Sir, I need to see your receipt

root - Posted on 04 September 2009

"...and to check your bag!"

by Marlon Crump/PNN

Wow, I thought to myself, I just purchased some groceries, and I hadn't even gotten past the security monitor checkpoint, and here was a supermarket employee profiling me!

In the aftermath of my near-death police brutality experience surrounding "racial profiling" and even "class profling" by a dozen members of the San Francisco Police Department on October 7th, 2005 at 11:50 p.m, I felt that I wouldn't be "profiled" by any law enforcement official ever again or at least in this lifetime.

Thus far, I have not had any problems with law enforcement officials. It's fair to say that people are profiled by other people 24/7, not just from people of the law enforcement persuasion.

Given my years of unrelenting efforts towards raising vast public awareness of police abuse, racial profiling, unwarranted actions into poor people's housing with my voice/attendance to the S.F Police Commission, writing stories for POOR, filing a civil action (as my own attorney) against the City of San Francisco, and even going to the S.F Police Academy last year to motivate the youth recruits to deter from such actions; I figured that all forms of "profiling" was now least for me.

Unfortunately, the death of "profiling" was reincarnated. It descended upon me on a fairly warm and nippy-like March 21st, 2009 on a 12:50 p.m. Saturday afternoon from an unlikely source..................... a supermarket employee who was "acting security."

FOODS CO, a supermarket part of a network grocery chain located at 1800 14th/Folsom St (just a ten minute walking distance from where I live) has been a significant food chain for people in poverty to purchase relatively affordable groceries.

Many customers, (including myself) have depended on FOODS CO, for quite some time now, to keep their food prices relatively low to satisfy poor people's budget, at some degree.

Right after the illegal October 7th, 2005 S.F.P.D raid in my Single Room Occupancy Hotel, I went to FOODS CO to operate my food stamp card to get just enough food to satisfy the hunger pains in my stomach, as well as to the shock of my conscience of nearly losing my life to a dozen cops over "mistaken identity."

I walked into FOODS CO to satisfy those same similar hunger urges I had back then. What I did NOT anticipate was for similar shock consciousness (mental elements from my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to resurface in light of that deep, dark fateful October 2005 night. Only this time, there weren’t going to be any deadly firearms to be pointed at me, by police officers:

Today, the ignorance of an employee was pointed at me, as a possible shoplifter!

I glanced at the construction renovations that were taking place, outside the store as I approached the entrance. Walking inside the store was like passing through a mini tunnel, due to the outside construction. This was somewhat of an inconvenience to the shoppers, because this was both the ENTRANCE and EXIT, temporarily.

The night before, I was told by a cashier that typically works the evening shift that the store would be closed for most of the week. FOODS CO was getting a "face lift" according to the flyer he handed to me.

This supermarket was always packed with customers, sometimes even at night where there weren't alot of cashiers.

I looked around various store aisles to determine what kind of food would make my heart content for the day. "Hi, do you need help with something?" an employee asked. "Oh no, I'm fine, but thank you." I replied, with a warm smile. I knew him from my frequent store visits, and he was always customer courteous.

After packing my basket with a pack of hotdogs, a can of chili with beans, a loaf of bread, a gallon of fruit juice and two cans of beer, I headed to the express checkout line. Fortunately for me, the line was very slim, and I only had a five minute wait.

"Your total is $6.35, please." said a FOODS CO cashier--a young Latino man, with short low-cut black hair, wearing square-rimmed glasses. I reached into my wallet, took out six dollars, and gave it to him along with 35 cents. He quickly gave me my receipt and tended to the other customer.

I packed my groceries into one shopping bag, doubling them to ensure strong quality, and began to head out the entrance/exit.

I was just barely a foot away from the store's security checkpoint scanner, when out of nowhere, a short middle-aged Latino woman, wearing a green apron bearing her employee FOODS CO I.D., stopped me literally dead in my tracks. It was as if she was Wonder Woman or Supergirl poised against her prey, though I was hardly the villian.

"I need to see your receipt and check your bag."

My jaw tried to drop to the ground, but it knew I was too shocked to pick it back up, so it stayed where it was. Why did this employee even stop me before I even went through the security monitor checkpoint scanner?

