Thursday, December 17, 2009

I think she was just stealing

Yesterday I stopped at a Walmart. Not a Super Walmart, though we have a couple miles from home. No, this was the Neighborhood Walmart (or something like that), the one that just sells groceries and fills prescriptions. A much smaller store than the Super guy. The Neighborhood one isn't so near our house; it is in the midst of mobile homes that are rented in the winter by 'retired snowbirds'. Lots of  the 'greatest generation' shop here. Walking up and down the aisle can be tedious and slow, but the patrons are all eager to talk and they all love a smile.

The Super Walmart has 50 plus check out lines. The Neighborhood one has 1 check out line and 6 'self check' machines. The line for the 1 "check out" line was 7 shoppers long... all those not wanting to self check or those not sure of HOW to self check. I took to the shortest self check line. But it quickly appeared all the 'self check' lines had problems. In one, the shoppers were trying to use an invalid gift card. In another, the couple were trying to use food stamps for exempted items. In my line....  an angry old woman argued out loud with the scanner. I called her Gertie, since I thought she looked like a Gertie (not a Gertrude, but a Gertie) She had no teeth. Her clothes were days worn. Her hands had the 'dehydrated look' - when your skin does not return to form once pinched. And her voice was angry.

First, she scanned a carton cigarettes. No problem, except the scanner screamed for a clerk to verify the shopper's right age. Gertie started yakking back at the scanner. "Yea, yea, yea, I'm old enough. Just look at me, shit, just look at me."

No clerk showed up to release the scanner. No one paid attention to Gertie and her check out items.

Gertie cussed. She was impatient. She screamed "This machine ain't working right!" but no one paid attention to her. The clerk was addressing the issue with the guys with invalid gift card... I tried to help Gertie, but she pushed me away.

"#$@!" said Gertie. She looked at me. "This machine ain't working. Watch this". And she falsely scanned her next carton of cigarettes. And 2 boxes of chocolate covered cherries (Queen Anne?). And a Lean Cuisine. She put them all in plastic grocery bags.

The clerk appeared. Gertie explained that the scanner stopped. The clerk ran some kind of credit-sized card across the scanner, punched in some code, and the scanner worked again.

Gertie ran yet another carton of cigarettes across the scanner. Repeat... scanner stalls, Gertie falsely scans several items while cussing the 'machine' wasn't working. I tried to explain she had to wait. But she bagged everything, turned to me and said that the machine wouldn't let her pay so she was leaving... and she left. Without paying. For 3 carton of cigarettes, at a minimum.

I was shocked.  I stood there wanting to run after her but I doubted my success with doing so. I stood there... The clerk came to clear the machine again, without looking left or right. I told her "The woman here left with her groceries, but WITHOUT paying!". The clerk shrugged, avoided eye contact, cleared out the sales memory, and told me to proceed.


I am still numb. I am still angry at myself for not know what to do, and I am angry at Gertie for pulling a fast one liked that. I am still confused...

And I wonder if she is the old lady in "To a Poor Old Woman", the poem by Carlos William Carlos. I'd have bought her a plum, a deli sandwich, a big ham for dinner. She never looked that needy, just angry.

Or is she from "The Best Cigarette" by Billy Collins?

Either way, I am disappointed in me. But mostly disappointed in her.


altadenahiker said...

What about it bothered you, Brenda? The fact that she stiffed WalMart, or that she was rude and angry? I'm curious, and not passing judgement at all, just trying to understand.

We have very few self-checkout places around here. Just a grocery store, and that doesn't work at all because everyone has some sort of alcohol purchase.

Patrina said...

So, Brenda, why are you disappointed in you? You tried to help. She didn't want any help. She probably does it this same way everytime. The store clerks may just turn their heads rather than deal with her. As, you found out, she ws not a pleasant kind lady. Some people just turn their heads rather than confront. She was in the wrong - you did nothing wrong nor could you have changed anything either. Don't let it ruin your peaceful Christmas. Don't let her live rent free in your head one more minute. I'm trying to help :)

Brenda's Arizona said...

What bothered me? First off, I think the cigarettes more than anything. I think that froze me in my tracks. Anything but cigarettes... I'd have taken over and bought anything for her but the damn cigarettes. Can you tell that I have had a parent die of cancer?? Sigh. I just want the best for everyone, but not cigarettes! The prejudice in my life is the burning stick.

