We can all agree that receiving bad news is terrible, and sometimes our feelings about it can sneak up on us at the most inconvenient, inappropriate, and perhaps embarrassing moments.
But that does not immediately require other people who might be near by to help you when the feelings come up, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor Reasonable-Count-251 was trying to purchase a few books at a bookstore while another customer kept interrupting their transaction to talk about her cancer diagnosis.
She was clearly upset, so they tried to be understanding at first, but when it was clear that the cashier was becoming too uncomfortable to complete the transaction, the Original Poster (OP) called the woman out for discussing her diagnosis at an inappropriate moment.
They asked the sub:
“AITA for telling a stranger that I am not her therapist and to stop interrupting my checkout at the store?”
The OP witnessed a fellow customer pushing boundaries with a bookstore employee.
“I was at a bookstore last night after work. When I got to the register, it was empty. A moment later, an employee came back around the counter with another customer trailing behind her.”
“The other customer got in line behind me while still chatting with the employee. I could tell the employee was a little uncomfortable as she called me forward.”
“Instead of waiting at the wait line a few feet back, the other customer stood literally right behind me and kept talking as the employee kept trying to brush her off with, ‘Yeah,’ ‘Oh really?’ and ‘Wow.'”
“The other customer was talking about how she had recently been diagnosed with cancer, going into details about the treatments she’d need, etc.”
The OP felt the other customer’s behavior was inappropriate.
“Finally, she was quiet when it was clear the employee was focused on my transaction and trying to ask me the whole, ‘Do you have a rewards card, do you want one, etc,’ spiel.”
“That’s when the other customer turned to me and started giving the same story.”
“I said I was sorry to hear about her diagnosis and went back to speaking to the employee.”
“The customer still kept talking, right in my ear, saying, ‘Yeah, I’m so p**sed, why’d this have to happen to me?'”
“Finally, I told her, ‘You need to back up and give me some space. Stop interrupting our conversation.'”
“She started saying, ‘I have cancer, I need to vent.'”
“I said, ‘Again, sorry to hear that, but we are not your therapists, back up.'”
“She backed up and went silent. The employee looked relieved.”
The OP second-guessed themselves after hearing their wife’s perspective.
“I told my wife what happened and she told me I was rude. The woman was clearly going through something.”
“As a former retail worker, I despised people who unloaded their days on me and she was clearly making the employee uncomfortable while also standing right next to me.”
“My wife said I was still wrong. Knowing my wife, who is the chatty type, she likely would’ve indulged the woman and been at the store for an hour.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some reassured the OP that they had “saved” the retail worker.
“NTA. Cashiers WISH for a customer like you when we get a customer like her.” – CzechYourDanish
“NTA. You saved that poor retail worker. It’s horrible when you have to put up boundaries with people like this, you feel like a monster.”
“I’m sure she was genuinely lonely and struggling with her diagnosis, but that is nobody’s problem but hers (and her family/friends to an extent). It sucks and I understand emotions spilling out unexpectedly when you’re upset, but this lady sounds like she was past being impulsive, she was following the cashier around and interrupting others’ transactions!”
“She doesn’t know you or the cashier. She could be stirring up trauma by talking about this stuff with perfect strangers. It doesn’t matter who has it worse in this situation.”
“There are support groups for this kind of thing, as well as therapists and helplines. I’ve learned to start signposting people when they get too heavy. She chose to go to a person who is contractually obligated to be polite to her, knowing she could take advantage.”
“Signed, someone who worked in hospitality for far too long.” – Lornaan
“NTA, especially since she was also physically in your space. Plus, you tried being polite more than once and she wasn’t taking a hint.”
“It sucks that she has cancer, that has to be scary and jarring, but it doesn’t give her the right to dump on a worker who is stuck there, or to interrupt your transaction and try to dump on you.”
“I hated this when I worked retail, and I’m a very empathetic and caring person who typically likes to talk to people and help them if I can. A work/retail setting like that is not the place, though.” – friendlily
“I’m also a former retail employee. I once spent an uncomfortable half hour watching a customer cry because they, too, had recently been diagnosed with cancer. It’s horrible that she went through it, but what can I do? What did she expect from me?”
