One Friday Morning at Shoppers Drug Mart

A weekend to remember

Many of my friends make fun of the size of my wallet. Dual currencies, loyalty cards, receipts and business cards all poke out of it like dirty clothes in a full hamper. Upon my recent return home from a trip to Toronto to celebrate my mother’s birthday and my friend’s wedding I decided to purge the majority of these items but I’ve opted to keep two things with me at times from now on. These two seemingly unimportant items will serve as a reminder that in deep dark places where we care not to own up to it, hatred and ignorance still exist in Canada of all places. 

Last Friday, I walked into Shoppers Drug Mart before I settled into the Toronto office. The plan was simple — pickup a card for the wedding and a gift card; things I could have easily picked up in the US, but decided to pick both items up in Canada. I found the right card that captured the sentiment that I felt for the bride and groom — one of best wishes, love, respect and it said everything that I would have said if I had time to compose the message myself. I found the prepaid card which was the amount I had my heart set on and I walked up to the register. I was second in line, ready to cash out and my eyes met with the cashier. She seemed lovely at first, low ponytail, low energy in her eyes, and rung up my items with casual indifference. Not caucasian, definitely asian, on Canadian soil but her specific background was unknown. I could have bought an anal plug and a breast pump and she wouldn’t have batted an eye. I pulled out my Chase VISA Debit card, the same card I’ve used at that Queen West Shoppers many times on many trips to Toronto. In that moment what was casual indifference quickly turned to suspicion. She took a minute, looked at my card, scanned the wedding card and paused at the prepaid card. “Sir,” she began, “I cannot use this card for security reasons. We cannot process gift card purchases greater than $100.” I responded with a blank stare. I knew I was only going to leave with no items or 1 item but not both. 

“I’ve purchased these prepaid cards many times with my VISA debit card,” I responded. I decided to take her on, knowing full well, I would have an opportunity to purchase the card again at another Shoppers location closer to the hotel that I booked for the night. 

“No sir, we cannot do this.” She quipped and crossed her arms. 

Then I decided, let’s make things really awkward. “I’m happy to buy my denomination in 50s, 20s and 10s and wait until you process it via separate transactions.”  We both paused. She needed a way out. I was not about to back down but I wanted to see this through. I knew I was going to lose, but I wanted to see how this would actually play out. 

She offered a discussion with her manager. She picked up the phone, made a call — or what I thought was a call. A conversation with her manager happened, real or not, and then she said “sorry, we cannot sell you the prepaid cards today or accept your VISA debit.”

At this point, I decided this was enough for both of us, and I purchased the greeting card with Canadian dollars, thanked the woman for her time and went on my way. Across town later that afternoon, I was able to purchase the prepaid card at the 24 hour Shoppers Drug Mart at Yonge and Carlton. It was the denomination that I wanted and I was served by another female cashier who also was of Canadian Asian descent. I paid with my card like I always have and without issue. It was at this point that I realized what had happened in Queen West. Was it the name on the card that stopped her in her tracks? Was it me? Was it both? Who knows. One thing for sure is that the next time that I am in Toronto and happen to meet face to face with that Queen West cashier in that same Shoppers Drug Mart, I may just reach into my wallet and show her my two receipts. 



  1. There’s a policy about purchasing Credit Card gift cards with credit cards – I’ve had multiple issues at various Shoppers Drug Marts. I once purchased $250 gift cards for my staff of 20 with my corp AMEX – I had to get letters of approval from CFO of my company and my AMEX business rep. It’s to prevent someone using a stolen credit card to purchase credit – it makes sense when you think about it. Knowing that your Chase card had VISA emblazoned on it, she probably assumed that you were purchasing the gift cards with a VISA, and not debit. Reminder, that Canada doesn’t have debit credit (yet). With that said, I don’t think this was a race thing, a name thing, or any “thing” of the sort. A lot of these front-line workers are just following the rules – as they really depend on their jobs. Sometimes you just need to be the bigger person.

    • Once she made it about me and not the policy…I was the bigger person that day. Thank you for your comment.

      • Re read the post. If it was policy then I wouldn’t have been able to buy the prepaid card at another location within the same city.

  2. Reread original response. The policy is real – the other cashier clearly did not do their job correctly.

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