Let me out!

We had a friend coming over to visit and I needed to make a quick stop at Safeway to pick up a few items. The store wasn’t particularly crowded but for some reason, everybody seemed to be mulling around, blocking aisles and in no rush to get out of the way.

When picking out a checkout line, I typically look for four things:

  1. A short line. I count up the number of people waiting to check out.
  2. Full/empty status of the customer’s carts. A short line doesn’t always mean a quicker checkout. There’s a balance between a large number of people with 2 items each or a small number with a cart half full.
  3. The status of the conveyor. A very full conveyor either counts as an additional person, or reflects poorly on the speed of the cashier if it’s not continuously rolling.
  4. A judgment call of the cashier’s competency. I quickly try to determine if I think that the cashier is a seasoned pro, or if they are hiding an “in training” badge in their coat pocket. A fast cashier can made up for items 1 and 2.

Most aisles had a few people on line, but I found one that fit all of my criteria. Nobody was on line. The conveyor was empty. The last customer had all of his items bagged and looked like he was awaiting his receipt. The cashier looked competent.

I unloaded my items into the conveyor, looked up and saw that the guy was still waiting. Not only was he waiting, but he was in conversation with the cashier. I got distracted for another minute, looked back and when I looked back, they were still talking. I wasn’t listening but wish I had been because I couldn’t imagine what they could be discussing.

Even the bagger somehow seemed distracted and was laughing at something. It couldn’t have been the cashier/customer conversation because their chat looked as though it had a different tone.

As I stared, the customer turned to me and said, “Sorry for holding you up.”

I just stared back. I’m usually quite polite and in my mind I thought of saying, “it’s ok” but bit my tongue. It wasn’t ok. I had to get home in 5 minutes and I live 8 minutes away. Every second counts.

Just as I was about to say, “Exactly how long will this be? Should I move my stuff to another aisle?” he received some sort of printout from the cashier. It’s not clear what it didn’t seem like it was a receipt.

Finally, the guy left and it was my turn. The cashier scanned my items, somewhat slowly. Fortunately, I only had about 8 items.

I handed her my Safeway card to scan, saving me about $7 in the process. I then ran my credit card through, punched the appropriate selections and signed my name. When I looked up, my items were still sitting on the back conveyor and not placed in bags. A woman walked up to the cashier and said, “Time for your lunch break.” The both of them then proceeded to chat.

I went around to the back of the aisles and started grabbing items to place into bags. In doing so, it seemed to get the cashier into gear and she filled a second bag. Finally, she handed me my receipt.

Well, not exactly. She extended it towards me, holding onto it with quite a grip. How do I know? Because as she extended it to me, I reached out and tried to take it. With that, she looked at my name to tell me how much I saved today. “Mr. um… how do you pronounce your last name?” She then tried but pronounced it wrong and I continued tugging on the receipt.

I said my name correctly and she let go of the receipt. “Do you need help out today?” she asked.

“No, I just need to get out.” I turned and walked out of the store.

And in case you’re curious, I made it home with a few minutes to spare so that I could put my groceries away before our guest arrived. Whew.

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