I'm Pissed

I'm a reasonably easygoing person, but I swear, if one more cashier says to me, "Credit?" when I'm swiping my debit card I think I'm going to go off.

I bought some liquor the other week at a discount mart where products cost less when they are paid for with cash. The cashier automatically charged me the higher price, then had the nerve to complain about having to re-ring when he saw the cash in my hand. I told him if he asked instead of presuming, he'd save himself -- and me, too -- some time.

Black cashiers, I notice, will either ask the correct, "Debit or credit?" or merely wait and see what their register screen tells them. It's just the non-black ones who tend to presume I'm paying with credit (even if I'm buying $6 worth of groceries or $4 worth of stamps at the post office). This makes me wonder, do they make this same assumption for everybody? (I'm also suspicious of cashiers who ask to see my ID and am just waiting to catch someone asking me for this but not the white person behind me so I can file a seven-digit discrimination suit.)

My gut tells me this question is reserved for just some people, and that I've Been Profiled.


Gwyneth Bolton said...

Yes... the racial profiling that happens at the cash register... Some one needs to write about that. I love it when the cashier makes a point of asking the white person in front of me for their ID because she knows that she is going to request mine and doesn't want be to have a full blown "black-out" fit...


bettye griffin said...

I actually do have something on the drawing board that addresses this, Gwyneth . . . but it's likely to be a few more years before it reaches print.

To borrow from a future blog column . . . so many ideas, so little time.


Patricia W. said...

I've got a story from this past weekend:

I'm in Sweetbay, a local supermarket that recently renovated all their stores to go more upscale (used to be called Kash N Karry). Anyway, I'm buying Juicy Juice for my kids because it's all natural and has less sugar. The cashier, a young, Caucasian woman, says to me, "Do you have WIC?" Now WIC, the Women-Infants-Children food program, is a great thing for those who need it. I'm not ashamed to say I got it when we were going through a difficult period and I had a newborn at home.

I burst into laughter, and said, "The juice is on sale. Are you going to ask everyone who buys it that question?" The older Caucasian woman who was bagging the groceries turned her head like she wanted to be anywhere but at the end of my aisle.

If I weren't pressed for time and didn't want to risk getting thrown out for loitering, I might have stuck around to see whether she only asked the Black customers or all customers.

bettye griffin said...

Ah, yes. Brings back memories of my time in New York, when white cashiers would routinely ask, "Food stamps?" I started asking them if they would have asked me that if I were white. Then I brought my business someplace else and told the store manager why. The store closed a few months later.

I did put this incident into a manuscript that's being shopped now, plus, on the way out of the store, encountering a crudely handwritten sign, "Please do not spit on the floor." My heroine thinks, Folks in Scarsdale don't have to put up with this shit.

For the record, I was once told by a cash supervisor that cashiers are not supposed to ask if customers plan to use WIC or stamps to pay for their purchases. A smart cashier will try to see if the customer is holding the payment method in his or her hand, in the same way they try to subtly size up the age of people purchasing tobacco or alcohol products.

Donna D said...

I've never encountered the issue mentioned except for the ID. I asked a clerk why she needed to see my ID and she said it was to verify identity as many people steal others debit cards and ring up a lot of purchases hoping no one will ID them. As I have had people write false withdrawal slips on my checking account (the bank never asked for ID!), I took it as gospel. The black and white clerks did the same thing to everyone (I guess) so I never got offended.

I'm puzzled by the higher credit vs. lower cash price. I don't recall that happening, or maybe I didn't pay attention.

But you certainly did give me something to think about...

bettye griffin said...

Years ago, before debit cards even became widely popular, gas stations used to charge more for credit sales than for cash. Consumer protest put a stop to that. But some small businesses still do it, in this case a single-branch liquor supermarket that charges an extra dollar for debit or credit sales.

I stopped on my way home from work today and spent $12. "Credit?" the Hispanic clerk said to me.

At this point I'm too tired to fuss. I just corrected her, punched in my PIN and left with my purchases.

I'm convinced that these clerks, most of whom are just making minimum wage themselves, believe black people don't have any money.

Patricia W. said...

There's a gas chain here in Central FL that still charges a higher price for different payment methods. They used to give a 3 cent discount for cash purchases but I noticed recently that you only get the discount now if you get one of their reloadable money cards, same practice as Walmart uses for its gas.