recently, stocking up on festive treats like discounted tomatoes and mayonnaise, when I witnessed an incident that highlighted the two sides of human nature ... and the dangers of paying by debit.
Ahead of me in the checkout line, I saw an elderly woman hang her cane on the counter and bend over her purse, painstakingly fishing through it. The sales clerk rolled her eyes, a mistake that earned disapproving glances from everyone around her. (Tacit grocery store rule: It is okay to huff impatiently when the person in front of you is just being stupid-slow. If, on the other hand, she is elderly and reminds you of your mother or your grandmother, you must be as patient as if you were waiting behind Mother Teresa herself.)
The woman finally found her debit card and handed it to the clerk, who ran it through.
"Nope," the clerk said flatly. "Didn't work."
Flustered, the elderly woman leaned in. "Pardon me?"
"Your card isn't working," the clerk said. "Is it a new card?"
The clerk shrugged. "You forgot to activate it. You have to activate it."
"But I've used it already."
"Well maybe you don't have any money in there."
(Lost in this accusatory parrying was the possibility that perhaps the damn debit machine was to blame.)
By now, people from several lines over were watching as well.
The elderly woman fished around in her purse and handed her some cash.
The clerk counted it out. "You're still short," she said.
At this point, a gentleman stepped forward and handed the clerk a bill. I couldn't make out the amount but it was clearly enough to get Attila the Hun to stand down.
The elderly woman was profusely grateful.
"No problem," the man assured her. "Happy to help."
At that point my line shifted and it was my turn at the checkout, and I'll tell you, I have never been so thankful that I paying with cash.
Anyway, the moral of the story . . . well, there are several. One of them being that when a store advertises itself as not having any frills, one of the frills they probably don't have is manners.
Another lesson: What goes around, comes around. So be that polite cashier who doesn't make grandma feel like a criminal for being 50 cents short. Cuz some day it could happen to you.
And the final lesson is: Debit machines ... sometimes they mess up. You may want to have some cash on hand.