A card declining at the check-out can be embarrassing for the customer. Sometimes, for the cashiers, it can be life-changing. Cashiers from different industries share sad card declined moments they witnessed. Content has been edited for clarity.
Paying It Forward With A Candy Bar
“At work, I noticed a mother with her three children shopping for groceries.
The mother had two toddlers, and her oldest daughter looked around 12 or 13 years of age. The oldest daughter was so helpful to the mother as they shopped by keeping her sisters occupied.
When it came time to check out, the mother asked the daughter if she wanted anything since she was so helpful. The daughter grabbed a candy bar from the shelf and put it on the belt. When the mother went to pay for the groceries, her card declined; which was not even the saddest part. The saddest part was when the daughter thought her candy bar was the reason her mother’s card declined. She quickly apologized to her mom and told her she didn’t need the candy bar. The mother didn’t know what to do.
Well, the gentleman behind them noticed what was happening and jumped in.
He noticed a mother with her hands full trying to buy a few groceries to feed herself and her children. He offered to pay for her groceries. It wasn’t much; maybe 30 bucks worth. What made the situation even better was when he added candy bars for all three children.”
Human Kindness In Its Truest Form
“When I worked at Walmart years ago, I made really good friends with several other employees. One of my Walmart friends was named Robert; we called him Rob. He was 21 years old when he suddenly contracted cancer for the second time in his life. His health declined rapidly, and he was sent to live in hospice care.
We (the group of Walmart friends) visited him as often as we could, and sometimes we would take him to go shopping. In one instance, my sister and I went to Walmart, where he picked out a DVD and a couple of food items. He had trouble walking, so we wheeled him around in a wheelchair, picked out the items, and headed to the registers.
It was no secret this poor kid was low on funds. He was living in an assisted living facility and could not work anymore from loss of mobility and declining communication skills. He had been supporting his mom, who did not work, in addition to having undergone chemo and other cancer treatments, which are certainly not cheap!
At the register, my sister and I were already tearing up, helping Rob maneuver his items onto the belt for the cashier. The doctor told us the tumor was attached to his brain stem, so they were unable to operate. They also said he was supposed to die two months ago, so it was a miracle he was still with us. All these things were swirling around in my brain as tears fell down my cheeks.
The cashier looked over as the register beeped. The card declined. The small amount of resistance I had left was gone. I burst into tears on the spot, along with my sister. I was not thinking clearly at all when a wonderful person came up, no questions asked, and paid for Rob’s items while we were sobbing away. I tried to thank them, but I’m not sure if what I was trying to communicate came across or not. I’m not sure if words came out of my mouth at all or if they were just in my head.
One month later, Rob passed away at 22 years old from cancer. He loved working at Walmart so much. The managers closed down the store for one hour so everyone, even managers, could attend his funeral. He was very loved, and I will never forget the kindness of the person who paid for Rob’s items when my sister and I couldn’t keep it together.”
Saving A Seven Year Old’s Birthday
“The card terminal denied the transaction again.
‘Uh, can I pay with cash?’ He stammered.
‘Sure,’ I said and handed over the check to him.
He pulled out a couple of notes from his wallet, but it was still short of the total bill. An hour before, I served and sang happy birthday to his seven-year-old son. The kid looked happy and blew the candles out with his older sister. However, his dad kept glancing at the menu as if he were silently calculating the prices in his head. He kept one menu with them in case they wanted to order something else.
He scratched the back of his head, nervously laughing, and said, ‘Well then, maybe I could wash some dishes at the back?’
I chuckled. I know fathers like him. I met this family before, and I served them before.
They would do anything to make their kids happy, even if it meant paying with coins sometimes. I was a struggling student barely making ends meet while trying to support myself. I sometimes skipped lunch and hoped I would make enough tips for the day to get a large meal for dinner. I limited my meals to twice a day, once during the day and one in the evening.