Three years, counting every single hour, minute, second, day, week, daylight savings time, spring, summer, fall, and winter. Counting every single food stamp transaction, cash transaction, A.T.M/Debit card. Three years, counting good days, bad days, depressed days, stressed days, emotional days, sick days, alive and well days.

Three years, I have NEVER had ANY problem at FOODS CO, with its employees, and/or store management. The employees gave me respect, and I gave it back to them in return. Some of the managers delivered warm smiles, and I returned the exact same smiles. Even the store security guards gave me respect, with a friendly nod, and I also returned the same.

Three years, and none of that began to matter! Today on March 21st, 2009 at approximately 12:50 p.m. my humility and reputation were in the danger of being shattered. The uncomfortable feeling that you're being treated as if you did something wrong (even though you had not) grasps your dignity and humility.

"Look at this. I don't see beer on the receipt."

"Excuse me?"

"I don't see it on your receipt."

"That's kind of strange, because everything that I had on the checkout belt should've been rung up," I replied. I showed her on the receipt where it said "Age Verification Bypassed" which indicates that a customer has purchased an alcoholic beverage or a tobacco product, without having to show their I.D.

Unfortunately for me, it was revealed that there was only one beer sale listed on the receipt. Rather than get into a heated argument exchange with her and cause a scene, I suggested that we both go confront the cashier who rung up my items.

I followed her over to the appropriate cashier. He nodded to her that he did ring up all my items, until he studied the receipt further. "Uh, no, I only charged you for one beer and not the other."

Then came the real shocker: "I didn't see you with two beers, only one was on the counter." My eye lids perched upwards like a hawk, as I was surprised by his words.

"What!" I exclaimed. "That's strange, because I placed all of my items from my basket onto this belt. You scanned all of my items. I come through your checkout lines a lot and this never happened before. How could you have missed this one beer, when it was with my other items...........on the counter?!"

The cashier coldly looked away from me, refusing to acknowledge the possibility that he might have errored, irresponsibly. If he would've said, "I'm sorry, I must have forgot to scan it through." Then I would have at least understood, because everyone makes mistakes. He didn't want to appear to have been doing his job improperly, so he shifted the blame towards me.

Even so, what ever happened to the cardinal consumer rule that "customers are always right?" I guess it didn't apply to me, today.

Three f@#%$king years!

After a few brief back and forth exchanges, I ended up paying for the beer, which I had absolutely no problem doing in the first place. Why wouldn't I? I'm not a thief, and I always pay for my items. But from what I was understanding it clearly from the cashier, he was implying that I must have snuck the beer from underneath his "radar." Buy one, steal one free?

I shot them both an angry glare and asked them for the store manager. They referred me to another cashier who called the manager on the store intercom. As I waited, I alerted my comrades on my own phone to what was taking place.

The manager, a short heavy-set Caucasian woman with blond hair and slim dark streaks came from upstairs to talk to me. I politely explained to her what was going on. As heated as my temper was, I refused to lose my composure. I thought that she would've been more understanding to this situation. Something in her pupils told me a different story.

As a spiritual person having been prone to people's various levels of energy, negative and positive, I immediately got the feeling that she did not believe a word that came out of my mouth. When she started talking to me, her voice, eye contact, body language confirmed the vindictive attitude I received from her based on my observation(s) of her.

"He's already told me what happened. I believe his word over yours," she said. "He's worked here for quite a while, and I doubt that he would be making all of this up. Why are you complaining about an unpaid beer? It’s not like it’s free." Tricia then took the "undetected" beer out of my bag, and was getting ready to put it back, until I told her that the cashier had just charged me for it.

"Where's the receipt?" she asked. I searched both of my pockets, and my bag that contained my groceries. I realized that amidst this madness, either the cashier or the woman that stopped me must have kept it. Now I only had the second receipt he gave me, verifying that I had just paid for the second beer. I showed it to her.

There have been many terms that define the term "profiling." One of them in recent years is "Shopping while Black" which gives a definition to African Descent customers when they walk into an average consumer business, such as a shopping mall, a grocery store, a department store, a liquor store and even a restaurant, and are harassed because of their descent.

