No, I don’t work here — stop asking me if I do
Not all black people work in the service industry
If there is a self-checkout aisle, there’s a 99.9% chance I’m going to it. Part of the reason is because of my college and early graduation years working at Walgreens and working as a photo technician in Walmart; I’m used to ringing up my own items.
The other reason is because I’m a coupon scanner — the kind of person you dread being behind in line because I’ve definitely got manufacturing coupons, Shopkick points and/or store mobile app points with reward codes. My mother calls me and my father “cheap”; I insist “frugal” sounds better. But considering all the steps I take to avoid paying full price for anything, in my opinion, I’m an obvious customer.
But that “obvious” isn’t so obvious — to a select few. Recently, as I was going about checking out my items and verifying my Cartwheel points, I could feel a woman walking behind me, sort of pacing. I looked up at the self-checkout video camera figuring that maybe I was standing near the candy option she wanted.
“Do you work here?” she asked.
I paused for a second and looked down at my shirt. Anybody who has ever been within a 50-foot distance of Target knows the staff always wears those bright red shirts. Meanwhile I was wearing jean capris and a gray college alumni shirt. I didn’t even bother to acknowledge her. You could clearly see me continuing to scan my items, mobile app displayed and focused on my percentage discounts.
A cashier who was watching the self-checkout station walked over to her, asking if she could help her. It turned out the woman wanted to learn how to operate a coin collecting machine nearby. The cashier said she’d be right with her as soon as she finished helping another customer. The woman nodded. She paced behind me again.
“Do you work here?” she repeated her question.
I was nearing the end of all the items in my hand-held shopping basket and defiantly pressing the zero confirmation button to skip bag taxes. I bring my own bags. Give me my $0.05 discounts, please and thank you!
I glanced up at the camera and saw her directly behind me, staring at the back of my head.
Now should I turn around and ask her why her eyes clearly don’t see me ringing out items — in a well-worn gray shirt with a big blue tiger on it and matching blue capris? Nah, let her keep asking me this dumb question.
“Ma’am, I’ll be with you in a second!” the cashier yelled out to her, motioning a finger to let her know it wouldn’t take long.
Recommended Read: “When self-checkout feels more like racial profiling ~ Whether working or shopping, everyone black is not a thief”
The woman nodded, moving out of my line of view behind the camera. I thought she was gone. But I felt someone far too close to the 6-foot distance I’ve grown used to. She leaned her head around to look at my face instead of the back of my head.
“Do you work here?” she asked. “I need help with the coin machine.”