I beckoned for the manager on duty to come over to my station; a manager who I shared a close friendship with, and he understood the look I gave him. He took the bill, comped it 50 percent, and gave me the new bill to pass to the man.
‘Uh, this bill is-,’ he looked at me again.
‘Yes, it has been comped.’ I said, closing the checkbook and making the transaction.
I handed him his balance. This grown man was ready to cry. I smiled and felt sad he had to scrap to give his son a birthday party, but it was still not enough. He handed me an MYR10 note as a tip. I asked him if he was sure about it and he nodded vigorously.
‘Please, it’s the least I can do for your service. Accept it.’
So I did because it meant I could feed myself for dinner and because my stomach growled from the lack of food I had eaten. I never saw him again, but I hope his life changed for the better.”
Happy Meal, Happy Ending
“Back in 1999, I was fairly fresh out of high school and worked at McDonald’s as an order taker/cashier. One day, a woman came through my drive-thru asking about the price of the different Happy Meals. I could see from the look in her eyes something was bothering her (our drive-thru mic was broken at the time). I asked if she was okay, and she said it was her six-year-old son’s birthday and he was in the hospital. She then settled on the Hamburger Happy Meal. She said it was all she could afford.
She pulled out her card and attempted to pay. Then, she saw the dreaded words on the screen; ‘declined’. I looked back at her and saw the look of utter defeat as she could not even get her son a Happy Meal. I then asked her what her son’s favorite Happy Meal was. She then proceeded to ask why.
I told her I had just gotten paid and would take care of it. From our earlier conversation, I could tell it was the chicken nugget happy meal. I quickly changed the order, pulled out my card, and paid. I told her not to worry about it, and she could go around the corner and get the meal.
She said a very heartfelt thank you, and I responded, ‘It was my pleasure, and I hope your son gets well soon.’
I found out she was bawling her eyes out at the next window. My manager asked her what was wrong, and she told them what I had done, said she had been going through a rough time, and this was the first good thing to happen to her in days.”
He Could Have Been A Millionaire
“I worked nights at a gas station. There was this guy who pulled up at two a.m. in a limo with his wife and kids. The kids were teenagers. His hands were scarred from years of construction work. They were stopping to get some snacks and drinks for the ride up to Tallahassee.
He won the jackpot. They were the happiest family you could ever imagine; total rags to riches. Then his card was declined.
He said, ‘So what? I still got a little cash in my wallet. Tomorrow, I’m a millionaire.’
Then he looked at his oldest son and said, ‘You ain’t cutting nobody’s grass anymore. I’m buying you a house and Juan can mow your lawn, but now you gotta go to college and get a degree.’
He paid and they left. The gas station was a truck stop pretty much halfway between Miami and the capital city of Tallahassee. He had won the Mega Millions as the only one to get all six and the bonus. While his family was picking out their snacks, he told me they were on the way to Tallahassee to collect the prize.
He showed me the ticket and it was real. I even checked it against my lotto computer, and the message came back for him to make contact with the gambling commission in Tallahassee. It was legit. He won 34 million, I think it was.
The next day, I went to bed when I got home in the morning. My wife was at work, and my baby boy woke me up because it was time for his bottle. I changed his diaper and started his favorite event at the time; bottle time. Then I turned on the TV. I watched the news, and my jaw hit the floor.
The guy went to claim his prize, and upon the standard ID check, it was determined he had overstayed his residency without renewing his permanent resident alien card. Therefore, he did not meet the legal residency requirements to collect the prize and forfeited it. I felt so bad for him and his family. I can only imagine how crushed they were.”
A Memorable First Job
“My very first job was at Albertson’s as a courtesy clerk. My responsibilities were bagging groceries, helping people out to their cars, collecting shopping carts, and rolling them back up to the front.
While I was bagging groceries one day, there was a young couple with a child purchasing only necessities (primarily food). Their bill was low for a grocery bill – something like 150 bucks or 200 bucks. When the cashier ran the card, it was rejected.
