I’ve always believed everybody should have friends at the grocery store. There’s value in being friendly and social with people you don’t know well for no reason other than it’s the right thing to do, especially when those people may be from very different backgrounds than you. On the other hand I also want to make sure the girls at our local grocery store know my kids because the store is on a dangerous highway and I’ve always been worried it only takes a blink of an eye for one of those little terrors to escape or get in trouble. So I flirt with the girls at the store and buy them chocolates in hopes that they’ll pay attention should one of my kids ever decide to run out to the street.
The other day I was waiting to place my order for some meat and one of the girls at the counter looked up from what she was doing to say hi to me. “Hola casero!” The word “casero” is like a regular customer.
No sooner did the girl say hi to me when another customer just tore into the poor girl. “I was here before him, can’t you attend your customers. How dare you disrespect me like that. Don’t you girls go to some schools to learn how to treat your customers?” On and on. The poor grocery store girl responded politely that she was only saying hi and wasn’t going to serve me before anybody else but that didn’t stop the other customer from berating her every which way. The grocery store girl stayed composed and polite during the entire ordeal but the other customer really went overboard insulting the girl, several of her coworkers and eventually took her anger out on some store managers.
Here in Peru there is a lot of economic and ethnic classism and the customer who was scolding the poor grocery store girl obviously felt that she was “above” the poor grocery store girl. I could tell once the irate customer took her case to the store manager that the poor grocery store girls were really worried.
I hate to be all noblesse oblige but here in Peru people who work in grocery stores work long hours for low pay, the reality is I probably make more money than all the employees at my local grocery store combined and sadly that means my word is more valuable than theirs to their bosses. So I walked right into the angry conversation the other customer was having with store managers and told her exactly what I thought. She was fussing and complaining to the managers about “knowing my rights” and all sorts of wonderfullness like that but I interrupted and told her she’s got no business talking to anybody the way she talked to those poor girls. I told the store managers the store girls did nothing wrong, unless politely saying hi to your customers is considered a sin. Told the angry lady I had no time for her bad temper and walked away.
Since that day all the girls in the store now stop and say hi to me like I’m their hero. I didn’t want to be a big hero but I hated how this angry lady thought she could abuse some poor girls just because who she was, where she’s from, how much money her family makes, or what her last name is.
Of course you are a hero, Ward! Standing up for the poor and oppressed against injustice is heroic! Good on you!
Thanks Kristin. It’s really sad how some in the old middle class / European background resent the new reality in Peru. They just don’t get that fixing the issues that Peru faces today requires real effort and real solutions instead of just wishing that the native Quechua would go back to their towns.
Hey Ward, I read your blog through a feed reader and hadn’t felt the need to comment on anything until now. What you did is great, and thanks for sharing this. I find it frustrating that in places like Peru class discrimination is still a thing. I hope that customer got what she deserved after you put her in her place.
Yeah, this was definitely not somebody who was just having a bad day, it was a lot more than that. I’m no Saint but people are people, personal respect shouldn’t have anything to do with where you come from, how much $ you make, etc.
Well done Ward, there needs to be more people like you in the world.
Thanks Lyle, hope you guys are doing well!
Keeping busy and doing good, thanks.
I thought in Cusco there might be less of that than say in Lima or Arequipa. Crazy. It definitely very much exists in Peru. I find it hilarious when Americans are complaining about wage dispairity and such.
I don’t see any population in the streets that work for change on the street. Nobody gets on a bus and sells caramelos or sings a song.
Good that you stopped this. Likely saved the workers from having to find new work.