This week, a viral video kept popping up in my feed on Facebook. In it, a woman at Walmart yells at a guy for using food stamps to, well, buy food.
First of all, if you can’t use food stamps at Walmart, where the hell can you use them? This is Walmart, nobody goes there to buy a Louis Vuitton bag or a new Mercedes. Hell, nobody shops there for the customer service, either. I go to Walmart with the full expectation that I will find things myself, climb on shelves to get stuff I can’t reach, and carry heavy items to the checkout and out to the car by myself. In exchange, I expect cheap prices. (Although I recently priced organic bananas and found only one penny of difference between Walmart and my local co-op.)
So it’s not like this guy was dining out at the Ritz Carlton. (Is that even still in business? I mean, with the economy and all, who knows…) Anyway, this lady felt the need to yell at him for using food stamps…to buy food. The guy responds that he works 60 hours a week to support his family, and they continue the heated exchange through the checkout line.
Because I’m curious about things, I have to wonder how someone can work 60 hours a week and make so little they qualify for food stamps. Yeah, the guy could have been lying to shut the busybody up, but let’s say for the sake of argument that he was telling the truth. I have no idea what state this takes place in, so if we go with the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr, a person who works 60 hours a week (presumably at 2 or more jobs) would be pulling down a whopping $435 a week. That’s before taxes. Granted, you’re probably going to be in a fairly low tax bracket at that point, but you’re still going to lose some money to Uncle Sam.
I think what bothers me most about this video is the way the woman yells at this guy in front of his child. Whether you think she’s right or wrong, she didn’t have to humiliate his kid, who has no control over his father’s financial situation, whatever that may be.
Because when you grow up poor, you spend a lot of time being embarrassed about money. You hear “We can’t afford it” so much that you learn to feel guilty every time you want something. You think it’s normal for something in your house to break and never get fixed. You go to other people’s houses and wonder why all the inside doors have shiny knobs instead of splintered holes where the knobs are supposed to be. You spend most of your time listening to your parents yell at each other about whose fault it is they’re broke. All you want is to grow up and have enough money that you never have to argue about money with anyone, ever, because you are so fucking sick of arguments about money that you want to scream. You watch your mom go in the grocery store and apologize for writing a hot check because she really thought that check from a customer was in the mail and would arrive before her check was cashed, and it didn’t, and she’s embarrassed, and you’re embarrassed, and the store manager is embarrassed, and an embarrassing time is had by all because that’s what happens when you grow up broke.
Okay, so no one writes checks anymore, that’s such a nineties thing to do, and the kid in this video will probably grow up watching his dad’s credit card get declined, but I’m sure that’s embarrassing too. And he’s going to grow up with enough embarrassment and shame about money, he doesn’t need to remember someone yelling at his dad for buying groceries with food stamps.
W. T. Fallon is the author of Fail to the Chief, a political satire in which the presidential election is carried out via reality show, which is almost as bizarre and far-fetched as our current reality.