Sunday, November 11, 2012


There used to be a day when consumers’ business was appreciated.  Not any more.  Often when I am shopping, I feel that the clerks speak to me as if I am their employee (and my rejoinder to that, in my head, is, “You can give me orders when you put me on your payroll”).

It seems the most difficult part of shopping these days is not selecting the merchandise --- it’s actually getting through the check out line so you can take it home and enjoy it. 

Yes, back-in-the-day, when people did math in their head, it didn’t take long to pay and receive your change.  But now, we have debit cards and computers, which only work right on your first try about 75% of the time.  Whether it is a loose scanner, buttons that you can’t depress without a sledge hammer, or something the clerk did that made it go back to the beginning and start over again --- who knows, do I look like a computer geek? --- checking out is a major ordeal.  Once you scan your card, you get to play “20 Questions” with an inanimate object.  Is this really the card you want to use?  [Are you sure?] Do you want cash back? Do you want it all on one card?  Are you using coupons today?  Makes you want to just go back to paying cash for everything.

And then, you get to deal with the clerk, who has a skewed impression of what “helping” you is.  Back-in-the-day, helping someone meant assisting them in getting their needs met.  It did not mean second guessing their needs, then getting snappy if you guessed wrong...  A case in point:

Me:  I’d like that all in one double bag, please.

Clerk:  Would you like me to put that in 2 bags for you?

Me:  No, I already told you what I need.  I need them all in one double bag,  please.

Clerk (indignant): I’m just trying to help you.

Me:  Why would you be helping me if I told you what I need, and you offer me something different?

Clerk huffs, then says in a snotty voice:  Have a nice day.

Kind of makes you feel like the star of ‘Monty Python Meets Candid Camera.’

* * *

And, how about the concept of “waiting in line,” or as some say, “waiting on line.”  The customer waits, and then it is the service provider’s turn (clerk/ cashier/ waitress) to “Wait” on the customer.  That concept has been lost in transition.  “Wait” would indicate that the clerk stands patiently as the consumer retrieves cash/ checkbook/ debit card from purse or wallet, to pay for the goods.  But I’ve seen many clerks get impatient when the customer doesn’t hop-to-it.  The clerk then: turns to a fellow clerk and talks about last night, begins texting, finds anything else to do other than “wait” on their customer.

Then, that same service person hands you a coupon you don’t want, your receipt, and your change (if you have any), all rolled up together.  Never mind that your receipts go one place in your wallet and the cash goes in another, because there isn’t enough room in any one place to fit it all.  Especially those receipts that are now 14” long when they print out.  You can barely find the purchase information because the stupid thing is trying to (a) get you to take a survey, (b) give you a list of legal disclaimers re: your purchase, or (c) advertise more stuff you don't need and don't want to buy from them.

Oh, and how about the staff who --- after your small hands are filled with all the items I just listed --- then picks up your bag and holds it in the air as if you must “drop everything” and take it.  I am now having to stop and explain to people, “I will take that as soon as my hands are no longer full; you can set it down, if you like.”  I also notice that many people aren’t able to judge the length of my arms, or anticipate my reach, so they actually hold the sack out in a way that I can’t take it from them anyway!

Egads, what is the shopping world coming to?  Makes me really appreciate my vegetable garden and the eggs I buy from my friend, Harry.

© Elena E Smith, November 2012

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