Sunday, January 22, 2012

Right on Target.

Isaiah and Zachary have wallets. Dreadful little nylon wallets with Velcro closures that they open and close repeatedly. They needed these wallets because this was the first year we started giving them an allowance. Oh, and before you say, "An allowance? What?!"  Please. . . .don't get too excited. Their "allowance" certainly ain't much.

It actually involves what has become a very complicated school/home behavior and reading chart. I didn't mean for it to become so intricate, but thanks to Mr. Isaiah A. Manning it has become just that. Essentially, every day I fill out what is called "The Heart Chart."  The chart has all these categories like "school", "homework" and -- my favorite of all -- "Mommy."  The "Mommy" one simply refers to your overall interaction with ME that day. Oh, and did I mention? Isaiah came up with these categories.

He also came up with the system for interpreting it. Each day, you can get one of three things per category--a heart for the best behavior, a dot for neutral behavior, or an X for unsatisfactory behavior. If you get ten hearts, that adds a dollar to your baseline four dollar allowance at the end of the week. For every two Xs, you lose a dollar. Dots are neutral across the board.

Oh yeah. And for every ten books you read, that's a dollar, too.

So essentially, this ends up yielding somewhere around three dollars per week between Xs and books and hearts. On a really, really good week though, it can get as high as six dollars. The whole point of it is to teach them a lesson. About earning and saving and the value of money. About calculating their earnings for that week and the consequences of their actions. I even have them use their money for church contributions and charitable things, too. It's all meant to teach them something.  At least, I hope it will.

Last week was a good week. Isaiah earned seven dollars because, in addition to having a good school and home week, he slam-dunked "Mommy" and threw back some books as well. So yeah. This was a good week.

With allowance plus Christmas money from the grandparents in their wallets, the kids came to me requesting that I take them to Target to buy something with their money. And seeing as Target is never a hard sell for me and that they had saved a fair amount, I obliged them.

In we go to Target. It was kind of cute watching them carefully reading the prices and trying to decide if something was actually worth the money. I even decided that I wouldn't cover tax--which I usually do cover. By the way--this whole tax thing really ticked Zachary off. He was like, "It really isn't fair for you to have seven dollars but you can't buy a toy that cost six dollars and ninety-nine cents 'cause you have a tax."

And to that I said, "Ain't that the truth."


Isaiah decided on a giant Bakugan. Zachary chose to purchase a new Beyblade. And I would digress to explain just what a giant Bakugan is or help you understand what the hell a Beyblade is, but really? It wouldn't help at all even if I did. Just know that the Cartoon Network and their anime animators have captured the hearts and attention of all boys between the ages of five and eight, and a giant Bakugan, a new Beyblade, Pokemon cards, Ben 10 and all of those things fall under that umbrella.

So the Bakugan toy cost $17.99.  And the Beyblade cost $7.99.  Both plus tax. Which was fine since they each had enough to cover it. I handed them their wallets and told them to be prepared to pay for their toy. This would involve "speaking up like a young man" and also knowing how much money you gave the person as well as having some idea of what you should be getting in return.

Just in case.

So we stand to the side and painstakingly do the math. And me, I'm feeling like a rather kick-ass mama for this whole thing. Like just maybe it's the kind of thing my kids will be blogging about as grown ups. . .reflecting on this teachable moment in Target and such.

Mmm hmmm.

We situate the money thing and then choose a line. A manager lady sees us walking toward a checkout kiosk and redirects us to another one. "She'll take you over here on six!"

I smile and nudge my boys over toward six. Velcro wallets and all.

"Can I buy me some candy?" Zachary asked.


"But I have enough money. This cost point sixty nine, Mama."

"Sixty nine cents. And no."

"Could I help you please?"

A voice interjected abruptly and impatiently as I plucked a candy bar out of Zachary's hand. Not only was it impatient--it was followed by an unmistakable little huff.


The tone of that request was slightly funky. Yet funkily familiar.  I glanced up and. . . .gasp!

Say it ain't so.

Her again. Yes. Teenage Mutant Target Checkout Chick. 

I bullshit you not. I couldn't help but laugh out loud to myself. I knew this would not be the patient and tender moment I was hoping my kids would get.

"Son, go ahead and hand her your Bakugan," I said to Isaiah briefly giving her the benefit of the doubt. I could tell by her lowered eyelids and raised eyebrows that she recognized me. And I curled my lips and dropped my own lids half mast to let her know that I was not even fazed by her or her funky attitude. Then or now.

"Here you go, ma'am," Isaiah spoke carefully. His high-pitched voice was careful and rehearsed as he passed the twenty dollar bill to her.

