How I finally figured things out at Shaw's.

... it took awhile

by Joe Sullivan

I am not what you would call a volume buyer when it
comes to groceries. I am an in-and-out guy, grab one of
those small green baskets you hold over your arm and
then go get my stuff. The basket is hardly ever filled
when I get to the checkout. Iím only buying for myself
so twenty bucks worth of stuff is a lot for me, sometimes
Iíll hit thirty but hardly ever.

The word that best describes my shopping trip is fast. In
the grocery isles I am Artful Dodger. Encumbered only
by my basket I can slide by shoppers pushing carriages
so quickly they never even look up. Not that Iím trying to
set records or that I take satisfaction out of what I do,
itís just that I buy almost the same things every time
which means I know where every item is located in the store
and can go right to it every time. I hardly ever spend any
time looking around for things.

Changing the deal.

Familiarity can have its consequences, or at least I think
it can. It has happened only once in awhile but if a
product is relocated in the store it can really slow things
to a confused crawl. When the Shawís guys moved the
cereal from shelves down front to some shelves in the
back I was indignant. It took me forever to find them.
Notice that I say them. I buy cereal three boxes at a time,
two boxes of different kinds of Kelloggís K and one box of
McCannís Irish oatmeal.

Snap, crackle and gone.

I buy them all at once because I donít buy any until Iím
totally out. A reasonable person would put one box on
the shopping list after he ran out. Not me, when I run
out of one box I say, what the hell, Iíve still got two
boxes left. After I run out of the second one, same deal,
still one left. I am not out of cereal until I shake the
last box over an empty bowl and nothing comes out. (Which
reminds me, I am out of potatoes as of last night.)

This curious habit does not have anything to do, really,
with how quickly I grocery shop. But lately something
has come up that makes me realize Iím not exactly
Mister Swift. When Shawís eliminated its self-checkouts it
was a big time change for me. The Shawís guys said it was to
better personalize the shopping experience. You would
be dealing with a person not an impersonal machine.

The good old days.

I missed the self-checkout deal because I was really
good at it. I would zing my orders over the scanner in
no time, pack them into the plastic bags, stick my
money into the payment slot and wait for the machine to
chug out my change into the little money trough at the
bottom. Once in awhile there would be a screw up. Youíd
holler to the attendant that the machine had shorted  
you a dollar. The machine hadnít. You realized that when
the attendant stuck her hand up inside the little chute
where the money came out and pulled out the dollar bill
that had become stuck in there. Even so, I liked the system
and missed it when they took it out.

Itís what replaced the automatics that left me confused.
Every checkout is manned by a person now. Each one
wears a badge showing his or her name. A lot of them
are young. They are nice enough kids but you can sense their
discomfort with the ďgreet them with a smileĒ that you
get from the more experienced checkers. They are very
well trained and execute the process very capably. The other shoppers
seems to go through the process very smoothly. But thatís not
happening with me.

The checker scans my items, sticks them in a bag and
places each bag in a little shelf directly in front of me.
By now I have my wallet out waiting to pay my bill. I pull
out my money which she takes and then gives me back my
change and my receipt. While Iím standing there with
my open wallet in one hand and my change and receipt
in the other, the checker is already scanning the next
personís purchases, bagging them up, and placing the bags
right next to my order. Message, scram. While Iím still
holding my open wallet and change I reach down pick up the
bags by slipping my ring and little fingers into the loops
that serve as bag handles and start walking to find a place
where I can put my bags down so that I can put my change back
into my wallet, and  put my wallet into my pocket, and pick up
my bags and leave.

So, what happened here?

Iím confounded by what I perceive as my ineptitude. I
donít see anyone else going through this goofy drill. It
happens more than once and I am perplexed by it. I start
watching people in front of me to try and pick up on why
they are not ending up like I do. Itís not until a guy
standing behind me in the checkout line looks down at my
wallet which I am holding in my hand to get a head start
that I realize whatís happening. He says to me with a wry
chuckle, ďSay what you want about the plastic but nothing
ever beats good old cash.Ē

The people in front of me are paying for their orders
with credit cards, not cash. They stick in their card into
a little box, punch in their pins, and look up along with
cashier to the monitor to see the approval. Some have to
sign a little payment sheet others donít. But nobody, but
nobody is standing around waiting for their change.
They grab their cards, pick up their groceries and go.

So then, what is my problem, why am I suffering
uncertainty, inadequacy, the feeling of failure? My
problem is that I have money. In my whole life that is
something I thought I would ever say.       

March 4, 2016  

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