This happened not infrequently, but what struck me about this particular situation was the family instantly began apologizing, and their faces turned grim. It seemed as though they had expected this might occur. They unbuckled their child out of the cart seat and left as quickly as possible, seeming painfully embarrassed. The way they left the store made it seem as though they felt unworthy to be there.
I was only 16, but very much felt torn inside. I wanted to let them know they shouldn’t be embarrassed, and I strongly considered footing the bill. At the same time, my mom was the only one of my parents who could work (my father’s heart attack and pericarditis limited him), and paying for their groceries would have wiped out my account balance.
Nowadays, I wouldn’t think twice about paying their bill, and I would still assure them it is nothing to be embarrassed about. These things happen. We live in a society with very few safety nets.”
Contactless Payment Saves The Day
“I was looking after the self-services checkouts on a Saturday evening. A lady came in and was going to pay for her things in two transactions. When she got to the second transaction (a bottle of happy juice and a four-pack of chocolate), her card declined.
This occurred at the checkout register where the card reader was flaky, so we went to another one. It also declined. She then said she was on a very strict budget and thought she had enough left for some treats (see above).
We weren’t allowed to have money at the checkouts, however, our store had an app for paying contactless. I got out my phone and paid for her treats. She tried to give me the chocolate bars, but I politely refused, as they were treats for her to have. She was very grateful and I said I hoped she enjoyed the happy juice and chocolate.
This wasn’t the only time I’ve done this, but having been at rock bottom with little to no ‘spare’ money myself, I related a lot to this lady.”
A Life-Changing Story For Both Parties
“I used to work at a hotel next to Disneyland. I had just graduated from high school, and it was just a job back then. One day, something changed my view of the industry as a whole.
Being next to Disneyland, the hotel had a contract with Make-A-Wish foundation; which is a non-profit organization that gives terminally ill children a wish. For example, if a child had cancer and wanted to go to Disneyland, they would pay for it with money they raised via their partners and vendors like the hotel I used to work at. However, the hotel was only a vendor and made no donations or gave any larger discounts to the foundation it did not give to wholesalers.
One family was checking in with Make-A-Wish trying to check in at the front desk. The person checking them in was always kind of rude to everyone but never broke any other rule. He requested a credit card, which was normally the policy. However, for Make-A-Wish families, it was not required since their room was paid for by Make-A-Wish.
The family was asked to present a credit card at check-in. They presented their debit card, and the hotel tried to obtain authorization for their seven-day stay. The debit card declined, and the front desk agent was not understanding what Make-A-Wish was. He sent them away and said their card needed to be good or they could not check in. I did not know they were with Make-A-Wish at first. I saw them making phone calls trying to have people send them money so they could check-in.
The front desk agent said, ‘Oh, they don’t have a valid card for their stay or a cash deposit for incidentals, and they look like we would need one, so when they get it, they will come back.’
Later on, the father came up to me and asked if there was any way whatsoever they could check in, even for one day only so they could take their sick child to Disneyland the next day. I opened his reservation and realized who they were and they did not need to have a credit card to check in. I felt bad for them. The system showed they were declined for even 50 bucks, and they tried different cards. I quickly checked them in and started to chat with them. I told the child our hotel was a real castle and Snow White had just left!
I told them, ‘She stayed in your room last night. I can’t believe you just missed her!’
Since then, a couple of other people and I from the front desk at our expense would plant things and say things to make the child believe Snow White had been looking for them (the child), but she could not find them. I had a friend with a really sweet voice leave a message saying she was Snow White and she could not wait to meet them but she had been busy in a mine helping dopey with something. I had a goofy friend leave a message saying he was dopey and was looking for Snow White and she had said she was going to see the family so he wanted them to pass a message to her when she got there.
I had my friends at Disney tell me when there would be a Snow White character scheduled at the park and after a few calls, the person playing Snow White agreed to play along and say she had been looking for them at the hotel. She agreed to say she forgot one of her dresses under the bed, and the child could keep her dress. I planted a Snow White dress while they were away at Disneyland, which the child believed was Snow White’s real dress and she wore it for the last two days of their trip.
