(NEW YORK) — Is a $15 gift card enough to compensate for public humiliation at your local grocery store? According to one Georgia woman, the answer is absolutely not.
Cindy Nerger, 28, who relies on food stamps to feed her family, said she was brought to tears after being embarrassed by a manager at a Kroger store in Warner Robbins, Ga.
“He said, ‘Excuse me for working for a living and not relying on food stamps like you,’” Nerger said the manager told her.
The man’s comment came after Nerger and two other store employees disagreed over whether her total purchase was eligible for food stamps — the employees had insisted that roughly $10 of her bill was not covered. She said the manager ultimately told the employees to “just give it to her.”
After Nerger then stressed that she had been right all along, the man made his “working for a living” remark, she said.
“I turned around and realized how many people heard him and how many saw that happened and I was so embarrassed… I started crying,” she said.
In a statement to ABCNews.com, a Kroger spokesman said, “We deeply regret our customer’s experience. The comments made were not reflective of our company’s policy. We value all of our customers. Please know that we have taken immediate steps to make sure something like this never happens again.”
The spokesman did not reply to a follow-up message asking for more information, but a local Georgia television station reported that Kroger had transferred the manager at the center of the controversy to another store.
Nerger said the reason she and her family — she is married with a daughter — must rely on food stamps is because her husband’s carpentry business isn’t profitable enough to support the family.
Meanwhile, Nerger must devote 12 hours every night to a dialysis treatment to combat her kidney disease, which she’s struggled with since the age of 11. She’s been on a kidney transplant list for five years and hopes that someday, after a successful transplant, she can become a working member of society. She would like to attend college to major in child psychology.
“There’s just so much stigmatism put on people on food stamps. They’re just some losers who don’t want to work. That isn’t the case in every situation,” she said.
Nerger’s account of her run-in with a Kroger manager went viral after she posted it to her Facebook page, prompting friends to encourage her to post a message to a local television station. The station ended up contacting her and doing a story.
Kroger, meanwhile, responded to a complaint Nerger passed on through the store’s national customer service line by apologizing and offering her a $15 gift card. Nerger said she rejected the offer because she doesn’t plan on shopping at Kroger again.
What she wants, she said, is an apology directly from the manager, whom she also believes should be demoted from his job and trained how to treat customers properly.
She stopped short of saying the man should lose his job.
“I didn’t want anybody to be in the food stamp line with me,” she said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Kathryn Vasel, CNN
Magdala Louissaint, KPVI
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com
Doug Criss, CNN