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Posted: September 18, 2011 12:00 a.m.

My secret life as a cashier

Grocery shopping has become a frustrating experience. It's not that it's hard to find wonderful items to buy, not with all the great choices in the stores. I'm a smart shopper. I buy fruits, and juices, and healthy veggies; I'm an angel in the meat department, just looking at the ribeye steaks and not poking them too much; and I'm especially careful to close my eyes in the candy and cookie aisle. My problem isn't with the actual shopping itself. I always find great things to eat. What dismays me is the self-service checkout lane. I'm just a lousy cashier.

When I was growing up, the grocery store rules were crystal clear. The customer put the food in the buggy, and the cashier - a store employee - rang it up, counted out the change, and handed over a wad of S&H Green Stamps. I miss those days. Now, the customer does most of the work, unless you wait in a long line for the one cashier who's actually on the store payroll. At the self-service lanes - also known as the "free labor pool," you scan your own apples, weigh your own bananas, and bag everything up, doing the same job that the real cashiers are paid to do. I don't think I'm ready for this. Back in one of my many college-era jobs, I ran a cash register in an automotive parts department for minimum wage. I certainly wasn't the best cashier around, but I knew not to make a customer ring up his own shock absorbers.

But, times have changed, and now we're all becoming honorary cashiers, and no one's getting minimum wage. We're working for free! How did this happen? We should at least get employee discounts, but that's probably unlikely in my case, since I make so many mistakes scanning my items. I'm supposed to enter a special code to scan a grapefruit, but I never get it right, and the machine always glares at me. I was probably lusting in the candy aisle when the training class on scanning citrus fruits was held. I guess I'm just a terrible customer - ummm - I mean a terrible cashier. Sometimes, I don't even remember to thank myself and tell myself to come back soon. I'm lucky the real cashiers don't catch that oversight. I'd probably be the first customer ever fired for bad customer service.


David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Conyers and can be reached at davmccoy@bellsouth.net.

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