Life and the Supermarket Checkout Line

Written by  on October 15, 2004 

I had a email sent to me the other day from a friend that involves a very interesting situation and one we have all experienced to a greater or lesser degree in our lives. This is all around what we attract into our lives. Sometimes we attract good stuff and when we do, how do we react to this?

Now supermarkets are a great place to observe the ways of the world. The following story shows how much of an effect others can have on us and asks the question… Should we really be concerned?

Here is what he wrote…

Hey Bill

My son needed some herbs for a cooking class that he is taking in school. His call to “remind” me that he needed them came about 5 minutes after his class started. I dashed to the store only to stand in the checkout line for 10 minutes. What transpired in this line was an education to me.

To begin with, only 3 clerks were working in a row of 12 so, as you might imagine, the lines were fairly backed up and since I was only purchasing 3 items, I got into the “Express” line. (10 items of less) The elderly lady at the head of the line was having problems making the change for a purchase. The clerk was kind and patient while helping her, which of course, but this did nothing to speed up the line to “Express”.  Finally the transaction was complete and the clerk moved on to the next customer. Unfortunately, this person had several coupons which needed to be redeemed which further slowed the line. The lady in front of me was next, so how long could it take?

Turns out that it can take longer than the other two ladies. This lady had a one hundred dollar bill which she was using to make a five dollar purchase. The clerk”s till couldn”t cover the change so she had to make out a slip for a transfer from another clerk who also, it turned out, couldn”t make change. This prompted a trip to the office for the change, which took “forever”.

At this point it occurred to me that I should check my funds to insure that they are sufficient to cover the purchase. This is not to say that I didn”t have money but really means that I remembered that I may also have only a one hundred dollar bill for a purchase of less that five dollars. I found that I, in fact, had the bill but also had four dollars and forty cents in my front pocket.

The clerk returned to a, by now very long line of “express” customers, passed the change over to the Lady and rang up my purchase. The total came to four dollars, forty seven cents. Seven cents more than the change that I had in my pocket. I explained that I was 7 cents short unless she wanted to break another one hundred dollar bill. Her reply was; “Oh, so you are going to use that as an excuse”. Without even looking at me she reached onto the top of her till and counted out 7 cents from a pile of change that she had there, said “Never mind, it”s covered,” gave me my receipt and moved on to the next customer. All the while I was trying to remove my wallet from my pocket to pay with the large bill.

As I was rushed anyway, I chose to take the goods and deliver them to my son at school but after completing this task I returned to the store to complete paying my debt. As I dropped the change on the till, she remarked, “Isn”t that sweet of you.”

As I pondered this exchange on my trip home, my first reaction was concern that the people in line with me might think that I”m a “rat bag”, who goes around short changing clerks on every transaction with lame excuses. I only intended to save her the trouble of breaking another large bill when she was already very backed up but only I knew that. And or course, none of those people were around to see my “virtue” in returning to pay the debt.

Thinking more about it, I found that there were more important issues for the Clerk. I may have appeared to be”a ratbag” and it may have appeared that I only returned with the change because of her comments but the truth is, I really thought that I was going to help her and I returned to pay the debt because I happen to believe that ANY debt I have, however small, is still valid and thus should to be paid. I would have returned with the correct change what ever her comments. As much as I was concerned about what the people in line thought, I know that the chance of me ever seeing them again is remote. The one person that I would see again was the clerk and she seemed to have changed her mind about me when I returned with the change.

I find that as I think about this clerk (whom I have seen many times before) she will never be the same in my eyes. Her snap judgment of me has reflected on herself. I doubt that she is aware of this and, most likely, could come up with several ways to justify her actions but the fact still remains that she is diminished in my mind and with her, the whole establishment for which she works. Not because I am vindictive, but because I will always associate her and her place of work with my humiliation over seven cents.

It makes me wonder how many times I have reacted to something in ways that reflect negatively on myself when I was “in the right”. It makes me realise just how important it is to me, personally, that I react with compassion and concern to the plight of others. I hope that I will remember that my reputation is worth more that seven cents.

Regards….

