After four years on the job, a New Hampshire woman was fired because she refused to sell cigarettes to a customer who tried to pay with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card (the debit card equivalent of food stamps), according to the Sentinel Source.
Jackie R. Whiton said that a 20-something-year-old male came into her Big Apple convenience store on May 29 and handed her an EBT card while trying to purchase two packs of cigarettes.
Jackie Whiton (image courtesy Boston Herald)
It’s important to note that there are two types of EBT cards: one is for essential grocery items and the other can be used for pretty much anything. The customer had the latter.
Whiton told the customer that EBT cards shouldn’t be used to purchase luxury items such as cigarettes. Of course, the EBT holder didn’t take her refusal lightly and the two “had a little go-around” while the checkout line grew larger.
“I made the statement, ‘do you think myself, that lady, and that gentlemen should pay for your cigarettes?’ and he responded ‘yes.’ Then he said, ‘Give me back my card.’ And I said, ‘Give me back my cigarettes,’” Whiton said.
Although the customer left without his cigarettes, that wasn’t the end of the story: “The next day Whiton said the customer’s foster mother came to the store to complain,” the Source reports.
Wait — a man old enough to buy cigarettes had his mother go talk to the mean lady at the convenience store? He’s going to need a lot more than cigarettes to look tough after that.
Either way, the 65-year-old wasn’t cowed by the boy’s foster mother and told her that EBT card holders shouldn’t be buying cigarettes with taxpayer’s dollars. Not surprisingly, the store’s management wasn’t too thrilled with Whiton.
She “received a call later that day from the company’s home office in Maine, telling her it had received a complaint about her and reprimanded her,” according to the Source.
But Whiton wasn’t about to change her mind.
“I said I would bow out gracefully and give my notice because I didn’t want to be a part of it. I’m 65 years old, you know?” she said.
That’s right. Whiton quit her job rather than sell cigarettes to someone living off an EBT card.
“Charles E. Wilkins, the general manager of the C.N. Brown Co. that runs the stores, said the EBT cards in the cash phase could be used for any items, including alcohol, tobacco and gambling,” the Source reports. “Wilkins said the company gave Whiton the option of staying but she said she would not accept the cards anymore.”
“She didn’t think it was right and just wasn’t going to sell to people in that program anymore,” Wilkins said.
A Big Apple convenience store in Brewer, Maine (image courtesy: BDN Maine)
After she took her stand and gave her notice, she was still expecting another week of work. However, it didn’t quite work out that way.
“Whiton said when she came to work the next day, her manager asked her how much notice she was giving. When she responded ‘a week,’ she was told the home office had just called and fired her,” the Source report.
Wilkins says that had they given her one more week, she would have had to accept the cards.
“Company policy is to follow rules and regulations, and the sale of cigarettes to EBT card-holders is legal. She didn’t wish to follow company policy, so she was let go after four years,” a company spokesman said, according to the Boston Herald.
Whiton said that she doesn’t have a problem with a program that helps low-income people buy groceries. She just doesn’t think people should be using taxpayer dollars to buy cigarettes.
“They can’t even buy toilet paper with the EBT grocery cards but they can buy beer and cigarettes with the EBT cash cards,” Whiton said, “Go figure.”
Whiton is not currently looking for work, according to the Source.
This story has been updated.