Woman refuses to allow teen employee to lend customer $5: 'It's my own money, and I can do what I want'

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.

In my late teens, I worked for a bank. Although I typically don't reference the places I've worked by name, I'll make an exception this time for several reasons. The bank itself has long since been taken over by a larger bank, and the bank branch building where I worked currently sits empty and is available for lease.

The financial institution where I worked was called People's Bank. That's important because there were several other unrelated financial institutions by the same name scattered across the country.

Now and then, a customer from one of the other People's Bank banks walked into our branch hoping to check on their account or make a transaction. They always left disappointed. The bank where I worked did not do business across state lines, and we were not affiliated with those other banks with the same name.

One day, a young woman entered the bank. She wanted to make a withdrawal. When she learned we weren't actually part of her bank of the same name, she burst into tears. She asked whether we could let her withdraw just five bucks for gas.

Alas, there was no way to make an exception for her, regardless of how much we may have wanted to help her. We simply weren't part of her financial institution.

"Can I borrow five dollars and pay it back later?" she asked with tears streaming down her face.

My immediate supervisor advised her the answer was no.

As the non-customer dejectedly walked back into the parking lot, I dug furiously through my purse for a five-dollar bill. Triumphant, I held the five-dollar bill aloft and announced that I would be right back. "I'm just going to run outside and let that lady borrow five dollars," I said.

My immediate supervisor immediately shut me down. "No," she said. "You're not. Put that away and sit back down."

I sat back down, but I wasn't happy about it. "It's my own money, and I can do what I want with it," I protested.

"Don't you dare go out there and give her your money," my supervisor said.

"Fine," I replied. I put the money back in my purse. I was trembling and near tears from being scolded in front of my coworkers.

I watched the woman in the parking lot through the plate-glass window that ran the length of the bank lobby. I wondered how much of a difference my five bucks would have made, especially if she needed to put gas in her tank.

I felt sad and helpless because I'd wanted to help her and couldn't. To this day, I think I should have stood up to my supervisor. She may have been in charge at work, but she wasn't in charge of the money in my purse.

She was just a bully, and I just wanted to help someone in need. What would you have done? Comments are welcome.

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