The Hunting of the Snark

02/04/2010

Help with your packing

Filed under: Snarky — Jeremy Irish @ 21:39
Tags: , ,

Years ago, I worked as a cashier in an American supermarket for a couple of summers. I was expected to pack up the purchases while the customer generally just stood there. Now I am living in the UK, and as a customer I am expected to pack up the purchases while the cashier generally just stands sits there.

Of course, American supermarkets might do well to introduce seats for their checkers; much more useful to ergonomics than tennis balls and stretching exercises.

But having sort of ‘done my time’, I do resent having the packing responsibility handed back to me. Really, I’m standing there (note: standing there) fumbling for money or entering my PIN, pulling out coupons, checking to make sure the sales rang up correctly and so forth. I’ve got things to do. The cashier, on the other hand, has finished scanning and yet watches, bored, while I go through all of this and try to pack. I’m the one paying them… Where’s the justice?

Recently Morrisons (the closest complete-ish supermarket to my house) has apparently instructed their front-end staff to ask, at the start of every transaction, ‘Would you like help with your packing?’ Sounds like a fairly innocent question. But somehow, it comes across as a dare: ‘no, thank you’ is really the only acceptable response, and to say anything else requires the customer to step across the social boundaries in an explicit way, which would never do. I generally say, ‘We’ll see.’

I have enthusiastically joined in the campaign to re-use carrier bags and reduce consumption, although it’s taking a while to catch on. In some smaller establishments there is still a tendency for shop assistants to grab the selections and stuff them into a fresh bag with record-setting haste. But here’s the weirdest thing of all. If I can manage to stop them and say, ‘I’ve got a bag right here,’ immediately they will have nothing more to do with the packing process. Whether or not I want to proceed with using said bag becomes entirely my problem. Do they think the re-used bags carry diseases? It sounds crazy, yet this genuinely does happen nearly every time.

Now, maybe if British businesses added a seat for the customer, we could call it even.

– The Snark

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