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Groped At The Roll Bin

I truly wish that I was making this up. I was in the bakery section of a grocery store in front of the bins that hold the rolls. I was standing there waiting for the lady next to me to finish getting her baked goods, as I wanted rolls from the same bin. Simple right? I was blocking a few of the bins, but as far as I knew there was no one else waiting. I actually hear someone walk up behind me and turn to look. I knew that I was possibly in someone’s way. No one behind me so I turn back. There is a lady now between me and the bin I wanted, the original woman had gotten her rolls and was walking away. The odd part of this is that the new woman is bent over and has her face level with my groin. Apparently I was in front of the bin that she wanted, because she reached over and put her hand between my legs and moved me over. Yes, you read that correctly, an older woman groped me to get in front of a bin of rolls. I just stood there in shock with my mouth open. The woman looked up at me and realized what she had done and turned a truly impressive shade of scarlet. She then stood up straight and walked quickly away without a word. I walked back to my husband and our cart. I do not know what expression was on my face, but he demanded to know what was wrong. When I explained the problem he wanted to complain to the stores management. I felt that since the woman was no longer in the store, it would not really accomplish anything. I thankfully never saw her again, but it was the most bizarre experience I have ever had.

I am not sure what I could have done differently. I froze like a deer in the headlights, however as she was obviously mortified I do not think that making any kind of scene would have been helpful. Though I do believe this story qualified as a rude encounter and a serious breach of etiquette. 1018-13

{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Lo October 23, 2013, 5:52 am

    Because she was so obviously uncomfortable I would chalk it up to a huge mistake and not something to make a big deal out of.

    I think you did show a lot of restraint. I think a lot of people (myself in included) would have lashed out physically first and asked questions later. It would be a natural and understandable reaction to being touched that way by a stranger.

    If the woman had followed it up with anything but extreme embarrassment I would have called her out on it. As is, assume no ill intent.

    I have accidentally groped a stranger before. It was wholly innocent and it was AWFUL.

  • Lex October 23, 2013, 6:30 am

    I think it is clear she was mortified and we can only speculate as to why she did what she did in the first place – clearly it is not her normal practice to move people and perhaps she either forget herself for a moment or thought you were someone else (her shopping companion/husband maybe).

    Either way you were right that making a scene would not have been helpful, although I do think she owed you a verbal apology or explanation as actions such as these can affect different people in different ways and not everyone would get over being ‘groped’ by a stranger in the same way.

    “Oh I’m so sorry, I thought you were my daughter/husband/someone else” would have gone a long way to appease the sense of ‘violation’ you felt and clearly still feel (enough to submit it to this site anyway).

  • PM October 23, 2013, 6:57 am

    I can only hope I never get so focused on a task in public that I grab someone by the crotch without realizing it. This may have been totally innocent. It may have this woman’s way of acting out sexually. (Probably not.) Either way, no matter who is touching you without permission, whether they’re a woman, man, child, you have the right to say, very loudly, “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING? GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF ME.”

    Safety and personal space trump being polite to the person who is grabbing your crotch at the bakery.

  • Kirsten October 23, 2013, 7:16 am

    I don’t think this is an etiquette breach – she clearly had no idea what she’d done until afterwards. You say yourself, “The woman looked up at me and realized what she had done and turned a truly impressive shade of scarlet.” Then you say she was ‘obviously mortified’.

    She was rude not to apologise and that is an etiquette breach, but otherwise this is just an embarrassing mistake by a stranger, and I don’t understand why on earth your husband would want to call store management. What would he say? “Some woman accidentally groped my wife”? I mean, what could they do? It’s obvious she didn’t do it on purpose and was mortified. Her apology aside, this isn’t about etiquette.

  • The Elf October 23, 2013, 7:32 am

    Wow – talk about focused! Since she blushed, I think she’s well aware of what she just did and how much of a faux pas. I’d let it go. As for what you could have done? I think most of us would have been rather frozen in shock too! I’m not sure if complaining – either right there or after the fact – would have been productive either, but you’re certainly within your rights if you had decided to do that.

  • Jinx October 23, 2013, 7:44 am

    There have been a handful of times when a stranger will touch me and I find it awkward (though never my groin, thank ye gods), and I find the best reaction is to look them dead in the eye and say “I don’t like being touched”

    It’s pretty effective, but harsh. I only use it when a stranger has forced intimacy on me. I don’t care so much when demonstrators reach for my hand asking me if I’d like to try their lotion, or someone gives my shoulder a kind pat… but more when someone rushes up yelling “OMG I LOVE YOUR HAIR!” and gives it a good tug.

