When the guy looked me up and down and walked straight towards me at the grocery store…. I was pretty sure he was gonna hit on me. “Even here… at the grocery… I still got it…” May, or may not have crossed my mind. (Okay it didn’t but it goes with my Even here theme…) As I prepared my rarely used. but usually effective comeback .shut down line “I’ll tell my husband you said so…” or whatever….He started talking.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It wasn’t my number he wanted…. it was something a little less legal.
“Hey, so my car broke down and I red to get downtown and get home to get it fixed. I don’t have any cash- but I have my Bridge Card..(Electronic benefits card name here in Michigan– food stamps) Can you help me out? Just let my buy your groceries… then you give me half the $ they cost in cash and you keep the groceries…. I just need some help…”
I heard the jeopardy theme in my head…. dilemma: 1) I care about and always try to help people when I can. 2) I know that allowing someone to “Buy your groceries for you and then you give them the cash” is a classic fraud and is also: illegal. Hello- I watch the news….well- I listen to it while I’m working and stuff… 3) I don’t do scams or lies– just be honest and you’ll get further with me. I’m not stupid just because I’m a suburbanite. 4) He could have been telling the truth. He could have been stranded. He could need help.
Thinking through all my options made my head feel like a tinfoil tray of “Jiffy pop”, left on the burner on high by my ten year old because he suddenly had to watch spongebob. Instead of exploding….I came up with what felt like the best option- Tell the guy I won’t break the law-(Welfare fraud= not part of my plan for yesterday- and I’m not stupid- I know that’s what he was asking me to do..) but that I’ll give him $20 to help him get home. (In case he really needed it. There’s a bus that runs from the burbs downtown where he said he needed to go…. right out in front of Meijers.) That way- I’m not breaking the law or missing an opportunity to help someone out.
At least i thought it was the best option.
He, however, did not.
He proceeded to step into my personal space (You’re too close if I can see through your pores into your brain, justsayin.) and argue with me. About how I should let him buy my groceries. On his Bridge card. And how I’d end up ahead. He kept eyeballing my purse as he stepped closer. We had a little tango in the grocery aisle as I stepped back and he stepped forward. (Toward the center aisle… I’m not dumb.) Arguing the whole time. At one point he asked some really stupid questions about WHO’s law it was. I pointed out how often this is pulled as a scam.
Apparently we drew some attention. He wasn’t the only one getting loud.
A store manager walked up.
Told the guy to leave the store or he’d call the police.
The guy said: “See what you did? You got these Mo’fo’s all over me. Why don’t you just help me out?”
I said: “Dude, YOU are the one arguing- you brought them on you- I told you how I’d help you out- you wouldn’t take that answer.”
The manager stepped between me and the guy. Saying something about loss-prevention having already talked to him….and that he needed to leave.NOW.Or he’d call the police.
At which point the guy reached around the manager and said: “Give me the $20 like you said.” Shoving his hand yet again- a little too close to my purse.
I thought about telling him to get lost. I thought about telling him to back off. I thought about to totally ignoring him and buying a cupcake.
Instead, I pulled out the $20 and handed it over. The manager was not pleased.
As he reached to take it- instead of thanks- the guy said: “I’ll see you outside.”
Was he planning on arguing some more? Did he think I was going to change my mind? Or, was that a threat?
“Loss prevention” walked the guy away.
I walked to the back of the store and wandered around for as long as I could. Somewhat afraid to meet the guy in the parking lot. My heart raced.
So did my brain. “Did I get that guy in trouble? Did he really just need help? Was it a scam? Should I have just walked away? Was that actually a threat- or is it just me? Did I just set myself up as a mark to get mugged in the parking lot? Or worse? Or for more arguing- this time without the benefit of a fully staffed store surrounding me?”
I decided not to risk it.
I found the manager. Asked for an escort to my car.
I didn’t “see him outside.” But, I did look for him.
I also prayed for him.
I prayed that he’d get whatever kind of help he needs. Honestly- I don’t know what that is. It’s possible my confrontation just heaped fuel on his fire. Some of the things he said made it pretty clear he has issues with “people like me.” It’s possible my giving him $20 was positive reinforcement that his scam worked-
It was a lot of moral dilemma for a chick who’d spent the morning at the cancer center with her husband. A chick who cares about people but isn’t stupid or naive. A chick who wants to help- and cares about the least of these…. and who lives the gospel as best as she can, even when it makes my head explode.
So here are my questions:
- Have you had this happen to you?
- What would you do?
- Have you ever had someone ask for money- then argue and get all veiled threaty- on you?
- Is there a law you would break if it meant helping someone? (I probably would if it was hiding Jews from Nazi’s or something (or any other people group) …. not so much welfare fraud….
- Do you give when asked- or do you refuse?
He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Funny- it doesn’t mention arguing with the least….. oopsy. must have missed that…..