When they checked out, her father pulled me over to the side and thanked me for everything. Holding back tears, he said it had meant a lot to the child who had been so sick she did not even feel like going on the trip, and she had all this energy. She, for once, spoke about getting well soon so she could visit Snow white again soon.
To this day, I can not remember anything that made me feel so happy at work. It made me see things differently, and I stayed in the hospitality industry for 18 years.
This was the saddest credit card decline I have seen in my life. Had they just checked in, things would not have occurred, and I would have been an accountant, or I would be doing something boring just because it pays well.”
Because She Earned It
“I worked as a sales associate, mainly a cashier. A mom and her daughter were in my checkout, and the mother was buying the daughter whatever she wanted because this girl was very good, did something good, etcetera.
Her card declined, and the mother handed me the ball. As they walked towards the door, the girl was crying, and the mother was apologizing. This ball was the size of one of those bigger bouncy balls, like hand-sized. I think it was one of those light-up squishy ball things.
I quickly pulled out my card and handed the ball to the little girl. She and her mother thanked me, and I told them no worries, she earned it. Another time, a guy’s card kept getting declined for two packs of one buck toilet paper. I purchased it for him and told him I couldn’t have slept that night if I had let him go without it.
I have also had many families’ food stamps or other cards get declined, and have purchased all of their groceries, especially when I saw them with their children. As a mother myself, there’s no way I could live with myself letting a child go hungry.”
The Gas Station Hero
“I was working as a closer at a gas station up the street from my house, when this woman walked in, obviously in a bad mood. I waited at the counter so I could ring her up, and it was obvious she was fighting back tears.
By the time she got to me, she was full-on sobbing. I didn’t know what to do, so I just rang her up like normal and asked what was wrong. Apparently, she walked in on her boyfriend with another woman and was simply heartbroken about it all.
I finally got her to swipe her card because I didn’t want her to just be standing in the middle of the store crying in front of anyone else who might walk in and embarrass herself (a female soldier was standing right behind her already). The card declined, and my heart just sank.
‘Uh, it declined,’ I said very very quietly.
By this point, she was pretty much bawling her eyes out and it’s not like I was going to say ‘you’re holding up the line, get out,’ but I also didn’t have the heart to double down and tell her she was broke and couldn’t even pay for gas on top of getting cheated on. She didn’t even notice I was speaking to her, anyway because she was so far gone at that point.
I paid for it all myself, partially because I wanted her to have at least some compassion for what had happened, but also because she was holding up the line. She walked out and went to her car. II rang up the soldier behind her (she thought it was a nice gesture). After she left, there were no customers left.
The woman was still outside hunched over her car. I literally had to go out there and physically pump her gas for her because she was completely incapable of doing so. I would have stayed so she could vent a little bit, but I had to take care of more customers, as I was the only one there to mind the store. She drove away as I was ringing up other customers.
I worked at that gas station job for about six months, and the first chance I had to leave, I took it. Working at a gas station sucks.”
A Christmas Miracle
“When I worked at Dollar General, a very polite homeless man came in to buy a few things for his daughter (it was during Christmas time). He brought up a mug with hot chocolate mix, a drink for himself, and a small can of dog food. He tried to pay with a gift card a previous customer gave to him and it sadly declined.
The poor man sobbed uncontrollably and said he was a horrible father and couldn’t even afford a Christmas gift for her. I asked him a few questions about his daughter and took him around to gather a few other items (scrunchies, a doll, and a cute little makeup bag).
I purchased it all for him, bought him a few snacks, and wished him a Merry Christmas. He cried again and asked for a hug which I didn’t refuse! Who doesn’t love a good hug? He was so grateful and the other customers were so moved they called corporate to let them know how sweet I was.
I later ran into the gentleman, and he is now the proud owner of his own business. Just a little care and compassion can have an unforgettable impact on another person’s life.”