Yes, it's important to acknowledge the existence of criticisms, "Oh that can happen to anyone, regardless of skin color." (Which is very true) However, statistics, reports, surveys and especially history itself, has proven time and time again that black people are always the most watched than any other race in the world.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been immune to the problems, speaking from SO many experiences, as a young African-Descent man.

This is especially true if there are black shoplifters caught and subsequently, there becomes a red alert on many black shoppers because of that one or two that were caught stealing. Notwithstanding, what a person wears also gives off the wrong signals, judgments and assumptions. These are the attributes that lead up to "profiling" and "racial profiling" via "shopping while black."

You can tell if you're being "profiled" or "singled out" when as soon as you walk into any kind of merchandise store, along comes an employee who decides to follow you around, or asks "If they can help you" barely giving you a minute to even shop for an intended item.

Even singers, celebrities and performer have encountered "profiling" incidents committed by store employees and cop........................that is until the profiling perpetrators recognize who they are.

The manager wanted to see both receipts. While I kept asking her to go ask the cashier to get confirmation, she stared at me for a few seconds, indicating she still didn't believe me. The reasons the manager had for not believing me were evident in her eyes.

The manager finally asked the cashier and he did confirm that I had JUST paid for it, so she then gave it back to me. Then I thought to myself, "Evidently I must have just paid for it, else what do I look like having a bag full of groceries, with only ONE receipt for ONE purchase?"

I argued that their store security cameras could ultimately validate all my claims. I suggested that we both could view the cameras. The manager's eyes flashed, and she sternly refused. "There is no way I am going to have you go upstairs and look at the camera!" I said that was fine by me.

"But I wanted to lodge a complaint against this store. I know you guys have complaint forms, and I want one."

The manager said that they didn't have any complaint forms. She wrote down the number to the corporate office, "Ralph's Food 4 Less" and gave it to me. I took the number from her, rolled my eyes at her then I walked out the entrance/exit past the Latino woman employee that stopped me, who was now wearing a skinny smirk on her face.

I quickly walked past her with a dirty look, shaking my head at her, as I departed from my former favorite supermarket, narrowly missing and dodging the incoming customers pushing their shopping carts.

Total embarrassment and humiliation, I was nearly put in a position where security could’ve sided with the store employees, if they would've been called on me. Even if he would've recognized me as a frequent customer, there is no question in my mind that he would've sided with them for the safety of keeping his job.

There's also no telling what could've taken place. A mere "misunderstanding" could've elevated into an unnecessary chaotic scene, where security personnel and cops could've been called on me, and who knows what could've transpired?

Three f@##king years down the drain, caused by three people's foolishness, resulting in the birth of my disinterest to continue my business at their store, and maybe in any of other FOODS CO stores, for that matter. No r-e-s-p-e-c-t FOR me, no c-h-e-c-k FROM me. Unbelievably unfair!

I'm a living testimony of "misunderstandings" and the effects it can have on someone. They nearly cost me my very own life. It's strikingly ironic that after my October 7th, 2005 S.F.P.D encounter, I went down to this very store before closing time, after being "racial profiled" about thirty minutes before. Here I was years later being profiled at a store, just a few adequate walking distance from my home, by an employee that apparently lacks security experience.

From where I see it, FOODS CO needs more than an outside "face lift" to attract more customers. The real plastic surgery should begin with spiritual surgery, with accountability to the characters of some of its employees and management.

The Ralphs/Food 4 Less Foundation to Donate Over $60,000 to African American Organizations as Part of Black History Month Program.

In recognition of Black History Month, The Ralphs/Food 4 Less Foundation will accept donations from customers throughout the month of February in more than 450 Ralphs, Food 4 Less (Southern California, southern Nevada, Illinois and Indiana), Foods Co, Bell Markets and Cala Foods stores.

All funds collected will be donated directly to African-American organizations with a focus on education, culture and heritage. Customers can support the Black History Month fundraising program by donating their spare change in specially marked collection canisters located at the checkstands in their neighborhood Ralphs, Food 4 Less, Foods Co or Cala/Bell supermarket.


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