As a severely visually impaired person, I use a white cane in the public and unfamiliar shops for identification purposes and as a mobility aid. I regularly encounter sellers at bakeries or fast food restaurants who would like to give me my entire, usually smaller purchase, for free. I always refuse the offer because I am able to pay, but I feel like I'm making them very insecure and scared about our conversation. A typical of these conversations is like:

Me: Good day, is it my turn to order?
Seller: Yes, it is!
I tell them what I want
Seller: Alright! Have a nice day!
Seller hands me a bag with the items
Me: How much is it?
Seller: Oh, it's on us!
Me: Are you sure?
Seller: Absolutely!
Me: Why? I'd like to pay!
Awkward situation and silence

If they really refuse my payment after this, I look out for a donation box (kinda like a tip jar, but the content goes to a local charity) and put some money in there.

A friend of mine has suggested to actively remind the sellers of the situation of many homeless people, who often won't even consider approaching a shop like theirs, and that they should rather make a donation to their local food bank or the people who really need it. He also suggested that I say "I'm able to pay despite my visual impairment, others aren't." to them as well. However, I think that sounds kind of arrogant and pitiful at the same time.

So, what should I do or say to these sellers to prevent the conversation from becoming awkward in the first place? I feel really uncomfortable taking goods for free, but sometimes I have no other option.

  • 2
    In what kind of environment is this? Big anonymous city? Small town where they might know you? From time to time I have been offered something small for free too, without any obvious reason on why this could have been. I think this is because the people that did it for some reason really like to do that, or just could afford it. They were looking for an opportunity, and they think they found one in you. I kind of understand the feelings that this evokes in you, but their motivation might be to like giving and seeing an opportunity. Keep that in mind when you express your refusal.
    – PlasmaHH
    Aug 30, 2017 at 14:48
  • 1
    @PlasmaHH I live in a fairly large city, and I don't know the people, really. Aug 30, 2017 at 14:50

9 Answers 9


Note that I am not experienced with blindness, but the generic solution to getting offered something that you don't feel like accepting seems applicable here. This answer has been extensively tested since I started coming into contact with Chinese people more frequently.

Politely insist

Your conversation is entirely normal untill this point:

Seller: "Oh, it's on us!"

At this point you should avoid all of the following things: - Appearing to be tempted by the offer - Asking a question - Coming up with a reason/excuse - Being passive aggressive

All of these will push the person's mind into a direction where you don't want it to go. Either because he will be triggered to think more on the situation, and strengthen his feelings through self-confirmation, or because you are being unpleasant.

Instead, my favorite reply in these situations is a confidently presented:

I insist

Try smiling when you say this, as opposed to showing that you didn't like their offer. More importantly, keep in mind that you should mostly make sure they feel like it is not an opening into a discussion.

If they continue by keeping the discussion open, for instance with one of the following:

We won't miss it, just take it

It is my pleasure

Surely you deserve it

Then it is important to be consistent. So again avoid discussing the matter and in a positive and non-awkward way simply say:

I really insist

At this point, most people should get the point and the situation is resolved with minimal awkwardness.


I know you may feel a bit awkward but I think the best way to deal with it is to just be honest and concise.

Just offer to pay and if they insist then just maybe say:

This happens to me a lot, thank you for the kind offer but I'd like to pay.

Then if they really insist like you suggested maybe be a bit to the point (still a friendly tone of voice, no need to get angry or raise your voice/be rude) and say:

I may be blind but I do have the money to pay and would prefer to, if you really want to give some food away then give it to the homeless centre they need it more than I do.

People will eventually get the message, I know it may feel awkward at first but if you don't want it then don't let yourself be treated a certain way just because of your condition.

Some people aren't very clued up on disabilities and think this is how you're supposed to treat anyone with one, by doing this you're just helping inform society on respect and treatment of people with disabilities so don't worry too much about it.


My first thought would be is it important to refuse the gesture and if the answer is yes, then to answer why is it important to refuse?

I don't think the giver in such a situation thinks you cannot pay, as it would be illogical to think you came in, ordered, and had no money. It seems in such a situation they are simply trying to do something nice that for some reason doesn't feel good to you. What is your reason that it feels improper to say thank you and receive the gesture/gift?

I can tell you as someone who has owned a small business, that the donation boxes we had were things we already supported, which is how they ended up on the counter. So I would not recommend that in such a case the "receiver" ever suggest what the giver should do instead. You have no idea what they do overall (as kind people tend to be kind in many other ways, including perhaps already giving to such things) and it will sometimes be offensive no matter how you word that suggestion as it implies they don't give correctly, enough, properly, or any other assumption about what they do.

I say all this because it appears that your assumption (which might be correct) is that they are giving to you because of your visual impairment and you then feel like it's not just a human being nice to a human, but an act of charity. As such, that is where you are feeling discomfort.

The best way I can think of to avoid the issue ever arising is to have your money out and ready. Generally speaking it would be much less natural to offer this if have your money already on the counter and then have them tell you to keep it. I would think if you know it will likely be 5 or less for your order and place a 10 when ordering, then they would be less inclined to not give you the total.

