Bullies are the scourge of so many schools and workplaces. And their actions hurt us all: not only those who become targets, but also the witnesses to that abuse. However, when an apparent bully began abusing a bag boy with Down syndrome, the young man was not short of defenders.
Peter was working as a bag boy in Kilroy’s Wonder Market, a grocery store in New Jersey, and holding down a regular job was a worthwhile achievement for the young man. This is because Peter has Down syndrome. Down syndrome typically affects growth and intellectual ability, and this generally makes it harder for individuals with the condition to find employment.
Peter worked carefully, though, bagging customers’ groceries at his own speed. Unfortunately, it was this deliberate style that drew the ire of one customer, who apparently didn’t appreciate the job that the store employee was doing.
Seemingly in a rush and frustrated at the length of time that he was waiting, the man in question began complaining to the people behind him in the line. “This might take a while, we’re in the r****ded line,” he said to a woman nearby. “Look how slow he’s going.”
Meanwhile, the woman looked a little taken aback, perhaps not fully understanding what she was hearing. There was no confusion, however, once the bully made things clear. “They shouldn’t hire these kinds of people,” he added. The other customer chose to react in a quite different manner, however.
In fact, the woman in line immediately came to Peter’s defense, strongly disagreeing with what the bullying customer had said. “Leave him alone, that’s not nice. You’re mistreating this young man. And you ought to cut it out,” she told the man ahead of her.
The female customer then sternly rebuked the bully and fired a parting shot as he left the store. “You’re not back in here,” she said, threatening him. As she took her place at the checkout, Peter apologized to her for the delay. She was quick to tell him that it was no problem and that he should take his time.
Yet the apparent bully did come back to the store, once again waiting in Peter’s line. However, when he made hurtful comments about the young man this time around, not one but two other customers came to his defense. And, as it turns out, they were equally disgusted with the comments being made about Peter.
“Don’t speak to him like that, there’s no reason for that,” a female bystander said, trying to reason with the bully. A man nearby also told him, “At least [Peter] is trying, give him a chance.” Perhaps, then, the two people expected the other man to fold and change his behavior.
However, the bully retorted, “I did give him a chance. He’s taking too long.” The fact that the angry man did not back down when confronted appeared to surprise and irritate these two onlookers. One of them even said that she would call the police if the bully wouldn’t leave.
Meanwhile, the second person made the argument that if the bully didn’t like the store – or its employees – he ought to go elsewhere. “Go to any [other] store,” the man said in response to the bully. “You don’t like it, no one put a gun to your head and made you come here.”
But once these customers had stood up for Peter, the real truth of the situation was revealed. In fact, the bully was just an actor, as was the victim, Peter. And their interaction had been staged specifically to learn the reactions of ordinary members of the public to bullying.
It was all part of an ABC show called What Would You Do?, where contentious situations are staged to determine how regular people would behave. Hosted by John Quiñones, the show interviews people after their reactions have been recorded by hidden cameras. Additionally, some details of the scenes are often altered for each performance.
In this instance, the scene was changed so that the bully in question was a woman. This was done to see if people would react any differently to a female tormentor. Heartwarmingly, though, it seemingly didn’t matter what the gender of the bully was: the shoppers still forcefully defended Peter.
Now, then, a female actor – Michele – took her place in line at Peter’s checkout. And Michele is seen on camera talking to the woman next to her, saying, “Honey, I hope you are not in a rush, because this is the r****ded lane.”
The customer immediately responded to the slur, though. “That isn’t a word that we use anymore in school,” the other woman replied. “I work as a teacher, and I try to be sensitive to someone’s needs. Sometimes we all need to do that.”
However, Michele took the ruse further, explaining that she thinks the grocery store should train Peter in the storeroom. Additionally, she said, he should be trained using “the dented cans” to prevent damage. And to finish, the actor added, “[Peter] shouldn’t be working here. He’s clearly r****ed.”
The teacher simply asked if the conversation was over, because she would like to get on with paying for her groceries. Then once the bully left, she told Peter to try and ignore people like that, if he could. Yet it was what happened next that showed this heartwarming story at its best.
The woman then stops explaining and walks over to Peter to give him a hug. And finally, after a few seconds, the camera crew revealed itself. The host of the show, Quiñones, duly shook the woman’s hand and told her that she was being filmed for his television show.
What’s more, Michele would also draw an extremely angry reaction from one shopper – a person who wasn’t even in the line. This shopper heard the abuse from across the store and severely rebuked the actor for her offensive behavior. And during her interview, the customer laughed and explained that she just had to assert herself against the bully.