A Mom Is Asking Parents to Be Kind to Retail Workers After a Conversation With a Target Employee

Writer and mom Whitney Fleming recently had an experience at Target she'll never forget. After taking her holiday haul to the register, she got into a conversation with a young cashier about how difficult shoppers can be, especially during the holiday season. And the group of people who he has the most trouble with? Moms. She detailed the interaction in a Facebook post, and it's certainly food for thought.

"Last night, I made a run to Target at 8:30 p.m. I needed to pick up a few things for a holiday party we are hosting this weekend, but of course by the time I made it to the register my cart was overflowing with holiday items, toiletries for my three teen daughters, and yes, even a 'Ho Ho Ho' throw pillow," wrote Whitney. "The store was on the quieter side, and I was relieved when I saw a teen boy standing outside his lane. 'I can take you here, ma'am,' he said."

After putting some of her items of the conveyer belt — including a pair of pajamas for her dog — she got to talking with the Target employee. "When he rang up my five-pack of holiday wrapping paper, I told him: 'No need for a bag...I'll just pop that in my cart.' He smiled and replied, 'I can always tell who are the nice and easy customers even before they get to my line," she explained. After making a joke about all the "crotchety ladies" he probably deals with on a regular basis, the teen gave it to Whitney straight: "'Well, not really. It's often moms who are the hardest.'"

Whitney thought the employee was joking at first, asking, "'Moms? Like with their kids with them?'" And yes, that's exactly who the young worker was referring to.

"'Yeah. I mean, I get it,'" he told her. "'I'm the oldest of five and my mom works and is pretty stressed, but I've never seen her be mean to a retail worker or waitress or anything. It's just hard when you've never worked before and people start yelling at you. This is my third job already, and it's the same at all of them.'"

"Maybe we need to remember that our babies will one day be entering the workforce, and how would we want them to be treated?"

"He went on to tell me about a young mom who when her coupon wouldn't work she left all her items on the belt and walked out," explained Whitney. "Another yelled at him because the grocery store set up a Pokémon display near his register and she was mad that she had to tell her kids no every two minutes about buying the cards. Apparently, the worst was the mother who asked to speak to the manager about his job performance because he could not locate the toy her son wanted with his kids' meal."

As Whitney continued to scan her items, she thought back to some of the times she was less than nice to store employees. In that moment, she felt terrible that she let something like a mistake at the register bother her so much at one point.

"And at that moment, I realized, this Target cashier could one day be my daughter. It could be your son," she wrote. "And we're the moms. We're supposed to be better. I don't know when we went off the rails as parents. I don't know when we thought yelling or belittling or undermining young people just trying to do their jobs was okay. I don't know when we started screaming at 14-year-old soccer referees or 16-year-old grocery baggers or 18-year-old Target cashiers. But we're the Moms. We should know better."

Whitney continued to explain how the conversation made her particularly introspective, especially in the midst of the holiday season: "I get it. As moms, we are overwhelmed and undervalued. We are sleep-deprived and anxiety-ridden. We are all the things to all the people. We carry the mental load, and it is heavy. We just want to get through to bedtime, and during the holidays that feeling is exponentially greater."

Now, Whitney is imploring parents to think twice before they become frustrated with retail workers. "But maybe we need to remember that our babies will one day be entering the workforce, and how would we want them to be treated?" she said. "And what are our kids learning when they see us treat others this way?"

Whitney opted to add a $10 gift card to her order so she could give it to the teen behind the register. "As the young man handed me my receipt, I handed over the gift card. 'Have a Frappuccino on me. It's for dealing with all of us crazy, stressed-out moms,'" Whitney told him, to which he replied: "'Oh, no, ma'am. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything,' he stammered. You could see he was nervous about getting in trouble."

She reassured him that his job wasn't in jeopardy and left the store with one thing on her mind: the importance of kindness. "We should always be kind when we can — especially for those who have to work when all they want to do is be home with their families — but maybe this season we can offer a little more grace to our youngest workers. They are just starting out in this world, and I don't think we need to make it any harder."