Grocery Store Didn’t Make Customers Pay During Power Outage; Now They’re Paying It Forward

When the lights went out suddenly on a Tuesday in an H-E-B grocery store in Texas, a “collective groan” came over the crowded store. The electricity had been going on and off as freezing temperatures overwhelmed the power grid, and people were just trying to stock up on groceries to weather the storm. Lines were 20 carts deep with customers waiting to check out, and now there was no electricity to check any of them out.

Given the emergency situation, the H-E-B in Leander, Texas, decided not to charge customers who weren’t able to pay in cash. Instead, cashiers simply waved them through the line and told them to drive safely.

Photo: Adobe Stock/

Tim Hennessy was shopping that day with his wife and remembers being ushered quickly through the line and not asked to pay. He says he even teared up at the sight of so many people getting their much-needed groceries for free.

“And it hit us — like, wow, they’re just letting us walk out the door,” the 60-year-old man recalls.

Out in the parking lot, people’s grocery carts were getting stuck in the snow, and people’s groceries were spilling out all over the place. But in the spirit of neighborliness, people were stopping to help each other out, holding each other’s bags and picking up each other’s spilled groceries. Some people were even helping push cars to get them moving in the snow.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Kirill Gorlov

“People are really good, and you see it in the tougher times,” says Hennessy.

Since the event, stories of the store’s kindness have gone viral as a bright silver lining on a dark and terrifying cloud. The deadly winter storms have left Texans and other Americans in the southern states scrambling for access to clean water and food. Folks have been unable to keep warm without electricity and unable to access vital medications and other supplies.

“The country’s been through a lot in this last year and a half or so, right? Since last March, I guess, really,” Hennessy says. “A lot of division, a lot of stuff going on, and on top of this, in Texas here, we’ve got this weather…. They’re not ready for this.”

Photo: Adobe Stock/EdNurg

Hennessy, who works in information technology, called H-E-B that following Friday to ask if there was a specific charity they’d like him to donate to. He wanted to pay their kindness forward. He and others like him have since made donations in the store’s honor to help others in need.

Texas’s situation has continued to get more extreme in some parts of the state. Hennessy says his home lost running water the next day, and, while it’s back now, he knows there was some costly damage done to public infrastructure while the power and water were off. Much of the state is still being told to boil their water before drinking it, and some people still haven’t gotten their water and power back.

Photo: Adobe Stock/EdNurg

But moments like that neighborly one at the H-E-B on Tuesday are helping people feel hopeful as they weather the storm. Hennessy says he believes the store management’s mindset was, “You’re our customers. You probably need this stuff. Go ahead and have a nice day.” And if we all thought a little bit more like that, the world would be a much better place.

It’s amazing how such a simple act of kindness can change someone’s day for the better and even impact their whole life. Let’s all try to be a little kinder to each other.

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