I White Privileged Yesterday!
To the Back of the Line!
Costco and Sam’s Club members know well the worst part of every shopping outing — the interminable queue to actually leave the damn store. One disgruntled employee bottlenecks the exit to catch a peek at your receipt and scan one of your items.
This seems like obvious theft deterrence, but Sam’s and Costco claim this is a service FOR YOU. They’re ensuring you weren’t overcharged and you got everything you bought. If you paid for a 55"-inch Ultra-HD TV and a 40-gallon drum of ketchup but walked out without them, how stupid would you feel?
Hopefully, as stupid as believing a millisecond stare at a receipt can detect whether they double-charged for carbonara or that anything you didn’t ask for that wastes your time can be regarded as “customer service.” There’s a reason your oil change place asks if you want a car wash, too. It’s not their time to give away.
The First Rule of Sam’s Club is…
If, until now, you’ve never thought about HOW the big boxers have the authority to routinely make you miss the kickoff, it’s in your club agreement. You have given them the right to intrude. If this is a surprise to you, that’s only because the first rule of Sam’s Club is that you don’t talk about Sam’s Club’s exit line.
Walmart Thinks They’re Slick, But Not Today, Satan!
Six months ago, the Walmart by my home posted greeters at their exits in a similar fashion, and the sheeple patrons, being acclimated to the drill, dutifully lined up and rendered their receipts to Caesar.
But not me.
As I stood 14th in line listening to the audiobook The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, I decided to not-so-subtly walk by everybody in that line with my deuces fingers up. As I pushed my cart past the left shoulder of the Walmart employee, he rotated toward my body, started to raise his hand, and opened his mouth. But I just kept walking and no words emerged and his hand dropped.
My fellow patrons’ eyes lit up angrily, as their first thought — “This dude is cutting!” — quickly surrendered to “Umm! He’s going to be in trouuuu-ble when they….” to a perplexed “…wait…did he just walk out?!? He just walked out!” to an awe-struck “HOW did he do that?!?” They stared at me like I’d transformed into a leprechaun then stared bewildered at each other.
One dude was like this the whole time…
I paused, looked back at the mystified and apoplectic assemblage, and gave them all a two-finger salute over my right brow.
Since that day, I’ve shown my receipt any time nobody is in front of me. But if I ever have to wait, I just keep it moving. I’ve done this now eight times.
You see, unlike Sam’s Club or Costco, Walmart isn’t a club. I didn’t agree to do anything except pay for groceries. As an attorney, I’m versed enough in criminal law to know that I cannot be arrested by anybody absent probable cause.
I also know that, even without probable cause, an officer can briefly detain and question me as part of a stop-and-frisk (a/k/a “Terry stop”), provided the officer has “reasonable suspicion” that I committed a crime.
What are the chances Walmart staff can establish either threshold when I’m holding the receipt in my hand for every item I self-checked?
You may be thinking, “But…but (gasp) what if they stop me as I’m walking out?!?” Keep walking and ask them to articulate their reasonable suspicion that you have engaged in shoplifting. Or, if that’s too confrontational, show them the receipt. But at least you’ll be doing it on your terms with no waiting in a line.
But your “what would I do?” hypothetical is wasted mental energy.
Walmart knows they have no right to stop anybody at their exits, which is why, over eight occasions, I’ve walked by twelve total employees who have collectively uttered ZERO words.
The eighth occasion was this past Saturday when I was hurrying home to finish preparing for a socially-distant family gathering.
That’s when I recalled a poignant, “epiphany moment” in comedian Roy Wood, Jr.’s comedy special, Father Figure.
In the racial equality context, an “epiphany moment” is when a white person goes, “Huh! I never thought of it like that before!” For some white folks, this happens after decades of evidence, including every black “friend” they have telling them over and over and over again it’s precisely how it goes. (But, hey, why dwell on the fact they showed up late to the party when you can celebrate they finally got there?)
The whole clip is genius, but starting at 3:26, Wood tells how he had to beg a Best Buy clerk to give him a bag for an iPhone case he bought, and he says this:
“I’m a black man in America. I’ve gotta leave this store with a bag, bruh! It’s about safety. I’m black. I don’t get the luxury of just walking out with (expletive) in my hand. That is a roll of the dice. That is a horrifying day.”
And then Wood, Jr. adds this:
“Not only do I need that bag, (expletive), I need that receipt.”
Listen closely to the word “receipt” at 5:19. You can hear what sounds like an entire audience finishing his thought. If that doesn’t wake you up to the black experience in America, you might be racially narcoleptic.
That’s when I had another privilege epiphany. How many black people would do what I did, even knowing what I know? I’m guessing zero. Beyond fearing being accosted by store staff or security, who wouldn’t worry that white people in line watching might assume criminality? What if the line had a Karen who would call the police just for cutting?
That’s why the next time I walk out, I’m explaining why to any black folks I see in front of me and offering them an opportunity to jet out right next to me. No, I don’t think they need a white savior.
But it’s our duty to get their backs until we live in one America — the one that allows all of us to disregard senior citizens with hand scanners.
Black Time Matters.