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Posts Tagged ‘grocery store’

When the big grocery store chains first opened up their self-serve lanes, I raised an eyebrow and waited in the real person checker line. The reason was simple – I was afraid of being embarrassed if I screwed up. I figured that, klutz that I am, I’d wind up setting off some kind of alarm, hold up the line behind me and force an exasperated employee over to my lane to punch in some code to fix the mess I made. I didn’t have the courage to try it until I was shopping with my sister who marched right up with me and walked me through it (probably thinking to herself what a silly ninny I am).

Then I got pretty confident. Why wait in line when you can play checkout-girl yourself and breeze through in half the time? Although I always prefer human interaction, if the store was busy and the self-serve lanes were moving fast, I’d opt for self-checkout. Then I encountered a problem: alcohol. When you go through the self-checkout lane and you are purchasing, say, a bottle of wine, you have to go up to the self-checkout supervisor person and present your ID. You have to do this even if you are sixty-five, because the computer automatically demands ID since of course it cannot (yet) distinguish between a stammering 19-year-old with a case of Bud and a 31-year-old with a bottle of Merlot.

So today I stopped at the local big chain grocery store for dinner ingredients and a bottle of wine. I surveyed the express lane and the self-serve lane, and decided in the interest of human interaction to use the express lane, manned by an actual person. Then I noticed something. Most of the people in the express lane were purchasing alcohol. There was the twenty-something with a case of Miller Lite (cans) and a bag of chips, the distinguished gentleman with a bottle of cognac, and a youngish yuppie with top-shelf vodka and a couple of mixers. It immediately became apparent, however, that this express lane was anything but “express.” It was absolutely crawling. As I got closer, the reason became clear: the checker was underage. Every time someone in his lane purchased alcohol, the checker had to call an of-age person over to scan the booze. This, in my mind at least, led to a painfully obvious question: on a Saturday evening, why for the sake of Pete would you have an underage person manning the only express lane? Ok, so that’s point number one.

Number two (I had plenty of time to think about this while in line): what genius figured out that grocery stores can coax consumers (citizens) to perform the job of checkout persons, without even having to pay them? My local chain grocery store now has four self-checkout lanes. That’s four hourly wages that the store doesn’t have to pay, because the consumers are willing to essentially work for the store, for the sake of saving time. Do they get a discount on their food? Of course not. They just get a couple more seconds to spend with their families or loved ones at the end of a long day. I suppose this kind of sentiment was relevant back in the days of full-service gasoline stations when you just pulled up, told the attendant how much gas you wanted, and sat in the happy warmth of your auto-car. Then one day, you could pull up, pump your own gas, pay the lone attendant (who was warm inside the cozy kiosk while you, dear customer, froze you arse off), and motor on you merry way.

Next we just might be using our fingerprints to buy everything. Cameras and scales will make sure you don’t get away with stealing anything, and we’ll all be so smug in our high-tech efficiency. Never mind the value of a little human interaction and part-time jobs for high schoolers, parolees and moms.

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In line at the grocery store. Big sign in my lane says “EXPRESS LANE. TEN ITEMS OR LESS.”

Cashier: Sir, just so you know for next time, this lane is for ten items or less.

(I’m behind Sir, attempting to purchase a single item)

Sir (in line with eight year old girl): Hmph. Ten items. Fuck ten items.

Cashier: I mean, just so you know for next time.

Sir (looking rather intoxicated on closer inspection): I don’t give a…ten items…well I don’t give a…

Cashier: You know, so it’s fair for the person behind you who has only one item.

Me: Blushes, shrugs.

Sir: Whaddayou give a shit. Ten items. Fuck you. Fine then. Fuck.

(cashier rings up 20+ items and Sir swipes card)

Cashier: Um. Could you try your card one more time, sir? For some reason it didn’t go through.

Sir: Fuck. (Swipes again, swoons a little and jabs at the numbers on the punch pad).

Cashier: Thank you sir.

Sir: Mumble, mumble. Fuck. Mumble mumble (walks away with purchases and young girl).

Cashier: (Exhausted look) Sorry ma’am.

Me: I just feel so sorry for that little girl. And you.

Cashier: Sigh. Nod.

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