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Big Mistake. Big. Huge!

, , , , , , , , | Working | November 19, 2021

I was in my early teens and on a school trip to Stockholm with my class. We had visited the museums and gone on the tour we were there for, so our teachers let us loose for an hour to shop for souvenirs before it was time to head back home to our small city in the countryside. This was in the early nineties and kids had a lot more freedom then than they have now.

My family didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, but I had saved up for months for this trip so I would be able to buy myself something special. I have always been interested in fashion, and there is a very well-known fancy department store in Stockholm that I was dying to visit. My friends and I spent some time walking through the different areas, ahh-ing and ooh-ing at all the things we couldn’t afford. 

I still wanted a souvenir from my visit, so we went to the accessories department where I picked out a beautiful scarf that was pretty pricey but still within my budget.  

There was a line to the register, and I took my place in it, clutching the scarf in one hand and my little wallet in the other, while feeling very grown-up and fancy. 

When it was my turn, the lady behind the counter looked at my fourteen-year-old self, my mail-order clothes, and my mended backpack, and instantly turned to the next person in line and started serving them instead.

Me: “I’m sorry, I think it was my turn. I would like to buy this scarf, please.”

Cashier: “Go put that back where you found it, kid. We’re very busy right now.”

Me: “But we have to meet our teacher in fifteen minutes. Can I just pay for this, please?”

Cashier: “So, you found something on the clearance rack and you just want the [Department Store] bag. I get it. You’ll have to wait your turn while I serve the real customers.”

I was close to tears, but I was too intimidated to stand up to an adult in a place where it had been made clear to me that I didn’t belong. I also really wanted the scarf, so I dutifully stood aside, waiting for the line to clear. 

Eventually, the last customer in the line had paid, and I stepped up to the counter again.

Cashier: “Are you still here? All right, put that scarf back and you can have a bag for two crowns.”

Me: “I would like to pay for the scarf, please. I don’t need a bag; I’ve got room in my backpack.”

We were late back to meet with our teacher, and while it was a beautiful scarf, I rarely wore it because every time I looked at it, it brought the entire humiliating experience up again. 

Now, as an adult, I can actually afford to shop at that department store, but I have never been back because of the way they treated me back then.

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