This afternoon I and other few item grocery shoppers encountered the bane of the express check-out line, the shopper far exceeding the nominal maximum items.
This express cash was officially marked as eight items or less. Generally accepted social grace in such situations is to tolerate a slight bending by customers of the rule (especially in circumstances of minimal available cashes) – much as expanding the de facto speed limit on roads is accepted by other drivers, as well as by law enforcement. I believe I’ve been doing my part in going along with these guidelines.
However, a male shopper this afternoon pushed too far, and was unwilling to accept any consequences.
As the customer immediately behind him, I can attest that: his initial foray at the cash comprised several items; among these he requested two price checks; once satisfied, he began to pull out a series of other items to be paid for from a green grocery crate as well as from the basket of his cart. I initially thought these items must have been already paid for, as anyone acquainted with simple math could tell the total of all was well beyond eight. As his stack mounted, and the minimum wage clerk said nothing, I decided that this was a case gone too far, and spoke out. I made it clear that the customer was abusing common courtesy, and also that the clerk should have told him so. As he tried to minimize his selfishness, such as saying there was nobody in the line when he got there (probably because no one else abused the system like he was doing), the growing line of few item shoppers behind me quickly took up my cause, albeit with more confrontational tone and language than myself. He then tried to play the don’t-make-a-big-deal-of-it retort, but this was received unsympathetically. He finally concluded his purchase and left, with additional derisive remarks flowing both ways. As I led the pack through the cash following this, I indicated that a few words with the manager were in order, especially with the young clerk having said he was under the impression not to try to enforce any item limits. The next few customers concurred with my suggestion. As one might expect on Sunday afternoon, he was a low ranking fill-in from another department acting in charge. His response was that he knew nothing of the cash practices, but as the four of us expressing our feelings to him gradually dwindled to just he and I, he assured us he would discuss it personally on Monday with the store owner. The main points I stressed to him were that: a) the cash clerks should enforce a basic customer courtesy insofar as a reasonable interpretation of the limit, and b) whoever the manager on duty at the time should know and be able to apply the common courtesy guideline.
Some might see this episode as making a mountain out of a molehill. On the surface this is true, as the items at an express cash issue is stretched probably every day at every grocery store.
However, when someone uncontrovertibly goes over the line, and is unwilling to acknowledge it to any degree, in a situation where there’s a social obligation to others, then where does the initial blame lie? Moreover, there is a spillover effect on other detained, and potentially resentful, customers.
Unfortunately for all concerned, the core source of the problem lies with store management. Presumably unwilling to generate any confrontation with paying customers, it could well be that store managers would prefer to not make waves, and this lax compliance filters to staff. Yet the situation does not escape repercussion. As I pointed out to the fill-in manager, there are plenty of other grocery stores in any major urban area – and if one exhibits a clear neglect of customer friendly attitude, then the customer will disappear. Maybe then store management will notice.