Cindy Nerger of Warner Robins, Ga., who has been on a waiting list for kidney transplant for five years, was brought to tears at a supermarket last week when a clerk ridiculed her in the presence of other customers for using food stamps.
Local TV station WMAZ, reported the incident after Nerger posted her story on the station's Facebook page.
She said she went shopping last week Tuesday at the Kroger off Watson Boulevard. When she got to the register, the clerk insisted wrongly that $10 worth of items were not covered. She said: "He told me I owed him 10 dollars and some change. I am not exactly sure what it was, but I told him, I said I am sorry sir, but there is nothing in my cart that is not covered by food stamps." According to Nerger, Kroger employees kept her on the line for half an hour.
A store manager finally intervened and told the clerk to give her the items. When she complained about the treatment she received, the the clerk said aloud: "Excuse me for working for a living and not relying on food stamps!" Nerger said at this point she was so embarrassed that she broke down in tears. She said: "I was upset, so, I was like, you know, I told you that it was covered under food stamps, you know, so, there was no need for all of this, you know, and he said, 'Well excuse me that I work for a living and don't rely on food stamps like you.'" She added: "I honestly was angry. I was angry at first, but it turned into tears because when I turned around and I saw the people there I was like, oh my goodness, and I just started crying."
According to The Huffington Post, Nerger, 28. said she and her husband were not proud to use food stamp debit card. She told The Huffington Post, "I felt shy when I used them and my husband does, too. I would try to hide the card." She said, "I didn't want to have to go there, you know, nobody wants to have to ask somebody for help, but it got to the point it was either ask for help or starve."
The Huffington Post reports Nerger said she started receiving food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assitance Program) after she fell ill in 2008 and became eligible for Medicare and Social Security Supplemental Income. While she is on waiting list for kidney transplant she cannot work because of daily 12-hr dialysis treatment. According to Nerger, her husband runs a carpentry business but does not make enough income to sustain the family without assistance.
WMAZ reports that Kroger spokesman Glynn Jenkins, at first declined to verify exactly what happened and what was said between the customer and store employees, but challenged Nerger's version of the story, saying the company was investigating. But later the company issued a statement that read: "We deeply regret that a Kroger customer had an unpleasant shopping experience. Kroger is conducting an ongoing investigation, and look forward to resolving the customer's concern. We hope she will continue to shop at Kroger in the future."
ABC News also reports the store issued a statement: “We deeply regret our customer’s experience. The comments made were not reflective of our company’s policy. We value all of our customers. Please know that we have taken immediate steps to make sure something like this never happens again.”
Nerger said she was contacted by Kroger's corporate office and offered a $15 gift card. She said she told them "No, thank you."
According to The Huffington Post, food stamps are a hot issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. Republicans ridicule Obama and describe him as the "Food Stamp President." They accuse him of deliberately encouraging dependence on government to shore up his voter base.
But Nerger commented that although there are people on food stamps because they are "just lazy," it is unfair to pass stereotyped judgment on people on food stamps. She said: "I've seen some comments from people talking about how they hate standing in line with somebody who's got food stamps because they’ve got two carts full of food. Did you not realize maybe this person is not able to get to the grocery store but once a month?" ABC News reports she said: "There’s just so much stigmatism put on people on food stamps. They’re just some losers who don’t want to work. That isn’t the case in every situation."
Nerger said she has not been following the political debate relevant to her life. According to The Huffington Post, her opinion of Obama and Romney is that "They’re all gonna kill us. Most of the people that we have to choose from -- Obama with his spending and his health care reform, and then Mitt Romney, he just wants to let poor people die, so either way we're doomed. So I don’t see any point in voting."
The Blaze reports the the co-manager of the Kroger supermarket in Warner Robins was transferred.