It is interesting how much emphasis we put on other peoples opinions and ideas when they relate to us. Take this example here, now I know that the person writing this is definitely not a “deadbeat”. It is a somewhat proven fact that if you consider yourself a “deadbeat”, then you are not. It”s as simple as that. “Ratbags” would never even consider themselves as such, so if you consider yourself one, then you have failed at the primary test.

If we could approach this without any conclusions or ideas, we would be able to accept the seven cents as a gift and move on to the important things in this story which is seeing that the son got his cooking ingredients, never giving another thought to the situation that occurred in the supermarket.

You see, we attract the things that we deserve and it is obvious that, although he attracted the extra cash amount, the concentration was on the comment.

“Good luck” can be viewed in so many different ways and we can sometimes undo the “good luck” we attract, simply by refusing to accept it. We can also undo this “good luck” by concentrating on the undesirable response by others.

The question is, why do we want to concentrate on the negatives? Why do the responses of others tend to make us either beam with pride or make us squirm with worry and negatives?

Just as it is a learned trait to concentrate on negatives, we can learn to focus on the good areas that bring us the good will.

There are a few tricks to this and it helps if we remember that others are coming at this from their perspective and that may be one of negativity. We don”t really have a hope of changing their idea unless that person wishes to move to this place of change. Realising that they are in their own place is something that can put our own thoughts at rest. We all have the choice as to how we look at any event and what actions that happen in that event.

Attraction itself is a subject that causes some strange behavior in some people. As part of looking at attraction in action, we were asked to go and experiment with it. I went to the local coffee shop and after having a coffee; I paid and also paid for a person sitting at another table by themselves reading the local paper. I then left. Within a couple of minutes the person, whose coffee I had paid for, approached me on the street and thrust some money in my hand saying “I don”t accept anyone paying for my coffee” and he walked off. Now here is a great example of some good fortune coming to a person and their inability to accept it. There were too many other ideas in the way.

Try putting a $5 note on the ground and watch the reaction of people. Very few will just pick it up. Most usually try to make sure no one is watching. You see, it is as if they can”t accept that this good fortune has come their way. Try giving five dollars to someone you don”t know.

There is another reaction that is interesting to follow as well. Our own reaction to someone picking up the 5 dollar note and walking off with it. Suddenly this 5 dollars becomes a larger item and we feel a sense of loss. That is, unless we are totally OK with giving it away.

So where are we heading with all this?

If our intention is coming from a good place. If we are coming from a good place in our heart, then the reaction of others is simply that… their reaction. They are going to react to many things that happen around them. The difference is that you are able to accept that this is their issue.

Reading through my friends’ dilemma again, I notice a number of things.

1/ My friend had the money to pay

2/ He was attempting to help the teller out

3/ The teller made a comment and paid the 7 cents

4/ My friend did a considerable amount of “thinking” regarding this comment

5/ Being the honest person that he is, he felt a necessity to repay the debt

6/ He felt aware of how others perceived his action (of needing 7 cents)

7/ He re-paid the debt

8/ He made a decision that affects how he looks at this teller in the future

Of all these points only one was an action of someone else, the teller! The rest are all points revolved around my friend. Most of these were decisions and thoughts that he determined or decided.

It is well worth being aware of the strain we can put on ourselves by this “thinking”. The point being that we usually have no idea how others perceive us, but we sure make a good job of making it up, afterwards, in our head.

Does it really matter what others think?

I think not… especially, if you are a person who is putting some thought into what others think. This usually means that you, by your very nature, will not be going about doing things that intentionally hurt or disrupt another.

If this is the case, then sometimes, whatever action you take, it will be the other person that will be offended or will find a reason why you should be blamed. This is something that they must come to terms with. It is something that they may require to take responsibility for.

You, by the fact that you are a caring person, should relax a little, happy in the fact that you have received this gesture of goodwill, these seven cents. For you are a person of goodwill and compassion and you have received acknowledgment for it by attracting the very thing that you are now worried that others might think you are a “ratbag” for receiving

Until next week

Cheers… Bill

Bill Gray

Bill is a Business Coach. Working with Individuals, Businesses and Organisations to create better environments and to develop and enhance business ”potential”, into successful business practices.

Sydney, Australia

Ph +61 413 949 521

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