Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Grocery Store Chronicles: Checking Out (Part 1)

In my last post I discussed some of the types of shoppers it might be wise to avoid in the grocery store. Now, over two posts, I’d like to offer some hard-won advice as to when you might want to avoid a certain checkout lane in the grocery store and choose another instead. Here are some common situations and types of people to avoid.

The Coupon Queen

If you notice that one of the shoppers ahead of you in line –– usually a woman –– is carrying what looks like a Pony Express mail pouch full of clipped coupons, then move immediately to another aisle. It’s a good bet that this shopper will keep you waiting at least 30 minutes while they attempt to clear the cash register.

It’s not just that scanning all of those coupons takes time. Inevitably, there will be some sort of snafu that occurs. The scanner might refuse to accept a certain coupon for apple juice, so first the bagger must dig through the piles of already packed bags to find the beverage in question, then the information on the label must be examined and checked against the coupon. When it is discovered that the apple juice the customer purchased is the 48-ounce size, and the coupon only is good for the 64-ounce size or larger, then what ensues is either a debate between customer and checker on why the coupon should be accepted nevertheless (with a possible call for the manager to referee), or the bagger is sent out to the juice aisle to swap out bottles. When he returns minutes later, the next coupon is scanned, only to discover that it requires two tubes of biscuits to be purchased for the discount, not the single tube the customer has purchased. And so it goes.

If you want to avoid a long wait, pass by the coupon queen.

The Lovers

Stay clear of any checkout line where the person doing the checking and the person doing the bagging seem to be infatuated with each other. When a young man or woman’s fancy turns to love, it’s a good bet that they’ll be so taken with the subject that they won’t notice they scanned your bag of peas twice, or absentmindely put the 20-pound bag of dog food on top of your carton of eggs in the basket.

A common example of this kind of cashier team is where the cashier is a teenaged girl, teamed with a teenaged boy bagger who is clearly infatuated with her and trying his best to win her over. He will talk almost nonstop to her, cracking jokes, making sarcastic remarks and asking questions. The girl will be forced to listen and respond (to be polite) and as a result, neither checker or bagger is even really looking at the products they are scanning and putting away. Besides slowing down the whole process, this can lead to incorrectly scanned items, improper bagging and a host of other annoyances.

In one memorable event, I once checked out at a grocery store, with a full cart of groceries, and neither the checker nor the bagger spoke once to me, or even looked at me, because they were so deeply involved in flirtatious talk. They were like robots attuned to some common frequency, just going through the motions of moving groceries down the counter out of habit. I could have been buck naked, wearing a sombrero on my head with illuminated Christmas lights wrapped around my body, and they wouldn’t have even noticed.

(If you read that last sentence just after eating a big meal, or after decorating your Christmas tree, I apologize).

The Clothes Buyer

If you are shopping in a store like a Super Target or Super Wal-Mart that sells both groceries and clothing, and someone ahead of you in line has a pile of clothing they are buying, there are even odds that you’ll avoid a long delay by moving to another line.

The problem is that, inevitably, one or more of the items of clothing the customer wants to buy has had the tag removed somehow. Since the checker can’t scan the item’s price in without a tag –- let’s say for purposes of illustration it's a woman’s dress -- this means that someone, usually a pimply teenaged bagging boy with no clue as to women’s clothing, is dispatched to the women’s department to try and find the dress with the tag, or at the very least determine the item's correct price. After 20 minutes or so, he returns and gives the checker the bad news. Either (1) he couldn’t find where those dresses were located, (2) he found where the dresses were, but the one in question is apparently the very last one, or (3) there are other dresses like this, but they don’t have tags, either.

When it comes to clothing, there is no end to the possibly delays. Sometimes the clothing item has a tag, but the shopper notices only at the checkout line that the item is ripped or stained, and then the same pimply faced boy must be sent to find a replacement.

Take my advice – find another line.

NEXT POST: We'll meet The Conversationalist and learn to avoid the "Red Tape Runaround."


Carla said...

Haha, I so know what you mean! One time my mom and I went to eat out at a restaurant and we waited FOREVER to get any service (in addition, we were the only ones in the restaurant). But the available waitress and waiter were busy being intellectually challenged because they were flirting the whole and setting tables together when only one person needed to set them and NO ONE was even in the place! And the tables were already set! They were just "perfecting" them together (and doing some lame flirting) while they could have been getting us a glass of water.
We walked out in the end.

Thanks for the comment on my blog!

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