Yahoo reps open wallets to cover shoppers' bills

Marieyi Dearaujo thought she had been swindled.

“There has to be a catch,” she told the stranger in the checkout line at the Mission district Foods Co. who paid her $59 grocery tab Wednesday.

“No catch,” said the man, who wore a purple shirt that read, “How good grows.”

It was not long before Dearaujo, 45, of San Francisco noticed that people in the same purple shirt had been standing in nearly every checkout line at the busy store. They were representatives from Yahoo, and they were paying up to $100 for groceries bought by shoppers — without a catch.

Sunnyvale-based Yahoo set out to spend $10,000 on groceries at Foods Co. on Wednesday to promote its nationwide random-acts-of-kindness program. The technology company wants to steer Americans to its website, kindness.yahoo.com, where folks can “update” their kind acts and learn the ripple effect they have created.

One of the lucky shoppers said she was a parking control officer, and that to pay it forward she would not hand out any tickets Wednesday.

Nicole Washington, 34, of Hunters Point paid only $48 for a full shopping cart of groceries after receiving the $100 gift. She said she could now buy food for the holidays she previously could not afford.

“God is good,” Washington said.

Most customers were so surprised that they repeatedly said, “Thank you.”

“You don’t have to whip out the wallet to be kind,” said Erin Carlson, a senior director for Yahoo! for Good. “You can pay for someone’s postage at the post office, buy gas, baby-sit for free, etc.

“We don’t want people to feel overwhelmed by changing the world. We are encouraging them to take that one simple act.”

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