A sign of the times

I stopped by the grocery store last evening to pick up a few things. A “few things” turned into a half a cartload and I was at one of those discount grocers where you rent a 25-cent cart and bring your own bags.

Fortunately, I keep my bags in my car. Unfortunately, in my haste to dig my quarter and list out from the bottom of my purse, I left the bags in the car.

Typically, that wouldn’t be problem because I can just push the cart to the car and empty the items into the bags, however this turned out to not be a typical day.

As I approached the checkout with my half-full cart, I realized the store had had some modifications since last I shopped.

Instead of the usual 4 or 5 cashiers, there was now a grouping of self-checkout registers and only about 2 full-service lanes.

One of the full-service lanes had its sign lit indicating it was open, so although there was no cashier there, I moved my cart in that direction and waited. And waited. And waited.

Nobody came.

I sighed and finally capitulated and shifted over to the self-checkout.

These checkouts were clearly not designed for stores such as this one, where you BYOB and tend to buy multiple items.

There is only a very small area on which to place your items prior to scanning them (and by small, I mean about the size of a family-size cereal box) and there’s not much more room to place your items after you scan them.

This makes it difficult in a store like this because you’ve gotta get all your items out of the cart before putting items into it.

Had I planned better, I would have done like the manned checkout lane and gotten an empty cart and transferred items that way but, well, I wasn’t planning to have to scan my own groceries.

So I scanned and stacked.

During this process, another customer attempted to use the classic checkout lane (because the light was still on) and was waiting. Waiting. Waiting. She asked me if I had seen anyone around and I told her I had waited far too long and gave up, so she may want to do the same.

She apparently was patient enough or persistent enough or lucky enough because at some point as I moved my items from cart to scanner to pile, an employee turned up to help her.

I know this because one of my items wouldn’t scan (of course) so I turned around looking for customer service and discovered a young man behind the register I had long abandoned.

The young man came over to assist me (he struggled too and finally gave up and called for a UPC number), while I looked around at the other customers in the store, many of whom were elderly and also trying to scan their own groceries.

As the young man finished up, I dialed down my frustrated, disgusted, “Karen” attitude and tried to very sweetly ask him to tell his manager that this situation isn’t working for many of us shoppers. We need to have the option of a cashier (preferably without having to wait until one stumbles out from behind a pile of boxes).

The young man said “OK” as if he’s heard that a million times and returned to his register to check out the lucky customer who approached just in time to not have to use a self-checkout.

I removed my pile of groceries and placed them back in the cart, calculating in my head the number of minutes I was at the speedy self-checkout vs how long I would’ve been standing at the manned checkout and determined this was sooo not speedier at all and pushed my cart out of the store to unload my items into the bags in my car.

As I returned my cart, I noticed one of the elderly shoppers ahead of me returning her cart and claiming her 25-cent return.

I said to her, “Don’t you miss the days when you had a cashier and a bag boy? I sure do.”

She sighed and replied, “It’s just a sign of the times, I guess.”

I suppose she is correct. It is indeed a sign of the times.

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