“It may be horrible for me to say, but it ruined my day, it puts you in such an uncomfortable position because really, what can anyone do about anyone else’s trauma? Having customers constantly unload their problems on you is emotionally draining.”
“Retail workers are not therapists, and you did that cashier a favor.” – Zealous_Ideal_774
“Absolutely NTA. I work retail in a shop frequented by old people, and I’m the type of person who loves to chat with the regulars, but medical issues and vent-sesh sob stories are absolutely not appropriate. You helped that cashier and hopefully gave that woman a little perspective she can use going forward.” – conventionalghost
“NTA. There’s a time and place for sharing personal struggles. In a bookstore checkout line during a transaction is probably not the most suitable setting.”
“You had every right to ask for personal space and carry on with your transaction without being interrupted. The employee also seemed uncomfortable, and your request likely helped both of you manage the situation better.” – JazzieJellybeanMuse
“NTA. Perhaps you could’ve been a little more tactful in your wording, but I understand in the heat of the moment we say things quickly and concisely (IE: rudely) to make our point.”
“I’m not in customer service anymore, but I could tell you thousands of times people would just unload all their problems on me. It’s fine to be a sympathetic ear for a while, but the employee also has to toe the line of not being rude or dismissive while still doing their job.”
“I was always grateful for customers like you who’d bail me out of those situations, lol (laughing out loud).” – azaleafawn
But others called the OP the AH for not showing the woman more empathy.
“Sometimes a person is in the right but still acts like an a**hole. There are days when you simply have to take it and suffer a little bit. This is an occasion like this. YTA.” – reddit_chili_pepper
“Maybe I’m wrong and I need to rethink my boundaries, based on the answers here. My initial reaction is, yes, you are the a**hole. It sounds like they were lonely and just needed somebody to talk to. It wouldn’t have taken that much energy from you, but it would have meant a lot to that person.” – schwagoneer2
“So you couldn’t spend 10 minutes pretending to listen to someone with cancer? Hmmm.” – Hot_Pomegranate_4165
“I agree with your wife. No, it’s not your duty to be her therapist, but this is a poor woman with cancer, desperate, lonely, scared, and likely unable to afford a therapist. I don’t understand why everyone says to get a therapist as if it isn’t wildly unaffordable.”
“I know that’s not your problem, but I think you could have been nicer about it. She deserves to be cut some slack, in my opinion.”
“I think this is an unpopular opinion; I understand why you felt like that, OP, and you’re not really an a**hole, but in the future, I think there were other ways to go about this.” – Overall_North_4603
“This story is exactly why this sub is problematic. Just because we don’t owe someone specific something doesn’t mean we can ignore them. You’re an a**hole if you ignore a man bleeding out on the street, and you’re an a**hole if you essentially tell a woman who just found out she’s dying to f**k off.”
“Life isn’t just transactions, what is wrong with you people?”
“And yes, I have worked retail and low-level positions where I had to deal with customers.” – justforhobbiesreddit
“Did you technically HAVE to show a little more empathy? No. And this being Reddit, most people will tell you that if you technically don’t have to, then you should just put your foot down.”
“But COULD you have? Would it have cost you anything more than a minute or two out of your day? Did you have to add even a little pressure to a woman who was clearly going through some s**t?” – DaveyDumplings
“I’m failing to understand the ‘trauma dumping’ concept here… It wouldn’t have cost them anything.”
“This person’s interaction with this woman could have been the difference between the woman thinking, ‘Oh, there are good people in this world; I have something to fight for,’ and ‘Oh, the world is terrible, I’m completely alone, etc…'”
“It would have cost them NOTHING to lend a sympathetic ear. They don’t even have to care, but it would be decent if they’d pretend.” – HuckleberryFun7543
The subReddit had empathy for the woman who had received among the most terrible news that a person could receive, but they questioned if a bookstore checkout line was the best place for her processing of it to take place.
Some felt that the woman’s feelings lightly had snuck up on her and she needed someone in her corner, so it wouldn’t have taken the OP or the cashier that much more time out of their day to help her. But others felt the woman needed to do a better job of reading the room and expand her immediate circle of supportive people so she wasn’t seeking support in a checkout line.