Friday, August 30, 2013

What's Wrong with America: the Grocery Store

I'll be honest -- I'm not sure how this post fits into a mom blog, but let's call it the first installment in my "What's Wrong with America" series (hopefully there won't be too many more).

I had to make a quick trip to the supermarket last night (okay, there's the tie-in: we moms all grocery shop, right? Right). It was your run-of-the-mill milk, juice, meat, and bread run, and when I had everything on my list, I pulled my cart into the self-checkout line like I usually do.

Since this was meant to be a quick trip, I had gone to my neighborhood store (which I really dislike) -- a five-minute jaunt, as opposed to my preferred supermarket, which is about fifteen minutes from the house and involves a roundabout and about four times as many traffic lights. So you can see my rationale in my decision to stay local.

So after I had everything on my list, I hit the self-checkout, scanned my shopper card and placed my first reusable shopping bag in the bagging area. As I went to scan my scandalously-priced gallon of milk (which had been marked "New Low Price!" back on the shelf), the scanner voice announced, "unexpected item in bagging area." This scanner glitch was not unexpected, as this happens with every freakin' bag you place on the thing.

Now usually, whether I place my items in the bag or not after scanning, the machine insists that I didn't place them in the bag. Then the real-life attendant has to come and tell me I'm scanning and bagging too fast (I'm sorry. I grew up in the Northeast). Then the scanner gets hung up when I've scanned some arbitrary "too many" items. Then I have to get carded for buying cough syrup or something equally ridiculous. Then they need ID if I'm using a credit card after spending a certain amount of money.

We've all used many different self-checkout systems, and they're all annoying in their own ways, but this particular chain's choice in  equipment/software is the absolute worst (and yes, Acme, I'm talking about you).

So, last night, the whole scanner unit froze up right after I set down my first shopping bag, and I decided that I didn't feel like getting aggravated just then, so I voided the order and pulled my cart over to a traditional cashier line.

I said "hi" to the cashier. Cricket sounds. I politely handed her my bags. More cricket sounds as she tossed them toward the bagging area as if she were thinking, "bag your own damn groceries" (which I proceeded to do).

Okay, people. I realize no one in America aspires to a career as a supermarket checkout person. We all get it. But as I see it, having a miserable attitude about it has to make the job worse than it really is, doesn't it? I have two points to make on the subject. First: I know the job market is bad, but I have to believe there are jobs out there for people who don't want to deal with the public (file clerk? Cleaning? Data entry? I hate dealing with the public, and I could always find appropriate work through a temp service). Second: one of my cousins started out her career working in the supermarket deli when she was a teenager, and now, twenty-something years later, is some sort of union negotiator for the same company. She had a good attitude and turned a crummy job into a respectable career.

But back to my neighborhood grocery store and the checkout staff. I often wonder if the regular cashiers envy the ones who get to stand in the self-checkout area and address all the problems the customers have with their sh**ty system. Is that position a step up? I hope so, because even though I hate going to this particular store, I actually like the employees they have working that position. The best part of my shopping trip is chatting with either the big guy with the long braids, the balding older man with the beard and glasses, and even the lady who laughed out loud at my horrible driver's license photo the other day (her sincerity made me laugh and thus put me in a better mood). These people are pleasant and friendly (what a concept). Maybe the young, crabby cashiers are so busy being surly and resentful that they don't put two and two together: positive attitude leads to positive results.

Is this rant going to help anyone? I doubt it, but you never know, right? Kids, get your acts together and make the best of what you have. Local grocery store, keep rewarding those employees manning the self-checkout. And for the love of God, get a better scanning system before I have a stroke.

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