Hissy Fit - February 2020
...because everyone needs one every once in awhile
February 2020 Issue
by Elizabeth Skenes Millen
When self-checkout first came out, I thought it was kind of fun getting to scan my own groceries and play cashier. It seemed rather perfect if I only had a few items to pick up. I could just run through, scan, pay and go without getting behind the weekly shopper with the bulging buggy.
Fast forward several years, and I no longer care for self-checkouts. Like most things brought to fruition to make things a little extra convenient, it has now taken over and changed everything. There are certain stores that if you shop after 8:00 or 9:00 o’clock at night, self-checkout is your only option. Frankly, I have a full-time job, so at the end of my grocery shopping, I don’t want another one as cashier when my cart is filled with supper, cleaning supplies, paper towels and a 22-pound bag of dog food; there simply isn’t enough room, and it turns into a ridiculous, stress-inducing situation.
In our harried habits to be busy, rushed and frantic, we (many of us, but not all) have taken on an attitude of not having time to wait on anything. Being in a hurry has become a way of life, but it’s all a big self-imposed mind game. Checking yourself out when you have more than five or six things is not a timesaver at all, you only perceive it to be. Have you noticed you often have to wait in line for the next available self-checkout machine? Why not wait for a real cashier? Can you recall how many times you used the self-checkout without it malfunctioning and having to wait on the attendant who is helping every other machine user?
“Place item in the bagging area. Place item in the bagging area. Place item in the bagging area. Help is on the way. Remove item from the bagging area. Remove item from the bagging area. Help is on the way!” All over a taco seasoning packet because it weighs practically nothing—the stress!
By using the self-checkout, we are all helping the store reduce their employee costs by replacing humans with machines. One attendant oversees six to eight machines, which otherwise would be the same amount of checkout lanes open with six to eight live employees. But not only that, the store now has you doing their job, and you don’t even get a discount on your groceries for doing so. It’s a win-win for the store. They lower their costs by having fewer employees without passing the savings on to us—their new cashiers.
Grocery prices skyrocketed several years back when diesel fuel prices soared to more than $4.50 per gallon. This was a catalyst for brands to look at how they could keep costs down so consumers would still purchase their products. It was at this time that half-gallons of ice cream shrunk to 1.5 quarts, one pound kielbasa went to 14-ounces and bar soaps went from being solid rectangles to having a big arch scooped out of the bottom of each bar. Basically, the consumer once again got the short end of the stick—higher prices, less product…and now you get to check yourself out, too.
However, there is a flip-side to this, and we, the shoppers, are fueling the fire. We have expectations of the retailer, that if they don’t make it as fast as possible for us, then we will find someone who will. You have to wonder when the frenzy will cease and people will begin to miss human interaction and value customer service again. I don’t know exactly when we came to believe that we no longer have time to grocery shop, but it has become a thing. Come to think about it, perhaps some of the former cashiers are still gainfully employed now as grocery getters for those who are perfectly able to get out of their cars and go in, but choose not to—a service the store must offer to compete with Amazon. A special thanks to those people who now get the primo parking spots for being too busy to shop for their own sustenance.
I have shopped at the same grocery store for 18 years, and I know most of the cashiers and longterm employees. Although I occasionally use self-checkout if I have just a few items, I like going through a real cashier’s line—even if I have to wait. During the wait, I get to catch up on all the headlines, possibly thumb through a magazine, have an internal argument on whether or not to buy a Reese’s Cup, and have time to remember if I forgot something and dash to get it before it’s my turn to checkout.
I always exchange pleasantries with the cashiers. They ask me how I’m doing and if I found everything. I ask how they are doing, sometimes inquire about their children and chit chat. I enjoy the human interaction, and even if I didn’t, I have no desire for machines to take over the world and extinguish humanity, which is the kind of thing most people never see coming, mainly because they don’t want to accept the consequences of their own conveniences.
So check this out—your inner gut. As we make goals for ourselves—how we want to be and act, what we want to achieve and make happen, I ask you to also make goals for how you move through your community and society at large. Think of the the “world” you want to live in. Think how your actions either help establish or maintain that world, or break down that world—even unintentionally.
As our planet spins at what seems like a faster pace than ever, consider changing your harried pace so we don’t outpace community, interaction and humanity. Lily Tomlin once said, “For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.” There is definitely more to life than increasing its speed. Go inside the grocery store. Smell the yumminess of the bakery. See your neighbor and say hello. Help the poor guy who is trying to find baking powder for his wife, who sent him to the store. Pick out a new wine by the excitement of the description on the back of the label. Get inspired to cook something new, fresh and delicious. Take a stance for your unhurried life. Support your local cashier. Ask your grocery manager to bring back bag boys. Ring that service bell and ask the butcher about the fresh catch. Enjoy the surroundings, and who knows, maybe you’ll see actress Kim Basinger fixing herself a salad right next to you at the salad bar and strike up a conversation. I did—just because I got out of my car and went in. But even if you don’t, pat yourself on the back for taking the time to save a little part of Americana…one unrushed piece at a time. #CommunityBeforeConvenience