    This, though… how does a stranger do this and not know what they’re doing? Yikes. I probably would’ve started crying and yelling for an adult. Kidding, but I definitely would not have taken a groin grab very well. I’m glad OP held her composure. It seems like the older woman groper was embarrassed enough by her own actions.

  • Miss-E October 23, 2013, 7:47 am

    Once at a concert, a friend of mine got separated from our group. When she caught up with us she threw her arm around me and pet me on the head…only it wasn’t me, it was a total stranger!! She apologized profusely, luckily the girl was cool about it and laughed it off.

    This doesn’t exactly relate to the submission but it was a hilarious story that I wanted to share. Sometimes people act without thinking, that’s all.

  • Kaye October 23, 2013, 7:50 am

    Not sure how old is “older”, but strange behavior + delayed recognition… dementia? Obviously, the groper should have apologized to the gropee before walking off mortified (“I’m so sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking/didn’t realize what I was doing” would suffice). Just maybe she was deeply ashamed because she’s losing control of her mental facilities.

  • SV October 23, 2013, 8:18 am

    I think it’s pretty obvious that she either completely forgot where she was and what she was doing, or she thought you were someone else. Although an apology would have been appropriate and would have gone far to lighten things up I think she was simply so embarrassed she just got out of there as fast as she could. I can’t blame her 🙂

  • internetmama October 23, 2013, 8:26 am

    I’m with other people on this one. It sounds like she (for whatever reason) was completely preoccupied and just didn’t think. An apology would definitely have been nice but it seems she was so nonplussed that she just didn’t know what to do.

    When my oldest son was eight weeks old and I was sleep deprived, I went to Target. While I was shopping I felt the tag of my shirt scratching my neck and realized I had put my shirt on backwards. In my tired fog I thought this was a situation that needed to be corrected immediately so, without thinking clearly, I took off my shirt, turned it around and put it back on in the middle of the kitchen utensil aisle. Two women were staring at me and I gave them my best “What are you looking at?” look and walked away. It took me three aisles over to realize that I had stripped in a store.

    Unfortunately I can understand how OP’s situation might have happened.

  • Mae October 23, 2013, 8:39 am

    I wonder why the woman didn’t simply say “Excuse, may I get to this bin?” Even if she thought you were a relative/shopping companion, it makes me wonder if groping complete stranges is how she normally gets people to move out of her way or was is simply a thoughtless, one time action?

  • Lex October 23, 2013, 9:36 am

    To be fair, when LeBoyfriend is standing in front of something I want to get at I usually pat him on the bum on whichever side is the direction I want him to move – it sounds as though this was probably something similar. She was rude not to immediately apologise but otherwise I’d put it out of your head.

    As someone who has been deliberately groped by a stranger (more than once) there is a definite difference between ‘accidental’ and ‘on purpose’ and it is only the latter that requires addressing IMO.

  • InNM October 23, 2013, 9:39 am

    While the other lady had the good grace to look embarrass and withdraw, why the need to get that close in the first place? People have become so myopic in making sure they get what THEY want that they don’t see the people in the way. As a result no one says “Excuse me.” and waits for permission to be granted anymore; instead it’s either they ask for the excuse as they push through or they forego the words entirely. Those who say “excuse me” think that “excuse me” is a magic skeleton key that grants immediate access, instead of realizing that it states your intention to interrupt, but still requires that permission is granted when the person who is being interrupted is excused.
    As for this experience, as awkward as you felt after, I think you did the right thing by letting it slide. However, do realize that this is not the best solution in every situation. Some times you may have to raise your voice and ask the person to clarify what exactly they are doing down there. But it’s a case by case basis.

  • Allie October 23, 2013, 9:46 am

    I can’t really picture how this occurred based on your description, but it sounds like however it happened it was an unfortunate mistake. Yes, she could have apologized, but from the sound of it I can totally understand why she was too embarrassed and fled instead.

    When I read the title of your submission, I immediately flashed to an incident our 5th grade teacher told us about. A man purposely groped her at the grocery store, but he made the mistake of doing so as she was picking up a can of frozen juice concentrate, which she promptly whacked him on the head with. Justice is, indeed, best served swift and cold : )

  • mark October 23, 2013, 9:50 am

    I wouldn’t stress it. We all have moments where we aren’t as alert as we normally are and do something unthinkingly. I think from her reaction that was such moment for this lady. I would let it go, and just think now you have a funny story to share.

