I said no. Well, really I said, "No, I'm sorry, my phone is about to die," which wasn't true, but seemed nicer than a flat out "no."
He thanked me and walked on. I saw him a few aisles over approach another customer.
I thought about what had happened and wondered if I had been wrong to say no. Certainly it was wrong to make up a story. I could have just said, "No, I'm sorry."
As he walked away, I thought about what made me uncomfortable about the situation. It wasn't the color of his skin. It was two things.
The first was his accent. In the 15 seconds that it took for me to hear his request and formulate a response, I made a judgement that he might call some faraway country and rack up big charges on my account. Or that he might, somehow with me standing right there, get me caught up in a big scheme. The fact that we were as far away from the entrance to the store as possible was the second red flag for me. If he was arranging a ride home, why wouldn't he be nearer to the exit?
Was I being paranoid? Prudent? I've been the target of a scam before, so I'm sure that colored my response. What would you have done?