She snatched it like he was twenty years old and buying a pack of cigarettes instead of a first grader obviously paying for his first ever anything.


She didn't say two words to my baby. She just threw that money in that drawer and yanked the change out of the drawer like it was ten extra cents for cheese on a Whopper. Then she looked over his head and toward me. Well not really toward me. Just at me with this bored and exaggeratedly annoyed expression with my little math lesson. "Ninety one cents your change." She held up hand toward me palm down and preparing to give ME his change.

"I'm not your customer, ma'am," I replied dryly. Hand now on my hip with backbone fully prepared to slip.

She gave a mini-eyeroll and dropped the change into Isaiah's splayed little hands. A quarter fell on the ground and she didn't even flinch. Or say sorry.

Awww hell naw. 

Fortunately, Isaiah was so proud of his transaction that he was none the wiser. He slid his coins into that little Velcro wallet and kept it moving.  Sure did. I figured that I'd just take the high road with him.

But then as Zachary stepped forward, I caught her eyes rolling again. Not even subtle about it either.

And that was it.

"Dammit, you know what?"  I said through gritted teeth. Gathering up the few items I had and Zachary's toy,  I stood on my tippy-toes and looked for that manager. She looked at me with this "what's your problem?" expression--which made me even madder. I repeated myself. "Dammit. . .you got me confused for somebody else. . .dammit. . . where is that manager?" And the manager query was really rhetorical because I saw exactly where that manager was.

Oh. And I made certain to ice-grill that cashier before excusing myself from her line.

Zachary demonstrates a classic "ice-grill" here.

Mmmm hmmmm.

My boys looked confused as I abruptly scooted out of the line again. And I wish I could tell you that I didn't say "dammit" repeatedly since my kids were there. But I can't because I did. And in this instance I did because it was 100% called for. Call me a horrible parent, but you know? Sometimes an expletive is 100% called for. Or should at least be 100% excused.


I decided right then and right there that I wasn't waiting for strike three with her. No I was not. I marched right over to that manager--kids in tow--and let her know exactly how I felt.

"I come to this Target all the time. That young woman you have over on register six"--I pointed right at her as she glared in my direction, "--has a terrible attitude and absolutely horrible customer service. Horrible. And not just today either. It's ridiculous and actually. . . .an embarrassment to me. And it should be to you, too."

That sister-manager looked at me intently. She knew that I was talking about a hell of a lot more than just the fact that they both worked at Target.

And so. Since I had her attention I went on to tell her of how funky she had just treated Isaiah and how obvious it was that my six year-old son was trying to pay for his toy himself. My voice started quivering while I was talking of my child and I didn't even try to fight it. I explained that we were the only ones in that line and that even if we hadn't been, her attitude was totally uncalled for.

THEN I went back to the day she miscounted my money into the drawer and accused me of being short. Sure did. I even ratted on her for how nasty she treated that man with his Trader Joes bags on that day. Yep, I went there, too.

"I should have found a manager on that day, but I was in a hurry," I went on, "but today, I'm not. I'm not in a hurry and I am not having it. You need to know that she makes your store look bad which makes YOU look bad. Look. . . .I don't want her to lose her job, but now I know that she wasn't just having a bad day on that first day. You have to do something."

"Actually, I see you here a lot," the manager said.

"Oh, I come here often," I replied ignoring the fact that my Target habit had just gotten called out. "And I'm not a difficult customer. At least I don't think I am. People shouldn't have to deal with this. They shouldn't. I need to pay for the rest of my stuff on another line because if I go back over there she might get cussed out."

Or worse, get a Inglewood beat-down plus a 1981-era T-Tone pulled on her.

"Thank you, ma'am. Really." The manager was professional and appropriately serious. I appreciated that.

Then that sister-manager walked right over to register six and moved TMTCC out of the way as she--the manager herself--personally completed the rest of our transaction. Or rather my son's transaction. She smiled and acknowledged Zachary as he proudly gave her his money out of his crappy little wallet. That manager counted his change right back into his little hand and even waited patiently as he put it into his wallet. "Here you go, little man," she announced while handing him his bag and receipt.

"What do you say, son?" I coached him.

"Thank you!"

And as my boys danced around me all giddy with their new bags filled with the toys they bought with their own money out of their own dreadful Velcro wallets. . . .that manager looked back at me and repeated herself. "Thank you, ma'am. Really."

Right after that, a woman stepped into the line behind us and began putting her things on the revolving belt. The manager held up her hand like a crossing guard.

"I'm sorry--but this aisle is closed for now," the manager told her. And just like that she shut off the light and gestured toward the back with her surly employee shuffling beside her.