Patrina said...

"The prejudice in my life is the burning stick".

Gotcha! yeah, I hear where you're coming from. Hard obstacle to move around. The situation presented double-mindedness. Your heart wanted to help - but the cigarettes froze your emotions and left you powerless. It wasn't he stealing as much as the raw message attached to the cigarettes. Sorry, Brenda. It was a nasty situation all the way around.

Brenda's Arizona said...

But now that I think deeper, maybe it was the blatant stealing. The sneaky way she did it, the whole time trying to justify it on a scanner that refused to scanned. I can almost justify the rudeness and especially the anger - but not the stealing. Though I have read enough about Walmart's practices to know it goes both ways... But still, I want human dignity to fly higher.

altadenahiker said...

Maybe she'll be visited by the ghost of christmas past.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Good one, Karin!

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

This reminds me of an old cartoon that a friend of mine gave me-- it's an old Gary Larson cartoon, and God has just finished making the world, and he stands over the globe with a salt shaker labelled "JERKS", and he sprinkles the "Jerks" on the Earth.

The caption says, "There, that ought to make things interesting".

That's how the world is, Brenda-- there's really wonderful people and also some jerks sprinkled in the mix.

Patrina said...

Brenda, as I said in my eariler post, I believe this is not the first for her. I believe she has figured out the system and purposely scans her items too fast and rants and raves about the machine not working - so that she can do exactly what she did - steal right in front of their eyes. I believe her intentions were to steal from the very begining, and I'm pretty certain that she does it this way every time - at least at Wallmart. She knows that she has them over a barrel by now.

I say these things because I worked in a homeless shelter for a year - and I heard the most amazing stories of on-going stealing and getting away with it. It became their way of life - to get what they could not pay for. And those that did it were proud of their ability to get what they wanted for free - and - they felt they were owed what they took because of the poverty they were living in. It really is a mind set for most of them.

I could not continue to work in the shelter because my hands were tied. I could not offer them real help because the system worked against actually setting them free. I could only be their friend. The goverment keeps them poor by the programs that are designed to help them surive. That is what they do - survive.

The goverment keeps them in bondage to its programs. It is an easier way of life. Not that homelessness is easy, I'm been homeless 2 times myself. For me it was very scarey place to be. But for a large majority, they prefer homelessness over balancing life on their own. They are very creative with their lack of resources and money.

For most, when they are given opportunity to live in a place that allows them to have a job and provide for part of their housing, they can't make it very long. It is an unfamiliar place for them. They have learned a differnt way.

I'm sorry for the long comment. I'm not trying to justify her actions by any means. Stealing is wrong in any form. I'm more concerned for you, Brenda. Don't let the woman behind the mask live rent free in your head. She hasn't given it one ounce of thot since she brushed up against you. You were just someone that got in her way - for 1 small moment in her typical life.

You aren't the first to come face to face with her or oothers like her. Many others have reacted much like you. The store clerk obviously has seen it more times than she cares to recount.

The truth of the story screams injustice - because those cigarettes were paid for by all of us. That's the part that hits me the most. Her actions, affect our own pocketbooks. Time and time again we pay for those cigarettes! :)

Again, forgive me for the long comment :)

Lori Skoog said...

A very sad state of affairs. Oh well! Hard to believe that people accept this.

allhorsestuff said...

Darn it all... sorry for that rude interlude Brenda.
She does sound like she knows how to "Work it" and many ignore her because she is soo rude...well stealing is stealing and she is wrong, anyway you slice it.

Carol said...

Hi, Brenda, this is quite a discussion you've got going on here! And I just popped over to say thanks for that awesome comment you left on my was profound. I don't know if we can apply it to Gertie though...but I've been thinking about it while reading these comments. I read "To a Poor Old Woman" and "The Best Cigarette", and I don't think Gertie is exactly a fit in either. I would have also been dumbfounded, and yet the situation begs for justice. And what about the store clerk...

FA said...

Brenda, it seems to me that you did your best - you offered help and you notified the store...after that there is not much more you could do (except tackle her and/or pray for her). In the end, God will work this out. Thanks for sharing this experience - it's quite thought provoking and also interesting to read everyone's comments. Sorry to hear about your experience with a cancer death.