no “inter”, it takes a toll.

I think we all contribute to the depersonalization of our world. When I go to the nail salon, I am one of the few customers not on my phone. Because there’s a person sitting right in front of me and even if I’m not treating her as my therapist, I don’t want to treat her like a piece of furniture either.

Not everyone is insensitive. Not everyone is self-centered. At another supermarket (I spend far too much time at grocery stores!) I heard a customer apologize for being on the phone and explain the necessity. Sometimes it can’t be helped. But at least she treated the store’s employee as a real human being. Another cashier at this same location was overheard wishing customers a “blessed day”. Kindness leads to more kindness.

Those were heartwarming response. Those were the symbols of hope. We’re not ready to give up yet. We haven’t quite sunk as low as the generation of the flood.

But when I experience that apathy, when I am treated like an object instead of a person, when the human being sitting or standing in front of me can’t be bothered to get off her phone, I am reminded of Randy Newman’s song that was popular in the seventies, “I think it’s going to rain today.”

I could just order my groceries online and save myself from a lot of aggravation. But that would signal total retreat and defeat.

December 24, 2017

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Visitor Comments: 8

(7) Anonymous, January 15, 2018 10:44 AM

Don’t have expectations

I think the cashier was having a hard day. We are supposed to be dan l’kaf zechus.
One very important lesson I have learned is that we have absolutely no idea what is going on in her life. Maybe an irate customer insulted her? Maybe she was feeling under the weather? Instead of her acknowledging your presence, maybe she needs you to acknowledge her presence. Though she was quiet and mechanical, imagine what you could have done by saying ‘thank you, have a nice day’.
I am a shy person. I sometimes say ‘Shalom’ ( I live in Israel). I always try to thank the cashier and sometimes wish her a nice day, no matter how she acts towards me. And I have many experiences where the person in front of me was spoken to nicely, and when I finished paying, the cashier said nothing to me. Like I said, I am a shy person, so I probably give off shy vibes.
What kind of mood were you in that day? Maybe you gave off vibes that made her think you weren’t in a friendly mood?
Remember that the cashier is a human being.

(6) ET, December 29, 2017 6:14 PM

Response - Poor Customer Service

It is important that you speak-up, or it just gets worse, because no one is. This is extremely poor customer service, and many times those who are suppose to train the employees in customer service, they themselves do not know what customer service is. Customers have to contact the owner and let them know that they expect the person helping them to look at them, speak to them politely, and to be concerned about their experience. If the employee is not taught manners, than they don't even know that their behavior is inappropriate. Sometimes, the service can be so bad that I will stop the cashier and tell them how they are suppose to interact with customers, and I will follow-up with an email to the person in-charge of them. This has always led to improvements, and a thank you for letting the store know about the poor service. Don't let them bring you down, because they are dysfunctional.

(5) Anonymous, December 28, 2017 4:25 PM

Love your article it needs to be published and put on every social media because i see that tooo much in today's world.

(4) Anonymous, December 28, 2017 3:06 PM

people not objects

It all comes down to treating people as people and not objects who exist only the moments we are with them. I often remind they have real lives separate from serving me. After they leave me they will go to families, activities etc of their own. When I am asked routinely "How are you?" I always reply, - fine and how about yourself which surprises people- no ones asks after them. Try it.

(3) Anonymous, December 28, 2017 2:28 PM

You could have said Hello

I always say hello when I step up to the cashier, everytime I shop. And I usually start a little conversation, geez, I only came in for milk & ended up with all this, or Brrrr, its co;d out side or even, How are you doing today? Maybe she was having a rough day & could have needed a little kindness. You could have reached out.

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