Thursday, June 15, 2006

Grocery Stores Hate Me

I guess I have come to accept the fact that grocery stores and I have a hate/hate kind of relationship. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I knew the milk we had at home expired that very day and I don’t drink milk that is one day past the expiration date so I stopped by the store on the way home. I knew I would need if for my cereal and my wife’s tea tomorrow. On my way back to the milk case, I picked up some fruits for our lunches and picked up my gallon all the way in the far corner of the store. I know they put milk back there so you have to buy an impulse item just to get milk but the store wasn’t busy at all so I made good time.

As I was nearing the front of the store, there was a person with a cart heading towards me with one of the two open checkout lanes between us. We eyed each other up. I stepped up the pace but the lady pushing the cart was game and she leaned into it getting her pace picked up as well. About twenty feet away, she wheeled her cart into the lane followed by a late comer who came out of one of the aisle nearly blindsiding me. That checkout lane was going to be fifteen minutes at least. I walked clear down to the end where the only other checkout lane was open and there was one old lady who just had the last of her groceries drug across the scanner and an old man who just had a loaf of bread, a bag of potatoes, some lunchmeat and a 40 oz bottle of beer. He was definitely a bachelor or home alone for the week!

I set my groceries on the end of the conveyor with the proper distance between my purchases and the old man’s so not to intrude and not to have to place the plastic divider thing down. I hate being an isolationist. The old lady amazingly enough was paying with plastic instead of laboriously handwriting a check as they all do but problems arose. The manager was called over and a consultation took place. She had incorrectly entered her PIN code. She tried again. Same result. As if to help matters, she looked towards the old man and myself and said, “I’m just guessing because my code is in the car,” as if that made it all right. I look over at the other lane and lady one was already done and heading for the door but it was too late to bail because two more people were already in line behind blindsider who was now getting her groceries scanned.

Old lady swiped her card for a third time and somehow pulled the correct PIN code out of her memory banks. She looked at old bachelor and myself and gave us a shrug as if to say “oh well,” and I refrained from committing something I might have to confess the next Sunday in church. Old man was up to bat and the clerk scanned the bag of potatoes. The old man said that it should have been $2.99 and the clerk had to call for a price check. If I would have had three dollars in my wallet at that point I would have slapped it down but all I had were a couple of twenties and I figured making change out of the old man’s wallet wasn’t going to happen. Five minutes later as blindsider was smugly making her way past my checkout lane, they finally got the price which was as the old man had said, $0.10 cheaper than what they had rang up for!

The clerk rang up the rest of the goods and told the old man the damage followed by the standard question of paper or plastic. The old man took out a well-used wallet most likely older than me and began to laboriously thumb through a thick wad of receipts and loose bills. “Paper or plastic sir,” said the cashier one more time but was met with the same response as before, silence. The cashier sensing my pain just put the food in plastic and then patiently waited as the old man finally pulled out the correct bills. He then folded his wallet, re-pocketed it and then reached into his front pocket for one of those plastic coin purses. Good God!

Two more people from the other lane walked by and though I hadn’t raced them to a lane, I swore they gave me smug looks too as the old man counted out pennies and nickels to cover the $0.87 that he still owed. Again I wished I had some ones in my wallet. Finally he got the correct change and the cashier picked up his dropped receipt and asked the old man if he wanted it. Silence was the only answer that he got so he threw it away as the old man carried his plastic bag and sack of potatoes out of the store.

In conclusion, I think instead of dividing up checkout lanes based upon the number of items you might have, they should divvy them up based on age and credit status. Those with better things to do than to argue over $0.10 on a sack of potatoes or to try and remember your PIN code in one line and all the geriatrics and those who insist on paying for everything with a check that they never think to fill out until after the total is given, can all be put in the remaining lines. The store that does that has my ever-lasting loyalty

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