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Choosing the Right Check-out Line

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 4.22.24 PMBefore getting in a grocery store check out line, I survey every line. How many people in each line?   How full are their carts? I’m determined to choose the fastest moving line, and one day I was positive I’d made the best choice. The only cart ahead of me was filled two-liter drinks, and the customer was piling those drinks on the conveyer belt.

I began stacking my groceries behind the drinks. By the time my cart was empty, I realized that some drink bottles were still on the counter and a woman, wearing a manager’s nametag, was talking to the customer.

Manager: I’m sorry, but there’s a limit. You can only buy six two-liter drinks at the advertised price.

Customer: Nobody told me.

Manager: There are signs on the drink aisle and it was stated in the newspaper ad. (She nodded toward the newspaper tucked under the customer’s arm.)

Customer: I didn’t get all the same drinks. I want six of each kind.

After a few more exchanges, in which the manager spoke in a calm, controlled voice, the customer put her hands on her hips and looked at her cart. She handed one two-liter bottle to the young male cashier and said that she didn’t know which drinks to put back. The manager walked away after thanking the customer for her understanding. The cashier stood quietly and smiled as the woman changed her mind several times. I wanted to tell her to choose six, any six!

Finally, she handed money to the cashier. He counted out her change and explained the savings shown printed on her receipt. At last, my turn. But it wasn’t. The customer stared at her receipt. At this point, I’m annoyed, and I notice that the cashier has maintained a pleasant attitude. I read his name on his nametag: David.

Customer: You charged me too much.

David: The discount is listed below the regular price.

Customer: You charged me for 7, not 6.

She threw the receipt onto the counter, and David counted aloud to six as he pointed to numbers on the receipt.

Customer: You didn’t count all of the numbers.

In a friendly voice, David suggested that she take the receipt to customer service where someone could be sure that everything was correct.

Customer: You just don’t want to do it right.

David: (turning to the employee who had bagged the six drinks) Will you please carry her bags and get customer service to help her immediately?

The bag boy picked up the three full plastic bags, nodded and smiled to the customer, and said, “Right this way, ma’am.” It took another minute for her to put the newspaper, her billfold, and her glasses in her purse before she walked away.

David turned my way and smiled. “Welcome. How are you today?”

“Thanks, I’m really good. And you?” I asked.

“Having a good day.”

I shook my head and chuckled. “You certainly handled that situation well. I wouldn’t have been so patient. Congratulations on a job well done.”

“We try, ma’m,” he said as he began scanning my groceries.

I’ve had some bad days. Some confusing and frustrating checkout experiences. I don’t mean to be critical of the customer ahead of me. My takeaway from this experience is to appreciate people, like David, who are courteous and respectful, even in a difficult situation.

I chose the check out line that took a really long time. I chose the right one.

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