Judgment in the Grocery Line

—Alamance County, NC, grocery cashier—

It’s something that I’ve heard about. And with certain students, I’ll joke about it with them about it or just a particular co-worker, that she’ll come and go like, “This person just came through my line and used this EBT card, and yeah, she should’ve sold her hair, her nails or the car that she’s driving.”

There have been some people that I would stereotype to be using food stamps, but many times they’re using debit or credit cards like what we would consider the average person. And there have been Caucasian families that appear to be middle class, well-dressed, present themselves nicely and  they could even fit in at Elon [University], and they’re using EBT, and it just really challenges that stereotype that you have. And then their children, their children have no idea. And their children are excited, “Well I want this. I want this,” or put the candy bar on the register, and they don’t know that “I only have so much money for us to eat.”

Generally people understand.  Like WIC [Women, Infants and Children nutrition program]. People don’t understand that, “Excuse me, I can’t buy this brand of milk, but I can get the store brand of milk?”  So if that’s the case, I have to put something back and substitute, but generally for EBT, is they know there’s going to be a balance and that they can’t buy beer or cigarettes, that kind of things, and that they have the cash or whatever to pay for that.

Affording Steak

A personal story for me is when my…the conveyor belt is full, and there’s all this food. And you can’t help but think, “So, we’re paying for this?” you know?

I know it’s the wrong attitude, and it’s like completely negative, but I’m not eating steak even once a month. And I mean, I’m in college trying to make a better life for myself, and still you have all these steaks and all this stuff that I don’t have at home. And so that’s been my fault, and I know that’s completely negative.

“Paul” is a college student who also works as a grocery cashier. He is African-American, in his twenties, and was interviewed by Tom Mould on October 11, 2013.

This entry was posted in Food Stamps, Grocery Store Clerks, Place: Alamance County, Stigma/Stereotype. Bookmark the permalink.
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