Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Kosher Complaint

We don't live in Brooklyn. When we were first married we did, but even 36 years ago the housing prices in Brooklyn, in the frum areas and in the up and coming frum areas, were higher then in other places, and you were getting less for more. I also avoid shopping in Brooklyn whenever possible, particularly in the "frum" stores. As I've posted before, the clothing stores are severely overpriced. But I also don't shop in the food stores. I have good reason to avoid them, and price is only one of the reasons.

I work in Brooklyn and, arriving early for work, decided to take advantage of the time and finish up a bit of Pesach shopping. I went into one of the kosher grocery stores. Mistake on my part. Not only was I exposed to ready prepared saltwater (subject of a different posting) but I was subjected to enough bad manners to last me a lifetime.

I was standing in front of a shelf looking for a product when an elbow unceremoniously moved me out of the way so that the owner of the elbow could reach up and get something off the shelf. No "excuse me" no "could you please move over." Little children were running up and down the aisles with no mother in sight. The noise level was way above normal. And then I got in line to pay for my purchases. Or at least I tried to.

Pushy person #1 broke into the line in front of me. When I politely told her that she was cutting in she threw at me "I have a school bus coming so I have to come first." Huh? And then the person 3 behind me screams "Rivkale!" and runs up to stand with her friend in front of me. "We're together" she throws at me. So, am I going to make a ruckus in a public place? Am I going to reduce myself to these people's level of bad manners? I couldn't get myself to do it. I was fuming, but doing so quietly. Until a third person tried to cut into the line. I had had enough. I walked up to the front and placed my basket on the counter by the checkout clerk. The store manager was also up front. The clerk rather snippily told me that she was already checking someone else out and what did I think I was doing? Firmly but quietly I told her I was leaving and perhaps someone needed to put back on the shelves the items in the basket. And I walked out the door.

I try to imagine the behavior I saw in this store happening at Shoprite or King Kullen or any of the supermarkets in our neighborhood. Just wouldn't happen. I always thought that it was only in Israel that no one had "savlanut," patience. Apparently there is no patience in Brooklyn either. We spend so much time worrying about whether our children will have fine midos. Perhaps we should start with the basic concepts of good manners. Things like "please" and "Thank you." Maybe we could teach "Excuse me please." Who knows, maybe we might even get to "I'm so sorry."

By the way, if this had been the only time I had run across rudeness in a Brooklyn store I might have just brushed it off. But it wasn't the only time. It seems to be the rule, not the exception. For those readers who practice their manners in public, frustrating isn't it to be in the minority? And for those who don't, you might want to consider that road rage could very easily translate to store rage. Some day someone is not just going to walk out quietly.


Anonymous said...


Severe problem.

The heimish-biheimish behavior is way out of hand in some places.

And there are consequences. They may not be immediate or may not be too loud to ignore at first, but they are very serious nevertheless. Whether increasing cynicism, good people slipping away quietly or otherwise, the cost is high.

After a while these heimish-biheimish types will be left with one another to step on.

And that is leaving out the spiritual side, of thinking how Hashem, so to speak, looks upon such scenes. They definitely don't look kindly on such behavior upstairs. Someday the bill will become due, and there will be a big price to pay if the offenders don't change their ways.

concernedjewgirl said...

I do not live in Brooklyn, yet I have seen this behavior in other cities. Not as bad as Brooklyn. I agree with you that this behavior is ridiculous and not to be tolerated. I unlike you do not walk away quietly. I start to reply quietly but work my way up if I get tested. Why is her time more valuable then yours? Do you not have any responsibilities in other than to stand there all day till somebody has enough time to see you in order to check you out?
I’m wondering why you didn’t (in a nice, polite, yet firm voice) ask her if these were the midos that she likes to teach her children. It is not fair to you that you left. You spent time picking out items that you need. Now, you have to go back to a store and start from scratch. It’s a waste of your time. Why not stand up for yourself? Maybe a scene is the only thing that ‘these’ particular people will respond to? Unless you are yelling and pushing back they don’t notice you. So you should suffer because of it?
I don’t think that standing up for yourself and your rights is necessarily stooping down to ‘their’ level. I believe that if you let people act like this without saying anything then they will continue to do so. I am not convinced that walking away quietly is always a good lesson. I doubt they even noticed that you walked out of the store because of them.

G said...

We don't live in Brooklyn.
Ah yes, but you do still live in New York :-)

"Go West, young man, and grow up with the country."

ProfK said...

Jews are supposed to give reproof to fellow Jews who are doing something wrong. But one of the things that the Rambam mentions when he talks about this tochechah is Will the reproof be seen for what it is--a sincere effort to improve something that needs improving--or will it be looked at incorrectly? He concludes that if you are certain that the reproof will have no positive result but will only cause a problem, then you don't offer the reproof. My experience in the Brooklyn stores has lead me to believe that any reproof I would have offered would have caused a tumult but would not have changed the offending behavior.

I'm hardly shy in standing up for myself, but I pick my battles.

In case you missed it, I AM from the West, Oregon originally. And re Staten Island's being a part of New York City, that is not by choice. We tried to secede but the state screwed us around. When people ask me where I am from I always answer "Staten Island," not New York City.

Bas~Melech said...

I find that my practice developing a "teacher Look" for the classroom serves me well in public, too. You just have to be assertive -- if the parents aren't teaching them, someone should try...

Anonymous said...

At one time I thought frum meant finer, better manners, more honesty, more refinement (it still does among some, may they be blessed). Nowadays with the ascent of the heimish-biheimish, at times it has come to stand for coarseness and being ethically-challenged.

Help !

"We spend so much time worrying about whether our children will have fine midos....."

Maybe the people you met at the store don't.


There is great variation between different parts of that borough. Some parts retain a measure of civility.

miriamp said...

My husband was standing in line at our little Kosher store for almost an hour yesterday, as the store people tried to figure out who had gotten there first and who needed what from the truck out back etc., but everyone was polite about it. In fact, one woman tried to buy two large stacks of American cheese, and they told her that her husband had bought three the day before, so she probably didn't actually want to buy any. She put it back. And they sent my husband home with one of his items unpaid for, because the person who knew what to charge him for it wasn't there. They made a note on the wall, and he'll pay it next time.

Sometimes (Okay, almost always, the one exception being when driving to NY.) I'm so glad to not live in Brooklyn.

Anonymous said...

This is my life on a regular basis. I avoid the kosher stores whenever possible. Less irritating to get in the car and drive to a "real" supermarket. But you have to toughen up or they will walk all over you when you do shop in these stores. had to go into one for some Pesach things this morning. I should have worn body armor.