The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

I was invited to a dinner party this coming weekend and as I happened to be nearby and like to group my shopping trips to maximize fuel efficiency, I decided to stop by Total Wine & More, a large local retailer here of alcoholic beverages,  to pick up a bottle of wine as a hostess gift.

After foraging through their extensive collection, (which goes on for about two football fields) I picked something that sounded (and I hope) will taste good to the palate of those who are more connoisseurs of the fermented grape than I am.

I was delighted that there were two check out lines open and went to the one without any customers ahead of me.  The cashier, who had her back to me, was busy restacking boxes for orders larger than mine and after three “ahems” she noticed that there was a customer waiting to pay for a purchase.

She came over to her register and politely greeted me with the standard question that Total Wine cashiers are taught, “Did you find everything you were looking for?”

In my somewhat whimsical way I responded, “Well, I was looking for world peace – but apparently you’re out of stock.”

She responded, “When we get rid of all organized religion in whatever form, then we’ll have it.”

I am seldom at a loss for words but this response really set me back.  It was all I could do to reply, “Yes, I’m sure that’s the answer.”  And so I took my receipt and my bottle of wine and left the store.

The more I thought about this remark on my way home the more irritated I became.  I doubt that the management of the store would have approved of this young woman’s comment.  And I debated what I should do about it.

But today, I made a decision.  I went back to the store (using gas I had not intended) because I thought it was important that they should know my feelings  – as unimportant a person as I am.

I spoke with the store manager and related the incident.  He, of course, said that it was not the store policy for their employees to make that kind of statement and asked if I remembered the name of the individual who had done so.  I didn’t see a name tag on her so I couldn’t respond to him other than with a very complete description of her physical appearance, the time I made my purchase  and the number of the cash register to which she had been assigned.  I presume that was sufficient to identify her.

Now castigating religion has become a very politically correct activity.  If you choose not to subscribe to one, I consider that your business – as much as I consider whether or not I do as being mine.  I do not need “in your face” comments like that coming from the help at any of the stores at which I shop.  And if those become the norm rather than the exception, I simply will not shop at those stores any longer.

Whether or not there is any action (which I hope would take the form of a counseling session), a reprimand or termination of this employee will be dependent on whether this retail chain considers this sufficiently important to address.  I hope that they do.

We all have feelings and we all have beliefs.  I consider those matters of personal choice and respect those of others which might differ from mine.  In return I expect the same sort of respect.  I think that’s fair and equitable.

If it should happen that this woman persists in inflicting her opinions on the unwitting public and should lose her job, I’m  sure she will chalk that up to evil religionists.

Others might think that it is Divine Retribution.


  1. She asked you a (obligatory “can I help you with anything else”) question, and you give an off-the-wall semi-sarcastic response (world peace in a wine store?). So, responding in kind, she ‘matched’ you with a semi-sarcastic answer. Of course she could have ‘dodged the bullet’ and said something like, “I’m sorry, but we don’t stock that commodity here.” Which, of course, would have been far more ‘politically correct'(?).

    In short, you made a little ‘joke,’ and she responded (more-or-less) in kind. Its called ‘free speech.’

    So…put down your sword, shape your lips into a grin, and repeat the following: “World peace begins, first and foremost, with peace of mind.” (Which is something I think Gandhi might have said in this situation.) 😉

    • Over the years, I have responded many times to that question with the same comment – especially during the Holidays. (That Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men thing you know). Normally, the cashier will smile and say, “OH, that would be wonderful. I wish that would happen.”… or something to that effect. I was expecting to hear a reply like that which is the reason I was so surprised at the remark.

      I intend the comment in a non satirical manner. I mean, isn’t that really something we would all like? But I assure you the rejoinder from the cashier wasn’t meant satirically. The way she delivered her response I believe her remark was a true statement of her view of the world. And, of course, she is entitled to it.

      As to my carrying a sword, please be advised that the strongest weapon I carry with me while shopping is breath mints.

  2. William’s point is somewhat valid, insofar as it’s possible that each of you was trying to be humorous, and each offended the other. That said, the young lady’s behaviors, in terms of not acknowledging a customer and her snarky comment about religion, were both ill-mannered and unprofessional. The onus is on the employee of the establishment to be courteous, and political correctness is actually pretty irrelevant in this circumstance!

    I’m sorry you were treated rudely, J. Oh — Total Wine has saved me a couple of times, because they put the numerical ratings for their wines right on the price placards. I’m not a wine connoiseur, but I can usually remember whether someone likes white or red, and the higher the number, the (allegedly) better the wine!

    Peace be with you — Kelly

  3. Thanks for your comment, Kelly.

    What if I had been looking for an item but been unable to find it and said that to her? And in response she said, “Well, that’s on aisle six on the right. Didn’t you see it there?” I use that example because I’ve asked for help in the grocery store when I couldn’t locate something and received that response. Obviously, if I saw it there I wouldn’t be asking the question.

    I don’t want to turn this comment into a post but let me share a business experience with you.

    When I was in the executive search business, one of my consultants at a satellite office (good at his job but not the most diplomatic person) interviewed a candidate. This was in the mid-80’s. The woman was a programmer with good but not great credentials and she had made a career change iater in life than most so she was in her mid-50’s. We had difficulty finding any positions for which she qualified. At the time there were comparatively few women in IT.

    This lady was frustrated that she hadn’t been sent out on any interviews and asked my consultant the reason. In his totally offensive way he said, “It might be either that you’re a woman or are obviously Jewish.”

    A week later my receptionist let me know there were two gentlemen from the Anti-Defamation League to see me. This lady had reported my consultant’s remark to them.

    Based only on my consultant’s improper comment, they had a valid concern that we were a firm that encouraged discrimination against Jews. As I pointed out to them, the manager and assistant manager of the office where this took place were both Jewish. But my trump card was that one of the consultants in my office was a Rabbi (who happened to know both of the gentlemen who had stopped by) and who wholeheartedly vouched for me.

    I think we should ditch PC for MR – Morally Right. I’d even settle for MT – Moderately Thoughtful.

  4. There is some point to the comments here that this may have been more misunderstanding than insulting, still, it is a very inappropriate comment by the clerk, that I would not tolerate from an employee.

    But to the larger point, unless we are willing to go back to telling the truth, instead of obfuscating it with PC, we are going to crash western civilization because, like the old Soviet Union, we are lying to ourselves.

    • Although I took the cashier’s statement personally, I don’t think she was intentionally trying to insult me. I think she was merely expressing her opinion in a matter of fact way and thought that I was a person who shared her viewpoint.

      You’re absolutely on the mark on PC terminology. If we don’t call it like it is, how can we fix it as we should?

      • That’s my problem with it, I’m not, as I think you know, into insulting people for no reason, but we have to speak clearly and understandably in all cases.

  5. nearlynormalized said:

    Forget the rhetoric–was the cashier cute?

  6. Far too expensive – and when I had finally accumulated enough points in their “rewards program” to get a gift certificate at Pin Kaow Thai Restaurant, they had run out of them.

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