I felt a little bad. But the whole point was to teach her something. At least, I hope it did.

As we approached the door, Zachary looked up at me and said, "We did good in Target, right?"

And although I felt a little pang inside of me for getting that girl--that teenaged girl who looked like me--in trouble with her manager, I knew it was the right thing to do. And it was overdue. "Yep, bud. We did do good in Target."

Dammit, we did.

Happy Sunday. Two posts in one day! Woot! Woot!


  1. I am laughing and I am crying. You are awesome and so are those dang boys of yours!

  2. Thank you! I'm sure you spoke on behalf of plenty of people she treated poorly!

  3. Hey- sometimes your shit just has to get called on. You are awesome.

  4. Grady elders AND grandkids in one day!! Life is good!

  5. Elizabeth -- You are so awesome. Your comments always make me so happy.

    JoLai -- Ha! I felt like such a loser when I didn't get the manager last time. I knew that you'd kick my butt if I didn't right this wrong given a second chance!

    Sister Moon -- Heck yeah! And you know about the expletives! ;)

    Mommy -- Ha! I thought of you with those two topics! I know how much you love the Grady elders! P.S. That's such a gorgeous profile picture, Mom!

  6. Good job. It's never a kindness to let people treat us like that clerk has been doing.

  7. I'm way too excited the Target chick got called out. Yes!!! Don't mess with the kids, TMTCC.

  8. YES!!! IT WAS SO OVERDUE!! I'm type hype right now over this! LOLOL! (Also when I met Pserendipity's son and he wanted to show me his Bakugan I'd never even heard of them and was so confused even AFTER I saw them. I still have no clue what it/they is/are.)

  9. You are fantastic and wonderful in four dimensions!

    P.S. I think I might implement a similar allowance scheme with my younger son. Thanks for the great idea! Like I said, you're wonderful.

  10. I love that you imagined this would be a teachable moment that would be blogged about someday. a way it was...just not like you originally thought.

    Great story and ending and I can just hear the zip of those little velcro wallets. Good job, Grady Doc!

  11. Well, I'm a bit embarrassed that I haven't answered your e-mail, and I will. Things have been a bit challenging lately. But I am so glad that you handled that the way you did. It is such a boost to the confidence level of a child when they realize that they can be respected. They need this at the pivotal points, like when they start spending their own money and making other decisions for themselves. I am so happy that you stood up for them. It will make a difference. And just so you know. I made my children earn their allowance, and gave them areas that they were responsible for upkeep. Like so much needed to be saved, given and items they were responsible to provide for themselves. Two of my three children have thanked me for the experience. They feel more adept at handling life because of it. You are doing what they need and it will pay off.

  12. Thank you!! We all need to take a stand against negative attitudes. Velcro is like a clicky pen - most of the fun is the sound. Love your blog.

  13. You are INCREDIBLE! I love your posts and this one was dynamite. Your boys are lucky to have such a wonderful mom who isn't afraid to speak up for the right reasons. Kudos to you! I can only wish to have a mentor like you when I get into the medical field!

  14. Thank you! For reminding us that it's okay to be treated respectfully and when we're not, to say something constructive to the manager. Thank you.

  15. Oh, my you are funny! From one Target shopper to another... you did a great job. I wish I'd been a fly one the wall.

    My girls had Velcro wallets too, except their's were pink.

    I loved this post.

  16. Wow it's not often you get a "do over" with a surly store clerk. Hooray for you. I hope the manager helps her see the error of her ways. If not, so be it. Treat people the way you want to be treated. And when it comes to your kids....forgetaboutit. I would have done the same thing, except I probably would have cried, which would not have helped the situation. Good for you for doing it right!

  17. warrior mama! i love you. and oh my, i wish i had had this post when we were coming up with the allowance policy in our house!

  18. ps, the wonderful woman who took care of my son as a baby moved to atlanta two years ago and yesterday we spoke and she told me that last year she got a pacemaker at grady. she was singing grady's praises, saying how the doctors there took her ailments seriously while the docs in new york had merely moved her along for years. i was struck by how she talked about the place as if grady were a person, a caring human who took care of her. i understood on another level what you write about here.

  19. I appreciate that you stood up for what's right, stood up for your kids, and that you shared it with us.
    My dear Mom did something very similar, when I bought my first Barbie at the five and dime using my saved up DIME a week allowance, and the clerk tried to belittle the transaction and asked my Mom if she would be paying for the doll. Mom stepped forward and said, Mary has the money, it's her saved-up allowance... With the mama-bear ICE in her voice... and the transaction improved and became inclusive.
    I have been reading you for awhile and have delurked because this support and demonstration of the need for politeness and integrity resonated with me.


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