I don’t live in a Communist-bloc, totalitarian country. Nor do I reside on an alien planet where insignificant citizens stand in endless lines, secretly fearing the possibility of never being seen or heard from again. Yet I’m made to feel this way every time I shop at my local, factory-quality super market.
Waiting in wretched lines to make a purchase is a given, particularly on weekends. This makes it easy to lull weary shoppers into thinking that a huge favor is granted in the form of the self-checkout lines.
Only one employee (a.k.a., the self-checkout police) oversees four self-checkout centers. Why pay for additional workers when the customers can do the labor themselves? Much of the corporate world assumes, in fact, counts on, mass stupidity. They’re mostly right since studies show that three of every four people emerged from a stuper (conjugated, yet again, to form the definition of an intolerably stupid person) mold.
I entered said market to buy four bottles of gallon size, distilled water (for my many stuper experiments). I waited in a short line at the self-checkout, leering at peppy Saturday shoppers, while nursing a constant suspicion that I was being ripped-off. For entertainment, I elbowed the over eager guy behind me smack in the ribs to gently remind him that a shoulder is not a chin rest; he was that close. Panting in my ear is only allowed with my permission.
It’s my turn. The too small, talking screen becomes somewhat confused after I skip bagging for the third time. It repeats, “Please wait for assistance,” over and over again. Assistance does not arrive until I frantically flail my arms over my head in a manner befitting one in the middle of a highway lane, desperately attempting to stop a fast approaching big rig. The self-checkout police is in the midst of an animated conversation with a customer and finally notices me after I start climbing atop the self checkout counter a la King Kong and the Empire State Building.
Why do I do this to myself? Because my bank is conveniently located within this supermarket, in full view, fishbowl style, of all who traverse the dull, vinyl floors, thereby offsetting my bank robber paranoia and offering me the comfort and security of knowing that no hardened desperadoes would dare attempt commit a felony under ever present public scrutiny. Since I am a pragmatist, I shop after banking; I’m there anyway. But it doesn’t mean I like it.
I am finally assisted. I scan all four bottles, prepare to depart, only to discover, that I was charged for five items instead of four.
“Excuse me, ” I interrupt the self-checkout police to tell her of my plight.
“I can’t help you, ” she assures me. “You have to go to Customer Service.”
She points a chubby finger towards a counter with a line so long, some shoppers sit in folding chairs, playing tic-tac-toe.
I saw my options as threefold:
- crumble like a vanilla wafer;
- verbally express my displeasure as a way to hopefully create change; or
- take control of the situation myself.
I realized #1 was not my style. #2 would require a microphone and a podium, but #3 was doable. I was charged for five bottles of water, and by God, I was going to get five bottles of water! I picked up another bottle and left.
I no longer shop at this super store, limiting myself only to the banking services housed within. I instead frequent a place where the owner knows my face, if not my name, and the workers appear happy to see me, linking their arms through mine, skipping down aisles and explaining the daily specials. It's a place where people are expected to think and do.
Think for yourself or others will do it for you.