greenfencer (greenfencer) wrote in gonzo_writers,

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Best thing to happen to grocery shopping since food

So I was doing a pretty run of the mill grocery store shop for dinner ingredients the other night when I was given time to reflect on one of the truly brilliant advances of the modern age. I speak, of course, of the self service check out line at the grocery store. Now this goes by a different names depending on the store, but the BASIC premise is the same: You, the consumer. scan and bag your items in lieu of cashier involvement.

I know what you are wondering. Why did our narrator emphasize the word "basic" in such a manner? For the obvious reason that there is such a thing as the Advanced premise at work in the Self Service Check out. Specifically, stores that employ this system get to use mankind's natural passive-aggressive competitive tendencies to make the grocery shopping experience more efficient and even to make the line waiting process more tolerable for the customer.

Let us begin with the waiting process. In a conventional check out line if the cashier is slow, incompetent, clumsy or clueless the average customer will become aggitatged and impatient: "What the fuck is wrong with this kid."

Conversely, when on line at the Self Service Line, the other people using the check out are our fellow shoppers, our peers, our opponents. So now, instead of wondering what the fuck is wrong with someone, we are far more likely to laugh derisively and think something along the lines of: "Ha! I could destroy their best time!"

On a related note, self service lines always work on a queue system, where one line feeds into a pod of usually four check out stations. This means that all of your hopes and dreams for someday leaving the store and eating your purchases do not hang on the actions of one person (i.e. the kid of "What the fuck is wrong with . . ." fame), you can now watch the four shoppers (or as I like to call them Gladiatorial Consumers) scan and bag their little hearts out like a kind of horse race complete with the drama, heartbreak, pulse-pounding action and dramatic turns of fortune to be found in the real thing.

Consider if you will, two shoppers who begin simultaneously. One clearly laden with more items, but with a big heart and a steady hand (as well as a near mystical understanding for where on a given item the bar code is located) he holds his own. The Gladiatorial Consumer with fewer items actually has two items left as the more prolific purchaser finishes the scanning. But what this? Consumer One is using a credit card, not a debit card mind you, but the kind where they need to sign! Consumer Two scans her final items and breaks out the cash. Suddenly it looks like Consumer Two will use a more efficient payment method to win the day. But Alas! Her one bill is creased and she is having trouble getting it to take! Meanwhile the customer with the credit card has been instructed to take his card to the cashier for signature! Who will be the first to leave? Can Consumer Two get the machine to take her slightly creased bill, will Consumer One get the attention of the cashier helping the confused 87 year old at the other station? Which of these two stations will open up first?!?!?! Do you bear left or right? What's it going to be?

Thrilling shit for a simple trip to the store. And you, all the while, don't find yourself caring about how long you're waiting. It's the Drama that you care about. The Drama and yout sad, burning desire to show up these rank amateurs.

Finally, a station opens up. During the wait, you've already removed your bonus and debit cards from your wallet, and placed them in your breast pocket. You work the touch screen with nimble fingers, scanning that bonus card at full stride, and scanning your haul with mad ninja-like precision. You swipe your debit card, working the keypad and the touch screen simultaneously, trimming valuable seconds off your overall time, as you load your bags in the cart, grab your receipts and get the fuck out of dodge in under a minute.

Sure as hell beats explaining what endive is to some slack-jawed mouth breather who's just two days of traning past the smacking his head against the register until something happens stage of customer service.
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