Sunday, January 2, 2011

Blue Light Special on Self Checkouts

Shopping mishaps can happen to anyone without warning.  Yesterday's blog post hopefully help change some lives by making people more aware of what shopping cart they were grabbing when in the throes of a shopping nightmare.  Perhaps I am giving myself too much credit and praise, perhaps not.  I do know, however, that as times change so does the possibilities of shopping mishaps.

As I stood in line with my one item at the Kroger in London, Kentucky, I was infuriated to find that they had no self-checkout lanes.  How in the world can these people call themselves a grocery store with no self check-out lanes?  Was I expected to just stand there with all those other people who, from the look of their overflowing carts, only came to the grocery once a month?  Yes, was the answer.  So I stood and waited to purchase my bottle of allspice, and thought about how differently my thoughts were toward self-checkouts were now compared to when I first saw them.

I first saw a self-check out lane in Daytona Beach, Florida.  My first thought was "I don't think so."  I was completely and utterly turned off by them.  It was bad enough having to fight for a parking spot, push around a squeaky-wheeled cart that inevitably veers to one side, and avoid other shoppers that were somewhat scary and often times aggressive.  Now, the stores wanted me to do all the work?!   I was expected to unload the items, scan them, bag them up, complete the transaction, thank myself, and head out to my car?  I don't think so.

I, atop my high horse, self-righteously avoided all self-checkouts for months.  Then finally, the day arrived.  I had for some reason thought it a good idea to go to the local K-Mart in town. My mother had gushed at how great the Martha Stewart towel collection was and how you could only get them at K-Mart.  She had made me promise to go check them out before I purchased anything in the towel family.  Curisoity and the need for new bath towels drove to me the part of town that K-Mart called home.  Daytona Beach's K-Mart had fallen on hard times since the advent of Wal-Mart and Target.  While the other stores were in new, shiny shopping centers, K-Mart sat stubbornly in, well let's just say it, the ghetto.  Mind you, the ghetto in Daytona Beach is similar to a less-friendly suburb in a non-Florida city, but you get my point.

I was amazed by the great towel selection and praised Miss Martha Stewart for making such quality for people like me who had to shop at K-Mart.  I loaded up on a matching set and headed to the check out lanes, only to find ALL of them were self-checkouts.  I was appalled.  I thought about just leaving.  Then I considered calling a manager over and telling her that I was not going to use one of those self-checkouts, but since this was the ghetto, I decided she may cut me.  Finally, I decided to bite the bullett and do it.  So off I went to check myself out. 

(A similar likeness to Miss BoomBoom)
I was reading the directions on the screen when a lady, dressed in a purple velour jumpsuit with matching fingernails and hairbraids, standing in line behind me told me I did not need to read them.  She informed me that it wasn't that hard, I just scan the item and bag it, ending her instructions with a "boom boom boom and you done."  I nodded at her and kept reading, to which she said loudly, "I ain't never seen the beat...readin' the screen like you don't know how to scan it.....scan it, bag it, boom boom boom you done."  At this point, I was really irritated at both the lady for rushing me and at K-Mart for putting me in this situation. 

I just started quickly scanning my items and bagging them.  Each time I scanned an item the machine made a beep and Miss BoomBoom grunted "mmmhhhmmm."  I assumed that meant I was doing everything correctly.  Had I been able to finish reading the instructional guide, I would have known to look at the monitor to see if any problems had occured.  I would have probably also known to watch for the light on the pole above the register to start flashing.  I finished up my scanning, and smiled at Miss BoomBoom. 

I then looked at the monitor to see what my total was when I noticed it was flashing with an error message.  Apparently, the second item I had scanned needed a price check and I was to wait before scanning anything else.  All the items after the second had not been scanned or added to my bill.  The flashing light was beckoning a manager to my register.  "What?!  You mean I have to do all this over?!" I asked to no one in particular.  Miss BoomBoom then laughed and said, "Baby, what did you think that flashing light meant.  Hmm?"  "Well, I am sure I would have no idea since I was not able to read the instructions" I retorted.  "Hmmph" said Miss BoomBoom.

After waiting about 5 minutes, my blood was boiling and I loudly said, "Just forget this!"  I threw down the towels that I had unbagged and started stomping out of the K-Mart.  The towels were strewn over the register, the bag stand, and in the floor.  Miss BoomBoom yelled, "Hey!  You can't just leave this here like this!"  I yelled back from the door, "The hell I can't!"

It was at least a year before I tried a self-checkout again.  When I did so, it was in the safety and comfort of a nice, new Target with a very helpful older lady showing me how to everything the correct way.

Now, here I am complaining when a store does not offer to let me do all the work via self-checkout.  I have come a long way, but I am sure a new shopping mishap could happen at any point.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Shopping Season Is Over!

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone is enjoying this first day of 2011.  I am spending this day in a sweatsuit, doing as little as possible, relaxing to the sound of the rain falling, and feeling a general sense of relief. This relief is not just that the previous year is over and I have outwitted the "dark cloud" for another trip around the sun, but also that the gift-giving season is over.

