Monday, February 25, 2008

An Interesting Experience at Costco

Today while I was at Costco, I stopped at one of those carts where someone was giving away free samples. A Costco employee, an elderly woman, was handing out samples of chicken noodle soup. While I was trying it, a middle-aged woman stopped and starting reading the label on the soup can. She exclaimed, "Oh, my, 40% sodium!" (People often misread this as meaning that the soup is 40% sodium by volume, a ridiculous amount. Rather, this refers to a serving of soup representing 40% of one's daily allowance of sodium.)

I agreed with her calmly, "Oh, that is pretty high." (It is.) The lady who had stated her opinion walked away at that point and the elderly Costco employee then turned her attention to me. She was upset and bitter and told me, "If you don't like the soup, just keep moving! Why do you have to stand there and be nasty about it! Just look at you! You obviously have to lose weight! If you can't have sodium, just don't eat it!" I was surprised, to say the least, and stammered something about, "Hey, I didn't say it in the first place, that lady did." and walked away. Never had anyone at a store talked to me that way (that I can recall).

As I continued to shop, this gnawed at me a little. In the past, I might have let this gnaw away at me for days, but this time I decided to take the bull by the horns, but in my own diplomatic way. I returned to the Costco employee and calmly said, "Do you think it's a good idea to insult your customers? Some people might complain to your managers." She was still upset to a degree that I believed was totally unwarranted by my smaller earlier agreement with the high-sodium lady, and started to lay into me again. She again mentioned my high blood pressure, at which point I had to correct her. My blood pressure has always been in the normal range. I don't have a problem with sodium. She mentioned the weight again and I told her about how much heavier I used to be and that generally I do eat healthy.

She then told me, "My husband used to be heavy, and then he got thin, and now he's not interested in me anymore!"

Wow! You could have knocked me over with a feather! I patted her on the back, told her, "I'm sorry" and wished her well, going on my way. Whatever weight she had put on my shoulders was gone. It was obvious now to me what the root of her anger was.

Now you may say she was completely at fault, that I had no need to defend my low blood pressure or otherwise good health, but I have learned over the years that when someone seems to have it in for me (not that it happens often!), it usually has very little to do with me and mostly with something else going on in his or her life. I felt pretty good. Not only had I thwarted a drive-by insulting, but I also countered it with a calm, reasonable short discussion and a sympathetic ear.

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