As a final thought. When kindness is met warmly, people are then more inclined to continue to be kind. If they attempt to be kind, and then are made to feel awkward or strange over it, they will be less inclined to do it again. I understand that you are in no way obligated to say yes. No one is, ever. I just want to say that if you are concerned about something like donations, it may work toward your goal of giving to worthwhile charities to simply say thank you, give that money then to a charity you value, and therefore encourage the giver to continue to show a spirit of generosity going forward.

I am also so curious about where you live. I am in the USA have a good friend for over 25 years that is nearly totally blind and I have never seen this happen with him or hear him talk about anything like this. If anything I find most people irritatingly oblivious and rude about it.

  • 1
    I am also so curious of where you live: OP tagged Germany :) but I was also very surprised, I had never seen that before in that part of the world...
    – OldPadawan
    Aug 30, 2017 at 12:27
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    @OldPadawan I must have overlooked that. I will say when I went to Germany as a visitor I was given a lot of things. I thought it was a kindness to a visitor in my case, and I mean, things like I said I liked this glass while at a bar & the waitress told me to take it, then brought me 3 others that were different but matched it. I brought back so many things I was simply given for saying I liked it. Again, I am not sure how common it is, we were visiting a friend and we went to lots of areas that aren't as touristy and where they seemed happy to have us.
    – threetimes
    Aug 30, 2017 at 19:01
  • "When kindness is met warmly, people are then more inclined to continue to be kind" I suspect this is part of the OP's reason for not wanting to accept (I'm sure it would be part of mine if I were in a comparable situation)... there's a "fear" that they will keep giving you things for free, which could become uncomfortable when there's no real reason for them to do so (and -- if a precedent were set -- make things even more uncomfortable: for them if they wanted to stop, or for the recipient if they did stop).
    – TripeHound
    Aug 31, 2017 at 11:39
  • I meant in general, the inclination. OP specified unfamiliar shops. It seems then unlikely repeat interactions. If I attempt to be kind to someone, who also happens to have some level of disability, it becomes awkward if it is assumed then that my kindness is due to that. I am nice to people all the time. I have randomly bought coffee for the "person behind me" and such things. What is that person is blind? Am I now offending them if I treat them like other people I am also nice to? That is the issue. OP assumes reasoning that isn't being stated.
    – threetimes
    Aug 31, 2017 at 14:50

A slightly different view of this may help.

Maybe it makes them feel good to help.

By refusing you are possibly making them feel they are not wanted.

So I'd suggest you take a more polite approach :

Thanks very much. But, honestly, I get a bit uncomfortable when people offer me things and I'm fine with paying.

If they insist then perhaps just say :

Well, if you insist. Thanks.

If you push your rejection you probably will cause a little hurt.

Next time you're in the same place, if you're offered again :

No, really, you're very kind. I can't make a habit of this. It's your livelihood, after all.

Or something like that.

But remember that some people simply feel good when they help others. Don't rush to deprive them of that feeling. You may, in that sense, be giving them something in return which they value as much as, or more than, the money.


The awkward part happens when you ask them to articulate the obvious: you're blind. Looking again,

Me: "How much is it?"
Seller: "Oh, it's on us!"
Me: "Are you sure?"
Seller: "Absolutely!"
Me: "Why? I'd like to pay!"
Seller: It's because you're blind, of course, and your life is harder than mine and I feel that anything that I can do to make it a bit better is worth doing! And besides, it makes me feel good to help others who are otherwise obviously like me!

You ask,

what should I do or say to these sellers to prevent the conversation from becoming awkward in the first place?

That one's easy. Don't ask them why they're doing it.

If you want to pay, don't even entertain not paying (no, "Are you sure?).

If you like free stuff, just say, "Thanks! You just made my day!"

If you want to contribute to others, try,

You're very kind, but I'm fine to pay. If you want to help someone in my place, though, there's a homeless shelter that takes left-over baked goods on #rd and #th.


You're very kind. I'll be sure to pay it forward! (smile.)

  • @CarolinaWinter _ I'm sorry; rereading this, I feel it's very harsh. I don't want to call attention to it by editing (it'll push it to the top, and it already has an accepted answer), but I do want to apologize for being so blunt. Your comment is very gracious. I'll try to learn from it. Aug 31, 2017 at 0:24
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    Turns out I've commented on this by mistake before, so let me just write down my thoughts about this answer: Not entertaining a no and paying things forward myself is not an option and too much hassle for me. I would like to be treated equally and actually pay for the things I'm buying. Aug 31, 2017 at 6:04

Another option for paying it forward is to thanks them for the gift, and then give them a 5 or 10 (approximately the cost of your item) and ask that they apply it to the next customer's order. If your offer is aimed towards another customer, rather than charity, it will help to show you don't feel/want charity aimed at you while still politely accepting their gift AND making someone else's day better.


You have already decided on some thoughtful advice, but I thought that perhaps I could offer another possible way to do things.
Disclaimer: I am in the United States (U S A); I've been to a few other places, but never Deutschland.