(one of the early-morning freaks)
 I am told there are people who actually relish shopping for Christmas/Hanukkah/PlaceYourYearEndGiftBuyingHolidayHere gifts.  I have heard that some shop all year long for perfect gifts, or will actually schedule shopping excursions to outlet malls, warehouses, and out of state shopping malls.  I suspect these are the same type of people who like to get up early in the morning.  Those are the people who always look down on us late-sleepers, thinking they are more productive and have accomplished more before I wake up than I will complete my entire day.  They probably sit around the kitchen table with a mug of coffee waiting for the sun to rise (because you know they think it wouldn't if they were not up and at 'em) so they can head out and get some shopping done.  Because it is January 1, and I am still trying to be a better person for the new year, I will not say that I hate those people, but I do.

Around October each year, I start getting a sinking feeling of doom deep inside.  One of the tiny voices in my head starts reminding that I have anywhere from 20-30 gifts to purchase before the end of the year.  Each time I drive past a Target, Wal-Mart, flea market, or any other retail establishment, Inside Voice #1 says "Cool Daddy (that's what my inside voices calls me), you should really stop and buy at least one gift for someone.  You could buy a gift or two each week and be finished with your shopping by mid-December."  Do I listen?  Oh no! "Shut up, Inside Voice #1, shut up!"  say I.  "I have plenty of time, and will do all my shopping early this year.  Stop bugging me about it!  However, Inside Voice #2, you are completely on point and correct.  I think stopping somewhere for Happy Hour is a brilliant idea.  Inside Voice#1, why can't you be more like Inside Voice #2?" 

What?  Like none of you have more than one voice in your head?

Regardless, Inside Voice #2 and Cool Daddy (me) have a grand time for the next few weeks.  During this time of year there are parties, football tailgating, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and various other celebrations to attend.  Suddenly it is mid-December, and I haven't bought a single gift.  The pressure and stress does not build gradually throughout this period of time.  It waits and just hits all at once, usually the day that I need to give my first gift.  I try to coax out Inside Voice #1 to help me with some ideas, but he is sulking and smug and will not say anything.  Inside Voice #2 is bloated, hungover, and has settled in for a long winter's nap, leaving me periously on my own.

In a panic, I usually head to one store and try to buy all 30 gifts there.  I frantically look through the already picked over selection and justify why my aunt Daisy would love a plastic fern stuffed inside a tea kettle, and tell myself that Aunt Adelene really needs a "Hotter Than Hell and Your Mama" hot sauce collection.  I convince myself that all my cousins would love a nice Chia Pet for thier home.

Inside Voice #1 finally got his revenge on me a few years ago inside a Target in Daytona Beach, Florida.  I had waited until the evening before I was to drive to Kentucky for Chrismas before doing any shopping.  I went into the store with the intention of buying every gift I needed.  I fought the crowd, I jerked sweaters out of an elderly man's hands, and I pushed my cart as if I were at the Daytona Nascar racetrack across the street.

All of this had put me in a sour mood, and I was ready to just get my gifts purchased, along with a bunch of gift bags, and get the heck out of there.  While rounding the corner with my cart that was overflowing, I glanced over at the Men's department.  Inside Voice #2, of course, piped in that if I was getting all of this stuff, I should get myself something as well.  "Cool Daddy, why spend all this time and money if you aren't able to have any of it for yourself?" he said.  Inside Voice #2 is a stinker, and I always listen to him.

I left my cart on the tile walkway at the front of the Men's department.  I made a quick pass through, picked up and checked out a couple items, and decided not to purchase anything.  I grabbed my cart and headed to the checkout.  Of course, the line to checkout was backed up 10 shoppers deep.  This just darkened my mood.  Naturally, I chose the slowest line.  I continually tried to make eye contact with my fellow line-mates so I could give them an eye-roll or a head shake that silently said the person who was currently checking out was an idiot.  If anyone in front of me wrote a check, I loudly clucked my tongue against my teeth while looking pained.  Any price checks were met with a loud blow from me.  "Sheooooowwaaaahhh."  I noticed that none of my other line-mates were agreeing with me.  They refused to make eye contact with me, and in fact, looked a little frightened.  I was in too much of an indignant rage to care.

After 30 minutes, it was finally my turn to check out.  I moved to the front of my cart, and bent over to start unloading my over-full buggy of its contents.  I was stunned.  Simply stunned.  My cart was completely empty.  There was nothing at all in it.  But, how could that be?  Where did it go?  I looked over to the door of the store to find my friend Jeff was also shopping with me, but he was just standing there waiting.  I was so shocked and stunned that all I could say to the clerk was, "Well, there is nothing in my buggy."

I had stood in the checkout line making noises, rolling my eyes, and generally being an ass for over half an hour with a completely empty cart.  No wonder no one would make eye contact with me and were shielding small children from me.  It finally struck me that when I left my cart to go check out the Men's clothes, I must have inadvertently grabbed the wrong one when I decided to head out.  I then started laughing.  It was a hearty, full-on laugh.  Now the ass who had complained and "Sheooooowwaaaahhhed" at everyone while standing in line with an empty cart was frantically laughing.  I tried to explain to the clerk, but she just asked me to please move on so the people who actually had items to purchase could do so.  I think she was also pushing the hidden security button.

I gathered myself together, went back and found the correct cart, which was still in the same place as I had left it, and started over in the check out line.  This time, I said nothing about the wait.  Other than an occassional giggle, I was on my best behavior.  The clerk looked frightened when she saw it was me again standing in front of her, but she was relieved to see actual items in my cart.

The next October, as soon I started feeling that shopping feeling start, Inside Voice #1 simply whispered, "This year, Cool Daddy, let's do it all online."  This time, I listened.