Customers Speak Up When Clerk Shortchanges Blind Person

It's easy to tell the difference between a $1, $5, $10 or even $50 bill -- that is, if you can see. But, if you're blind like more than 1 million Americans, a simple shopping trip becomes a game of blind trust.

Because U.S. bills are not distinguishable by size, shape or texture, visually impaired people can't distinguish dollar amounts without assistance.

They frequently have to rely on salesclerks or nearby strangers.

Cheating the blind
Stealing from the Blind: Would You Intervene?

But what if the clerk or stranger is dishonest? ABC News wanted to find out how people would respond if they noticed a cashier shortchanging a blind customer.

Watch the story tonight on ABC's "What Would You Do?"

With the cooperation of Gencarelli's, a bakery in Bloomfield, N.J., ABC News rigged the store with hidden cameras and hired two blind actors to pose as customers and another actor to portray the unscrupulous salesclerk.

'What Am I, the Heritage for the Blind?'

It began as Pamela, the blind actress, waited in line and other patrons started to overhear some demeaning dialogue from the salesclerk.

"Would Helen Keller step up to the front, please?"

Pamela brushed the comment aside and proceeded to order a cheesecake. She paid for the $16 cake with a $50 bill. After receiving her change, she asked for assistance in deciphering the bills and was met with even more harsh words.

"What? I have to count this. What am I, the heritage for the blind or something?"

If this wasn't bad enough, the clerk also cheated her. He handed her what he said were a $20 and a $10, but they were actually singles. Would anyone step up to help the blind woman?

The first group of customers to walk into the bakery sat back and listened as the clerk's tirade went on for several minutes. Other customers clearly noticed the cheating but seemed hesitant to take on the clerk. But not Beth Carnicella, who stepped forward in defiance and told him, "I don't think it's nice what you're doing."

The clerk protested, saying that Pamela had received correct change but Carnicella didn't buy it. Almost immediately, she changed tactics and looked for someone else to clear this up.

"Where's your boss? Where's your boss?" she demanded.

After a minute of arguing, she was about to give up and take her business elsewhere but couldn't bear to leave. That's when ABC News let Carnicella in on the experiment and asked why she'd stepped up. Her answer: "I guess that is how I was brought up."

Group Rallies to Defend Pamela

Later in the day, Jessica Gonzales stepped up to help the blind actor. From the back of the line, she rushed to Pamela's aid, calling out, "They're all singles, these are all singles. What are you doing?"

Other people, who had been passively watching the action unfold, began chiming in that she had in fact paid with a $50, not a $20, as the clerk was now claiming.

Gonzales persisted. "You're acting like a total idiot in front of her, she's not a handicap," she said in a loud, firm voice. "Just give her change."

Now an angry mob of people formed behind Pamela, standing with their arms crossed, glaring at the clerk. Just like Carnicella, they refused to leave without talking to the manager.

Later, another group defended Pamela. After they succeeded in getting her money back, they continued to hold what appeared to be a group therapy session.

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