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The day a stranger paid my grocery bill

IF, like me, you ever enjoyed grocery shopping, that probably all changed once you had kids. For one, your cooking habits alter rapidly when you're trying to feed smallies and much of that kitchen creativity and spontaneity goes from your weekly shopping.

THEN there's the awful stress of carting small kids and keeping them under control, entertained and interested.

Some turn into wild things, howling at full volume for items they know they're not allowed – like Coco Pops or trays of muffins. Others sneakily grab and deposit uninvited junk food into the trolley, hoping it will go undetected until it's been paid for and is being unpacked.


Then there's the shameless marauder, maybe the most frightening example, who stalks the aisles menacingly eyeballing contraband to defiantly load into the trolley.

They thrive on seizing packets of brightly coloured junk food, which they dump into the trolley quicker than their hapless mum or dad can remove it.

Arguments inevitably ensue and voices rise as these grocery-store guerrillas work on embarrassing their parents into making the purchase simply to shut them up, and stop people staring sympathetically. Even if you do manage to have impeccably behaved kids, there's always the chance something will go wrong at the checkout. We all know someone who's filled their trolley, only to realise they've left their wallet at home or discovered they don't have enough cash.

Even more frustrating is when your credit card is refused or there's a technical error with your Laser. Yesterday, I paid a visit to our new Lidl store to do my week's shopping with my daughter. Despite not knowing where things were, and having to double back on several aisles to locate items, we managed a pretty stress-free shop... until I got to the till.

As swiftly as each item was scanned, I had it neatly packed away. I handed over my Laser card to pay the €96 bill but, for some reason, the card was refused. Three times it returned an "insufficient funds" statement, before I decided to move out of the queue in utter embarrassment.


I knew my account had money in it and decided to log on to my internet banking on my phone to double-check. (It didn't help that I'd left my phone in the car and had to traipse outside with my daughter to retrieve it.) A mum with a small boy saw what was happening and came over to offer me €60 cash. I was so touched by her kindness but insisted things would be fine. As I suspected, my account had plenty of money in it, but, once again, my card was refused.

I was directed to another till in a state of great stress. Before I had time to think, the nice mum, who'd left to put her shopping in her car, returned and insisted on paying my bill with her Laser card. She'd never seen me in her life before, yet didn't want me going home without my shopping. A complete stranger, she paid €96 for my groceries.

I gratefully accepted and got the money back to her the next day (retrieved from an ATM with the card Lidl couldn't process). My nightmare shopping trip turned into a feelgood moment, thanks to the kindness of a stranger.