Monday, July 12, 2010

The standstill checkout line

It is a well established fact that I have the worst luck when it comes to lines at the checkout counter, no I don’t just end up in a slow moving line, the checkout line almost inevitably comes to a standstill as soon as I join it, it does not matter if it was a self-checkout line or even a line for those *dumped a few items just so that I can make the ‘20 items or less’ line*.

I usually don’t mind the wait, it is fascinating to watch the story of someone’s life unfold ever so slowly right in front of my eyes, okay maybe only the story of their grocery shopping, but it’s interesting nevertheless to learn the shopping habits of my fellow shoppers. The large stock of aerated drinks, the mounds of frozen pizza, macaroni and cheese, the green capped bottles of milk, organic vegetables, all so mesmerizing!

Ever so often I’ve ended up in a line where the line’s delayed for no other reason than the ineptness of the checkout assistant, but that’s rare too, most times I simply always end up in lines wherein folks are paying with cash, counting to 79.11 dollars in change or paying by check which for no apparent reason seems even more tedious and then those other times when the customers themselves cannot recognize the vegetables/fruits they have in their cart and the hassled assistant ends up playing ‘In pin safety pin’ with the grocery chart trying to figure out those veggies!

Onto my latest experience, you can probably visualize the state of any fridge after a vacation and despite needing a vacation to recover from my vacation, I had to head out to stock up, made up a little list (I know it’s sad, but I still occasionally make lists and this trip needed one!). In addition, I am also known for the speed with which I can pick out items from the shopping list, the list is useful on such occasions to prevent mindless meandering.

I should have learnt something from all my checkout situations, or so you’d think but really you can’t beat murphy’s law, ended up in a line with just one other person group ahead of me, two women and two kids and it did seem like they were almost done checking out. Like I always do, got hold of the divider and loaded up all that stuff from my cart onto the conveyor, neatly, there's an order to that, that some just can't understand.

Checkout dude’s brows are all messed up, I can see that’s not a good sign, he is immersed in what looks to be a check, sigh! then he presses the call button, he’s clearly waiting for help. tic, toc, tic ... Surprisingly she doesn’t waste too much time getting there, all authoritative, she goes through the items on the receipt and says no, the milk can’t be checked out! What the ... From what I could hear, the form of payment the women were using did not allow them to buy the whole milk (red cap). 

Dude tries explaining it to the women, they show no sign of understanding (no comprendo!, that’s where espanol would have come in handy), they seem to be grinning away or maybe that’s just the look! Dude says he will return with 2% milk cans (blue cap), thankfully he seemed to have decided that the family could survive on 2% milk!. These assistants are just too kind is the first thought on my mind, bless him. The women were heavily made-up and their clothes ... well they could use some money to buy clothes that were a little less revealing! anyway dude comes back (probably took about 4 mins, with the milk section being in the back and all, it is a brilliant strategy if you must know, more on that some other time), re-scans everything again, presses button, supervisor comes and all’s good. I can hear the sigh of relief from all the people behind me, yes a line has formed now. Quite frustrating it was already, had to resort to doodling, twiddling!

I can sense something though, there’s two more milk cans that's not been scanned yet and you guessed right, those too have red caps on them. They seem to want the receipts to be separate and they're going to use similar checks again, no once bitten twice shy or whatever!. With a urgency I’ve never displayed in a grocery store, I scooped up everything on the conveyor into my cart and hurried out of there, I could see that everyone else had followed me too ... As I was finally all settled into another checkout line, I could see dude go back to swap red cap milk can with blue cap milk again and when I had my receipt, he was still peering away into the receipt and waiting on his supervior to give the green signal!

p.s Were those checks some kind of benefits, then why would whole milk be a restricted item? I can be nosy, but was just not in the mood to ask that day what with all of us already in a beleaguered mood.

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