Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ceci n’est pas une caissière

Elaine and I were checking out at our local multinational retail corporation. We always skip self-checkout for the company of a fellow human being.

This fellow human being handed our string bags back to us. “It’ll be faster if you do this,” she said. Elaine and I looked at each other and started bagging. Very puzzling. I asked Elaine, “Is there some reason we’re doing this?” I thought I might have missed something while checking my phone. Elaine didn’t know what was going on either.

I had to say something: “I’m a little puzzled,” said I. “No one cashiering has ever asked us to bag our own stuff.”

“I’m not a cashier,” the cashier replied. Slightly icy. And then I noticed her badge, which read

        SUZY Q
I couldn’t tell if she had noticed that I had noticed.

“Well, you look like a cashier!” said I. I was friendly about it. No response from Ms. Q. No Have a Nice Day. No nothing.

In my college years I worked in retail as a stock clerk, and I sometimes cashiered. Punching in prices, hitting Subtotal and Total, making change: that’s cashiering. When I was cashiering, I was a cashier.

As Elaine observed, this brief encounter felt like something from Curb Your Enthusiasm.

comments: 8

Zhoen said...

I use the self check out and bag my own stuff as much as possible. To avoid people like that cashier who isn't a cashier. If I go through the checker line, it's because I have some complexity. Even then, I bag my own because baggers have bagged so badly.

Michael Leddy said...

The people who bag our stuff almost always do a better job than we could. With string bags, Tetris skills come into play (as a cashier once joked). At Aldi, of course, we bag our own stuff, and struggle to keep up with the cashiers.

Frex said...

Oh for heaven's sake. It's a sad day for a human when s/he starts taking their name tags seriously.
[Hey, how bout that for mushing up pronouns? :) ]
--Frex = Fresca

Chris said...

I always bring my own heavy-duty cloth book bags, and most customers where I shop do their own bagging (although the cashiers will happily bag for those who are unable or unwilling to do so). But the self-checkout line is another story; I'm totally intimidated by the idea and either look the other way or hide whenever an employee looks like he or she might be about to try to persuade me to use it. It just seems so ... unstructured.

I'm told that economists argue that self-checkout lines don't actually cut jobs, but I don't quite believe it.

Michael Leddy said...

Fresca, nicely done. : )

Chris, with self-checkout, I’ve seen the number of checkout lines drop sharply. I can’t help thinking that that self-checkouts reduce employees’ hours.

Jean Petree said...

"Extra Service Handling (Bagging): $10/bag" (lol)

Michael Leddy said...

Hello Jean!

Chris said...

I suspect the economic defense of self-checkout would be the same that it is for all automation, that it increases productivity and allows the economy to expand, replacing menial jobs with positions for white-collar workers, etc. Which is certainly true in a sense; we're presumably wealthier and better off now that the majority of us, at least in industrialized countries, are no longer needed in farm labor or factory work. But if productivity is expanding more rapidly than the capacity of the economy to produce more job opportunities, then you have a problem, and it probably exacerbates inequality as well.

In any case, I'll continue to use the lines with cashiers. I'm fine with pumping my own gas but I'd rather buy groceries from a human being.