  • Kimberly October 23, 2013, 10:01 am

    I think the woman was just so focused on looking for her bread and out of the her realm of site, saw something beside her and she moved to push it out of the way. It just so happened that when she pushed, along with your height, she accidentally pushed in your crotch area. Like others have stated, I think she was just so focused on searching for her bread, probably did not even notice that you were there or a person was there.

    I think we have all had something happen where we were focused or concentrating on something and do not realize where we are at or who is around us.

    I would just chalk this one up to an accident. It is clear by her demeanor after the fact, that she realized what she did after she did it and was so mortified, that as you, she could not think of anything to say, and she left the store.

  • Cat October 23, 2013, 10:01 am

    If she did not intend to be offensive, and I think her coloring when she realized her error is indicative of that, I would let it go. She was overly-focused on what she was doing and was clearly in the wrong. If she had done it to be rude, you would be well within your rights to say something loudly and to the point.
    When I was a child, I was focused on the candy bar my father had just bought me and I tried to get into a stranger’s car that was the same make, model, and color of my father’s. It’s a good thing the man had the door locked.

  • Abby October 23, 2013, 10:28 am

    Obviously reaching for the bread was not a ploy to get her hand between your legs, given her reaction, but I just can’t for the life of me figure out what she *thought* she was doing. I’ve accidentally brushed against another woman’s chest which is super embarrassing, but it sounds to me like she actually grabbed and pushed- what did she think she was pushing out of the way?

    I understand your feelings but I really think your husband is off the mark. It would be one thing if a creepy person was hanging around the store using this as a trick to grope other shoppers, but this was obviously an isolated, unintentional incident. Even if the woman was still in the store, would you really want management to confront her?

  • Stella October 23, 2013, 10:43 am

    Why would you complain to the store about something their customer did? Is this an American thing? Here you’d only address staff is someone was harassing you and you wanted them removed.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith October 23, 2013, 11:15 am

    Neither her age, her sex, nor her apparent blush after the fact excuse what she did. Placing your hands on someone else is a gesture of intimacy or of command. This person had no business placing her hands anywhere on OP. Whether she is an habitual offender or simply someone whose judgement failed them is immaterial- this really should not have happened. Since it did- the woman’s lack of character is somewhat revealed in her departure without so much as an apology.

  • Kimstu October 23, 2013, 12:21 pm

    While this incident was definitely an etiquette BREACH, thankfully it does not involve an etiquette PROBLEM. An etiquette problem involves figuring out how to use etiquette to address an etiquette breach to achieve the following goals, more or less in descending order of importance:

    1) Not sinking below the responder’s own standards of personal politeness, no matter how horribly somebody else is behaving.

    2) Not causing unnecessary embarrassment to inadvertent offenders or to innocent bystanders.

    2) Pushing back politely but firmly against rude behavior.

    In this case, the other woman did something inexcusably rude, but apparently inadvertently, and she seems to have realized her error right away and been very abashed by it. The OP was shocked but behaved with commendable restraint. No further corrective action was necessary, so no fuss was made.

    Check, check, check. Nicely done, @OP, and I recommend treating yourself to a relaxing little break; how about a cup of tea and a nice roll? 😉

  • Dee October 23, 2013, 12:46 pm

    Is it possible this woman has a visual-impairment of sorts? Some forms of impairment result in persons not being able to see directly in front of them. Or is she very myopic and must peer very closely to identify something, and even then may not be able to see it clearly? Or she is suffering from early dementia, as others have suggested? There are so many reasons for her behaviour but her mortification seems to indicate that she never meant any harm or disrespect. Many people suffer from degrading illnesses that give them a bad appearance. Some people are forced to carry a cane when out and about even though they don’t need it, but they can lose their balance unexpectedly and when they fall and stay on the ground, slowly flailing, they are presumed to be intoxicated. The cane doesn’t help to get them upright at all but it signals passersby that this person is disabled in some way and thus ensures kindly assistance. The OP’s groper may very well have a complicated situation that is not apparent to anyone else.

  • kjr October 23, 2013, 1:20 pm

    @internetmama – that was the best thing I read all day! 🙂

  • Kate October 23, 2013, 1:57 pm

    I actually feel pretty sorry for the non-OP lady. One time I accidentally patted a man on the crotch, and I was so embarrassed, I honestly don’t remember apologizing. I don’t think this is an etiquette issue, this is just a person who lost track of what she was doing, and did something pretty stupid. I think an etiquette breach would have been to make a big scene about it, when she was clearly embarrassed and didn’t mean it.

