Wednesday, August 25, 2010

With a lack of interesting content, I present another essay on grocery stores.

As regular (or irregular) readers know, I enjoy my trips to the grocery store. It's nearby, and provides a nice walk and time to contemplate life and ... groceries. I'd hate to go so far as to say that the grocery store is my muse, but judging by some of the content, I'd say the end justifies the means.
Anyway, one thing I noticed was that the cashiers do significantly less work than they used to. When I was a kid, they had to actually read the price tag on an item and punch the numbers into a cash register. As shoppers, we had to separate the taxable items from the non-taxable items, and the cashiers had to know which was which. Generally, there was a kid at the end of the line who put the items in a paper bag and another one who would walk out and help you put your groceries in your car.
Now, all the cashiers do is drag the item over a scanner and drop it on that secondary conveyor belt, which transports it to a place that is out of my reach. The reason I have to reach it is because I have to do my own bagging. God forbid the item's scanner doesn't read correctly or there isn't a bar code on the item. That elicits a 9/11-like panic that requires a phone call to a guy behind a lectern who has a book full of prices. Usually, that happens in the so-called Express Lane.
I'm not sure why they call it the Express Lane, since it's really just a couple of aisles of people with no carts who only buy items without bar codes and fruits not on the list. Stuff like Kiwi Raisins or Pearalos, the curious hybrid of a pear and a tangelo. You have to go to the back, near the pomegranate juice and the nuts in clear plastic bags with a contents list that says, "Almonds." That's even more strange than putting a caloric count on bottled water. Calories: zero.
Not only do I now bring my own bags, but I'm also in charge of placing the items inside, all while fumbling for my debit card and running it through the machine. I have to press a lot of buttons, verifying that the price I'm being charged is what I am paying (which means I have to glance at the cash register) and then push a few more buttons before I am "approved." It's a feeling of self-satisfaction that Shop Rite approves of me. It's the same self-satisfaction I get when I hit the spell check and it says, "No Misspellings Found." Yippee! Although, I think it missed pearalos. Alas.
Sometimes the cashier says, "Thanks for bagging," as though I had a choice. It was either that or watch the items bunch-up at the end of the conveyor like a bad episode of "I Love Lucy." Mostly, I just want to get out of there as quickly as possible.
The cashiers are represented by a labor union. The same sort of union that represents dock workers and roofers. Sometimes they'll go on strike, demanding better pay for their ... labor. I often get the feeling that the cashiers should be cutting me in on some of their salary, since I'm responsible for about 75 percent of the work load.
I wonder if they still make the minimum wage?

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