Jessie Grady was eyeing a rack of Christmas ornaments at the Michaels store in Lake View on Wednesday, when she heard a woman shouting and witnessed a confrontation that — despite the calm demeanor of the well-meaning, African-American assistant manager — turned into an increasingly unhinged, racist rant.
The shouting customer apparently was outraged after a cashier suggested she buy an extra bag to hold her purchases, which the customer explained in a high-decibel, expletive-laden diatribe, was an act of discrimination against her because she was white, and had voted for Donald Trump. Grady was aghast. She raised her camera phone.
Thinking the bizarre encounter was an example of the intolerance that she feels has been on the rise during the presidential election cycle, Grady posted the video to YouTube on Friday. As of early Tuesday afternoon, it had been viewed about 2.2 million times.
“I was just thinking about the staff, that this lady was going to come in the next day and complain and get a discount, and they were going to get in trouble, and they did nothing wrong,” Grady said.
Grady created a GoFundMe page with a goal to raise $400 toward a gift for the unflappable manager, and had pulled in about $22,000 by early Tuesday afternoon. Grady calls the response a hope-affirming ending to a jarring encounter. A Michaels spokesman said in a statement that the store was reviewing the situation, and does not “tolerate discrimination or racism of any kind against our team members or customers.” The company is “actively reviewing the situation,” but the statement notes the company is “grateful for the leadership of our store team in working to resolve (the confrontation) without further escalation.”
Before she started filming, Grady said she had been in line ahead of the irate woman. Grady captured about 17 minutes on video, and said the entire ordeal lasted more than 40 minutes, including several minutes the woman spent in tears outside the store, apparently leaving moments before police arrived.
In the moments Grady did get on film, the woman can be seen yelling and jabbing fingers toward employees in a Lake View crafts store — accusing them of discriminating against her because she’s white and because she voted for Trump.
“Why don’t you shut your face!” the angry young customer can be heard yelling at one point. “And I voted for Trump. So there. What, you want to kick me out because of that? And look who won. And look who won,” the woman shouts.
The confrontation began when the cashier asked the woman if she wanted to purchase a larger bag to hold a tube of Christmas ornaments that would stick out of the standard bag, Grady said. Grady said the woman seemed to take issue with the additional charge for the bag, insisting that another customer had been able to get a similar amount of merchandise in the smaller bag, Grady said. On the video, the woman accuses the a Michaels staff member of muttering something about her having voted for Trump.
As the manager tries to calm her down and as other customers come and go, the angry woman accuses another employee of screaming across “the goddamned store like an animal, an animal.”
At one point, the customer tells the manager: “You’re not going to give me some sort of liberal lecture about who is a human. Your job is to ring people up and tell them to have a nice day.”
The woman also directs her ire at Grady, berating her and filming Grady’s 2-year-old daughter and accusing the toddler of shoplifting.
“I don’t know what you think you’re videoing, lady …,” the customer says. “I was just discriminated against by two black women.”
“This is completely out of control,” the woman can be heard saying. “Everyone’s mouths are out of control, and everyone thinks that they know what they are talking about.”
The video ends with Grady talking on her phone, after calling 911. Grady said dispatchers only sent help when she said the woman needed medical help, which, Grady assumes, might have been a good idea. The woman stood outside the store, apparently also calling police, for several minutes but had disappeared before police arrived.
Grady said the video doesn’t do justice to the response of her fellow shoppers, several of whom piped up to support the manager and shout down the ranting woman. Grady said she started the GoFundMe — with a goal of $400 — to show the manager that even more people supported her.
Grady has talked to the assistant manager several times since starting the fundraiser, and said the outpouring of cash has overwhelmed her. They had talked about donating the $400 to a charity, but now, Grady is thinking they might raise enough to pay for the manager to finish her master’s degree.
“It’s just been amazing. She is so touched. That whole time, (the manager) was so composed. I thought to myself, ‘This woman is a leader,'” Grady said. “She said in the store, that sort of thing happens to her all the time, and no one had ever stood up for her before.”