  • Marozia October 23, 2013, 3:24 pm

    ‘Excuse me, please’ would’ve been the proper words from the ‘groper’, if she wanted to get to the rolls. But this is one of the weirdest etiquette blunders I’ve read for a while!!

  • RC October 23, 2013, 4:54 pm

    I really don’t think this falls under etiquette – perhaps her reaction could have been improved with an apology, but I would react as she did and flee from mortification – I would forgive anyone for wanting to flee!

    I think you handled yourself well OP. Your husband overreacted, but probably because he is protective of you; complaining to management would have achieved nothing.

  • Emmy October 23, 2013, 7:41 pm

    I have a hard time understanding how that could happen by accident, but from the woman’s reaction, this seems like the case. Letting it go was the right thing to do. It was an accident and the woman was very embarrassed. Confronting her or telling the store manager to confront her would have caused her even more embarrassment and couldn’t undo what was done. I do think the woman should have apologized, but I can see how she was so mortified that she just fled. I bet she will look more carefully next time she goes to grab for bread.

  • MJ October 24, 2013, 12:12 am

    Well my story was in a secured facility where you had to badge onto the floor and then make sure that the door was closed securely behind you when you exited. I was following two female co-workers exiting (I’m a male) that were engrossed in their conversation and I truly believe they did not realize that I was directly behind them as they exited. The one in the rear reached back to grab the door knob and, well grabbed a piece of my anatomy that won’t be named. I’m not sure which of us was more embarrassed but it was a pretty close race. She did have enough composure to apologize profusely as well as turning one of the brightest shades of red that I have seen anywhere other than a stop sign. In retrospect it was actually pretty funny but I can see how it could be really awkward for some people.

  • Kayti October 24, 2013, 1:06 am


    Completely agree! As a police officer, it is frustrating to see female sex offenders constantly get away with their crimes because many have learned to blush, flutter their lashes and say, “I’m so sorry, that was an accident!” when they touch strangers inappropriately. If this was a man, and he had turned red and just walked away after the incident, I doubt anyone would have just let it go.

    The woman’s lack of apology IS very telling. I can only hope that this was an honest mistake and that she didn’t wander off to find another victim.

  • Lauren October 24, 2013, 8:12 am

    That woman is either crazy or pushy. You handled it really well…much better than what I did.

    I just had an obnoxious woman cut in front of me in a checkout line and she actually looked at me and smirked (huh?). And, as usual, I couldn’t help it and I burst out laughing at her, which (of course) infuriated her. Apparently, I had neglected to take into account her possible mental illness and fervor in winning that place in line, and she went off. I know she was wrong, but people who do things like that are crazy, and often being hostile and pushy to strangers is the only thing they have control over in their lives. Avoid and walk away!

    I have to say, just love this post. My favorite stories are the woman who stripped in a store and the other who patted some poor guys crotch. You guys are hilarious! I wish I was in Target that day…and I kind of want to know how you could accidentally pat a guy on the crotch. So many questions with that one…

  • acr October 24, 2013, 8:36 am

    Honestly, I’m have a hard time being as kind as some of the posters here. I really don’t see how it is possible to “forget yourself” or be “so distracted” as to put your hand between another person’s legs, much less use their crotch or inner thigh as a handle to move them! Cynically, I am more inclined to think she was some sort of pervert who gets her jollies by molesting strangers in public.

  • Green123 October 24, 2013, 10:08 am

    I don’t think for one moment that this woman is a sex offender. Rather, I suspect she made an honest mistake and is mortified by her behaviour.

  • RC October 24, 2013, 3:59 pm

    @Luaren: I too have enjoyed reading about others’ awkward moments with strangers, and reading your post brought back an awfully embarrassing memory of my own (I’m blushing even as I recall it!)

    A long, long time ago I was queuing late at night in the McDonalds with my boyfriend; I was looking for my wallet in my handbag as the line moved forward, so I shuffled forward whilst looking down. Finished rummaging in my bag, looked up at the menu, slung my arm around my boyfriend, rested my chin on his shoulder from behind and asked, “What do you feel like, hon?”