I myself have dealt with a recurring eye injury for some time now; I can see legibly out of one eye at the moment, but who knows about tomorrow?
Furthermore, my condition can be quite painful. The blurry vision is less of a problem than the pain with any attempt to use my eyes when the condition is at its worst.

Anyways. One of the things I've learned is that such conditions are only impairments when we compare them to the conditions of others. At the heart of the matter, they are merely a special set of parameters with which a person must learn to cope. Everyone does that; sometimes they take for granted a given condition, like the ability to read at 20/20 vision.
That's where the problem arises, I think. Think of it another way: almost nobody misses the inability to detect the direction of odors or the inability to hear a field mouse scratching at dirt from 20 meters distant. That is because they never noticed the difference between that and their usual condition.

It is much the same with lack of vision or mobility. Someone who has never experienced or even contemplated such conditions cannot possibly conceive of such a life; sure, adjusting to the difference can be difficult, and require a bit of help at the outset. Once you learn the tricks, though, it isn't much different from how most people live their lives: for example, most of us are unable to directly perceive the ubiquitous cosmic rays that pass through our bodies every hour of every day, for example; as another example, many people nowadays completely dismiss the possibility o unseen, larger dimensions to our universe which has been described in the past as some variation of a spirit world — if you believe in such things.

How I do digress and ramble along.
One possible choice of actions that you could consider is to have a simple and convenient explanation ready for people who insist or seem obligated to treat you as if your blindness cripples you, or renders you invalid. I would not recommend going through everything I've spewed in these paragraphs, of course.
Here are some examples:

  • Is it because of my blindness? Really, it isn't a problem for me. I've learned to live like this, and I am happy and doing well.
  • I appreciate your compassion, but you don't need to feel sorry for me. Indeed, not being able to see has really opened my eyes to ways of experiencing the world around me in ways that most people go their whole lives and never know.
    (Pun intended.)
  • I respect the gesture of goodwill, but I honestly don't need it. I don't even consider my lack of vision an injury. I'm no more disabled than you or anyone else; I simply deal with things differently.
  • You know, I voluntarily exchanged my eyesight for superhuman enhancements to my other senses. I can wrestle you to the ground for a demonstration if you would like.
    (That one was a bad joke. Don't judge me too harshly, please.)

Four examples. That should be enough to convey the gist.
I strove to make the examples concise and varied. I hope they don't read as being too hackneyed or cliché.
Does this all sound too melodramatic? If so, then I hope it can be useful or helpful despite all that.

In conclusion, it all has to do with your demeanor: pace and tone of voice — as you well know. Take care not to give the other person a reason to feel sorrow for you. If you've had a long and trying day, then you can shorten your responses, of course.
The thing to remember is that there is a chance the person with whom you are interacting genuinely doesn't understand what things are like for you. They probably aren't meaning to make you uncomfortable: they simply do not know any better. That is the whole premise behind my recommendations: education, one person at a time. Turn it around and be the one helping them.

If at the end of all that, this short essay is not helpful, I would like to quote something that someone once said:

Disregard, then.

  • Thanks for your reply, but I don't think this helps with the question specifically. I feel like I would make the situation even more awkward by actually talking about my visual impairment, and I'd have to have a reason as well that doesn't sound pitiful. Aug 31, 2017 at 5:59
  • @CarolinaWinter Certainly: In such a scenario, there is no reason to do anything with which you are not comfortable. Aug 31, 2017 at 23:54

It's all about brightening each other's day

I like some of the answers here especially by Dennis and threetimes. One thing I would add, however, that may run contrary to what you are asking is that sometimes accepting gifts from others is actually a way of showing kindness to that other person.

I used to have trouble accepting things for free and still do to an extent. Though I am not completely sure why that is.

However, one thing I have learned is that by accepting gifts from others it actually helps to brighten the other person's day. I have had to realize that it is not just about me it is about the other person.

While I am not suggesting you start accepting gifts from everyone it might be something to keep in mind that in some situations accepting the gift might be very meaningful to the other person.

Lastly, if it's a place you shop frequently, use this as an opportunity to get to know the people better. Dennis gave some good advice in saying "I insist". Many people respect that type of firmness and authority that it shows especially when done in a friendly way with a smile on your face. Once they accept your payment, change the topic and find out a couple of things about the other person and give them the opportunity to find out a couple things about you if they so choose. Doing that helps to build relationship and connection with the other person and will likely help to brighten both your and the other person's day.


I would take an alternate tack - since you're ordering with less information than sighted people this is what you need to resolve first. Rather than order what you want, and then ask the price which puts you in a position that most people actively avoid, ask the cost first, say you want some and if you can't tally the cost up for multiple items, pay.

Repeat as required.

After the first dozen items, they should get the hint that you want to pay for everything and ideally, offer you the price of items you ask for rather than await for you to ask it.

  • 1
    I'm sorry, I'm falling to see how this would prevent the seller to offer the goods (or at least some of it) for free. Could you elaborate on that? Do you have specific experience with this kind of situation that you could use to back this up?
    – Ael
    Nov 21, 2018 at 15:00

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