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I was at the grocery store this afternoon with my husband and daughter. It is a small chain store in the next town over. We had a full cart of groceries to check out. Cigarettes are behind the service counter and you have to ask to purchase them, and I phrased my request as a question: "Can I get two packs of Favorite Brand, please?"

The cashier responded, "No." I assumed she was joking and chuckled a little. She continued, "Smoking is bad for you!"

I responded, "Really? No kidding!" Again, with a smile. We bantered a little, and then she said to my 9-year-old daughter, "You should really tell your mom to quit smoking."

I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable, but continued to treat the situation lightly and replied, "Don't worry, she does!" She continued to check out the groceries, and then began the banter about smoking again.

In a laughing but firm tone, I said, "You and the smoking! Move on already!" Since we had been bantering, I felt justified in getting my point across in a pointed yet light manner. Or so I thought. She looked hurt and said, "I was just kidding." She would not look at or really even speak to me for the rest of the transaction. I was polite and remained friendly, thanking her, etc.

Now, neither one of us was really joking, I guess. It was one of those situations where you laugh and smile, but are actually pretty serious about what you are saying. On the other hand, she had a point in that I had gone along with the banter up until that point.

I know smoking is bad for you. I honestly don't think you can live in the world at this point and not know that. She probably had a loved one who was sick or deceased from smoking, or maybe she was sick herself and she hates smoking. But cigarettes are legal and for sale in the store so I think I should be able to buy them without a lecture. 

So... assuming she should not comment on a customer's purchase (I can assume that, right?), did I make a mistake in bantering rather than being firm from jump? Was my ultimate comment out of line? Since smoking is such a huge issue, am I supposed to expect this kind of judgement? What is a better way to handle it?

"So kind of you to take an interest" might have worked fine. But it's a sudden and uncomfortable situation to be put into, to which most people (including myself) would respond with light banter and jokes.
The moment she refused to listen to you and kept on insisting (and telling your daughter what to do! Talk about massively overstepping the boundaries!) I would have come down much firmer, however. She gets one free pass, but that's it.
If it happens again, I would talk to the manager. Depending on how bad it was, I would consider talking to the manager now, actually. I know I wouldn't be comfortable bringing my daughter back if I knew that woman might try to get her to help be judgemental about me. It depends on how you feel about the chance that it could happen again.

I think your ultimate comment was fine--she was out of line to start that conversation in the first place.  Frankly, unless there were absolutely no option, I probably would stop shopping at that store--I despise when people make comments on my purchases.

Library Dragon:
You were fine.  She should be embarrassed.  The cashier was way out of line.  As anti-smoking as I am if I worked some place that sells cigarettes I'd have to shut my mouth and make any legal sales. 

I feel for your daughter.  How awkward for her to be called out like that.  You supported her in your response. 

She is paid to ring up your purchases (including cigarettes) not make judgements on your life style choices.  She was out of line and you were fine.  If she has a problem with people smoking, she needs to find a job where she is not responsible for selling them.


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