    Only to have boyfriend burst out laughing behind me, as I snuggled up to a mortified looking stranger! In my defense, they looking startlingly similar, and his shoulder was the same (perfect) height for snuggling… but still, I was too shocked to even think of apologising, I’m pretty sure I actually started crying.

  • froglet October 24, 2013, 5:51 pm

    OP here! I was heartened by all the wonderful people who said I handled it well. When this event occurred I was in my mid-twenties, I would guess the other lady was in her sixties. The reason that my husband became so upset was due to the fact that this was the third incident in two months were I had been accosted. Once was a woman who would not let me walk away as she described how she beat her cats (I was alone, and believe she had cognitive impairments so I did not wish to be harsh ) and another where a group of teenagers followed me around asking for my phone number (I informed them I was married, and then when they persisted that I did not date children). All at the same store. Small town meant there was not another place to shop within walking distance. My friends actually got together and set up a schedule of when they could go to the store with me. No one let me go alone for six months! I generally have a polite spine, but I try to err on the side of etiquette.

  • Yankeegal77 October 24, 2013, 9:50 pm

    OP, thanks for the update! This sounds like a bad set of circumstances (with your previous experiences!) that made something awkward into something potentially sinister.

    It sounds to me like this lady had a lot on her mind, perhaps was getting a little foggy and honestly just didn’t think or see you. I’m almost willing to bet she went home, closed her eyes and held her head for a VERY long time and was still blushing the next day. Sometimes, we’re too embarrassed for words. (There are times when I’m staring into space and people get in the way, if you know what I mean. Thankfully, I’m pretty sure I have never touched a stranger’s crotch in my fog!)

    You have great friends going with you to shop. I know how you feel, as I’m often one of those “targeted” by strangers, so I could see myself getting upset, too. But it really doesn’t seem like the woman intended any harm. At least she was embarrassed and didn’t make some smart remark about grabbing the wrong buns!

  • MichelleP October 25, 2013, 1:44 pm

    @StaceyFrithSmith and Kayti, it is entirely possible that the woman was distracted and/or had dementia. I have taken care of older people (even rather young) with dementia, and they did things like this frequently. The woman most likely did not do it deliberately; people don’t turn fire engine red and run off if they did something on purpose. Kayti, I understand where you’re coming from, but your experience with female police officers is not even remotely the same as the incident with the OP.

    I’m rather surprised at the harshness of some of these posts saying the woman did it deliberately and her age/obvious embarrassment/distraction are no excuse. None of you have ever done anything inappropriate while distracted?

    Just recently I was in a store with my daughter. She’s 11, and comes up to my shoulder. She was a few feet away (I could still see her) and I was distracted looking for a certain product. A girl walked up and stood next to me. I didn’t look closely at her, just assumed she was my daughter. She was the same height, same hair color, wearing the same color shirt. I reached out and stroked her hair out of habit and said something like, “hey honey did you find what you were looking for?” It wasn’t my daughter!!! I gasped and stuttered out, “Oh Lord I’m sorry!” The girl’s mother was a few feet away and laughed, thank goodness. I said “sorry!” and fled. I was so embarrassed and I know they thought I was some weirdo.

    You handled it fine, OP.

  • MichelleP October 25, 2013, 2:00 pm

    Same subject: years ago, I was pulling into a restaurant parking lot to go through the drive through. There was a very attractive police officer walking through the lot to go in, and I was checking him out. He noticed my checking him out and smiled. Well, I was so busy checking him out that I wasn’t watching where I was going and rear ended the car in fr0nt of me. I got to talk to him, because he came running over to see if we were ok! I have never been so embarrassed, at least until I stroked the hair of a child who wasn’t mine in Wal-Mart.

  • crella October 29, 2013, 3:15 pm

    “Completely agree! As a police officer, it is frustrating to see female sex offenders constantly get away with their crimes because many have learned to blush, flutter their lashes and say, “I’m so sorry, that was an accident!””

    This woman was mortified, and turned red and fled. She didn’t sound like a sex offender. They usually have the attitude that what they are doing is perfectly normal.

  • pbird October 30, 2013, 7:34 pm

    Well, I am an older lady. I have been a mother and then a grandmother, taking care of and directing children since 1970. I can just barely imagine absentmindedly pushing someone over a bit while tired and shopping. It would be excrutiatingly (sp?) embarrassing. But, I can see how it could happen. Unfortunately she grabbed the wrong person in the wrong place. Oy.

  • nickie December 1, 2013, 4:42 am

    This post should come with a warning that it may cause bad reactions in people who have been molested or raped.

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