Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wall Street

Extortion – (noun) the act of securing money, favors, etc. by intimidation or violence; blackmail.

As I entered my local grocery store, I noticed a Hispanic couple huddled around the Red Box movie dispenser as if it were a campfire. The wife was in pajamas, with a bright pink, fleece blanket draped over her shoulders like a homeless person, speaking into a cell phone. I momentarily imagined her children on the other end, relaying whether or not they had seen particular titles.

After I had concluded my shopping for the night, I patiently stood in line, curiously surveying my immediate surroundings. The man in front of me kindly put the little plastic partition behind his food items, as if to invite me to unload my basket, and give my arm a reprieve (later, I would more appropriately guess that the man was putting the partition on the belt as if to say, I’m not paying for your food you poaching hoodlum).

As the cashier was totaling the man’s purchase, he asked the shopper if he would like to donate to people with disabilities. At hearing this, the man scoffed and berated the boy for extorting money out of him. The cashier innocently claimed that he was told to ask all the guests for such a donation, while the old man angrily grabbed his bags and scurried off into the night.

When it was my turn to be extorted, I happily volunteered the requisite dollar, and smiled at the kid who was still a little shaken after the interaction with the man who hates the handicapped. I thought about the grocery store showdown as I left, passing the couple still hogging up the movie rental machine, oblivious to the idea that someone else may want to rent a movie. I thought about the oppressive, extortionist, regime we have as our government, and how wonderful life may be if only thousands had sacrificed their lives to ensure that their descendants could live in a time where they were free enough to simply say no to people asking for money.

Personally, I’m thankful that the pet store, and grocery store ask me for donations. I find it convenient that helping others can be so easy. To be completely honest, if they didn’t ask, I probably would never find the time to do it on my own. I can see where people might feel as though being asked in public can be uncomfortable, or even inappropriate, but it is hardly extortion. On the other hand, using intimidation techniques in order to use the movie kiosk had definitely crossed my mind.

5 comments:

jbchicoine said...

I don't mind solicitations of donations for worthy causes, but those people who hog space around *insert whatever rack I want to peruse* make me crazy. That's why I let my husband do the shopping! Besides, he's much better at picking out produce!

mischief said...

I don't mind the extortion at the grocery store either, and maybe putting people on the spot is a good thing. Not that I've ever heard a cashier say it, but I'm sure they're thinking, "You can afford eight dollars worth of licorice whips but you can't donate a dollar to cancer research?", or "If you eat plan to all those chips you really should be donating to prevent heart disease".

heartinsanfrancisco said...

You must shop at Safeway - they're requisitioning money for the handicapped right now. I like your novel take on it, that they are making it easy and convenient for you to help, but not everyone has your generous spirit. Those who object are probably the ones who don't (or can't) contribute, especially if they shop at Safeway, which is beginning to rival Whole Foods in its pricing practices.

Brown said...

jb - oddly enough, it's the newspaper guy trying to sell me a subscription, or the cable company trying to get me to add highspeed internet to my home while I shop for food that irk me. I mean really...

mischief - I never took you for a licorice kinda girl, lol.

heart in s.f. - I understand where you're coming from. I just don't think that verbally assaulting a cashier for doing his job is justified, regardless of how one feels about charity. Now, raising prices on the other hand....

mischief said...

Haha, the licorice is for my husband. But I do like chips with my donation. :)