Shop ‘til you drop fizzles at the check out counterIt’s official. I no longer enjoy shopping. Oh, wait a minute. That’s not quite accurate. I’m still hot to shop; it’s purchasing that leaves me cold. Mind you, it’s not because of rising prices, the economy or money for necessary and discretionary spending. I hate checking out.
By: Judith Liebaert, Superior Telegram
It’s official. I no longer enjoy shopping.
Oh, wait a minute. That’s not quite accurate. I’m still hot to shop; it’s purchasing that leaves me cold. Mind you, it’s not because of rising prices, the economy or money for necessary and discretionary spending.
I hate checking out.
There, I’ve said it. All you big-box, department and discount chain stores, listen up.
I belong to the purchasing demographic responsible for most major expenditures in U.S. families — mature women. My ilk and I spend enough money in your establishments to expect convenience, courtesy and full assistance when hauling our cartloads of the gross domestic product through your checkout lines.
Technology has put the kiss of death on the kind of assistance I’m talking about. The tasks assigned to the clerks these days are less and less. Most of the duties of completing the purchase transaction have been shifted to the consumer. At the prices I’m paying that hardly seems right.
I don’t remember which came first, the loss of friendly baggers or the arrival of barcodes but I’ll start with the baggers. It’s OK. I get it. Everybody has to tighten their belts and cut corners to be profitable. I guess I can bag my own items. At least I know they are packed right — no canned goods on top of my Wonder bread. And as long as I can use the cart, I don’t mind being my own carryout person either. Though as I get older, I’m longing for that service again.
I guess there is an upside. I don’t need to go to the casino when I feel like gambling. Bagging and carryout has become a real game of chance. At certain stores that use the plastic bags on roulette-like wheels, I’ve found that it’s a number’s game as to whether all the bags will make it in my cart or not. Alas, just like at the casinos, I lose more often than not. Too many times I’ve gotten home from shopping and discovered I’ve lost a whole bag’s worth of items. Not real convenient when I live 30-plus miles out of town.
I’ve learned my lesson, though. It may be a toss-up as to whether the clerk or I will transfer my bags to the cart, but I always make the clerk double check the wheel to see if I have everything before I leave.
Then there is the electronic scanning. “No more errors at the cash registers” we were promised.
With barcodes, the clerk doesn’t have to punch in each price. But prior to that, the items I purchased were clearly printed with the price — on each and every item, not a small sticker on the shelf. It’s bad enough I can barely read those little labels (more on that later), but when items get shuffled around, I’m never sure if the label applies to the item above it, or the one next to it on the shelf.
And no errors? There is still someone, or a few someones, who are responsible for keying in the prices associated with each code and changing them when there is a sale. That’s not to mention that a slight mis-movement of the hand can cause a double scan of one item.
If all of that wasn’t enough, they came up with the self-checkout lanes.
You’ve got to be kidding me, right?
I guess it was supposed to reduce their employee need, but I thought they have that covered with 20 registers and only two open.
I refuse to use self-checkout lanes for two reasons: They replace people who need jobs, and if we all become proficient enough at self-checking, that will eventually be the only option.
The little credit card readers came before the self-checkout lanes, but I’ve saved the best — make that the worst — for last. I despise those litter swiper modules. They are never positioned right for me to see what I am doing. Generally I am on my tiptoes trying to read the LED screen. Of course, that is only after I’ve fished my glasses out of the depths of my purse. Once I can read it, it’s a guessing game as to how it works — they’re all a little bit different.
Then there is the happy occasion when the machine won’t read your card. Swipe, look at the card, turn it around, swipe again, check to see that you turned it the right way, swipe it again, swipe it again more slowly, swipe it again faster, swear and hand the card to the clerk who is standing there doing nothing.
Note to employers: Minutes add up and multiplied by the number of checkers in the number of lines your store keeps open, you have to ask yourself — how many hours are you paying your employees to do nothing?
Judith Liebaert was raised in Superior and now lives in rural Douglas County. She blogs on-line as the Mad Goddess™. Send your comments or story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.