Nightmares of American Consumerism: The Dreaded Line Shopper
In a world where Capitalism, Consumerism, and Materialism govern the ideals of the general population, everyday situations such as visiting the grocery store, can quickly turn into fodder for stories that should be told around a campfire. What you are about to read may just be one of those stories.
It Has a Name - The Line Shopper
I am not a big fan of people that shop from the cash register line. You know what I’m talking about, those people who stand in the grocery store line with their cart piled high with sugary snacks who then suddenly run off “real quick” to get something that they “forgot”. Meanwhile, you’re left standing there wondering if they are going to return in time to load their merchandise onto the conveyor belt or if you should do it for them (or cut them in line). I know what you're probably thinking, we are all guilty of this. Even the author of this article has had to shop from the line at one point or another. So, I suppose that shopping from the line is just an annoyance or even a minor inconvenience at best - unless, of course, the shopper fails to return to their cart in time...
Inconvenience Turns to Public Nuisance
The worst thing that can happen to you when waiting in a grocery store line is when a line shopper takes too long to get what they "forgot." Next thing you know, it’s their turn to check out but they are no where to be found. Meanwhile, the cashier is attempt to usher you forward by flailing her hands and the customers behind you are beginning to get agitated.
What do you do in this situation? I mean, do you stand there and wait for them to come back or do you shove their cart out of the way and go around them? Maybe you could be a good Samaritan and load their stuff onto the conveyor belt for them is if it were your own? Nah, I doubt anyone would do that - what if they still aren't back in time. Can you imagine the look on the line shopper's face if they return only to find you loading their stuff onto the conveyor belt? I don't think that they would be very pleased to see our greasy hands all over their food. It's possible that they would respond to the gesture by also asking for you to pay for the groceries.
This Happened to Someone I Know - Once or Twice Years Ago
Once upon a time, this very debacle happened to a very good friend of mine. His name has been changed to protect the innocent - let's call him Josh.
Josh was patiently waiting in a very long line at a Fry's Marketplace in Central Phoenix in the summer of 2009. It was payday Friday and everyone and their family was out doing their grocery shopping. After waiting in line for more than 20 minutes, the woman in front of Josh decided that she forgot something. She politely told Josh and the other customers that she "would be right back." She and her three kids paraded out of the line leaving their overflowing carts (yes, she had 2 carts) behind them.
As the line inched forward, Josh did what anyone else in his situation would do - he pushed her carts forward as well. When the conveyor belt was getting near, Josh began to get very anxious. This lady - this line shopper - wasn't back from her journey to the depths of the marketplace yet - what was Josh going to do!? After contemplating his choices for several moments and sticking his neck out above the crowd several times to look for signs of this woman, Josh had no choice but to load his own groceries onto the conveyor belt.
No sooner than Josh had finished stacking boxes and cans onto the conveyor built did this woman appear. With a scowl on her face and sweat over her brow she opened her mouth and billowed the words "What are you doing! I was next in line!"
Josh, being the timid fellow that he was, was nearly speechless. This woman continued to berate him for cutting her in line. The cashier reached for her phone to call a manager to dissolve the situation. This grocery store shuffle 'n scuffle continued for a few moments until a manager finally arrived to diffuse the situation.
I will spare the rest of the details here, but ultimately what happened was that the line shopper was allowed to check out before Josh did. Josh had to reload his cart while listening to the lady talk about how "some people are just rude."
Can you believed that? The conclusion is somewhat anti-climatic, but wow. I couldn't believe it myself when I first heard the story.
I Once Worked in Retail....
Back in the day when I had a job as a cashier for a local retailer, this kind of thing was a huge problem. Not only is line shopping a problem for other customers, its a potential headache for the cashier's as well. A typical scenario is as follows: The customer next in line (the one behind the one I was ringing up) would run off to grab something else off the shelf. About half the time the customer returned early enough to prevent an inconvenience, but sometimes they did not. In the case where they don't return in time to be checked out, I was left standing there trying to decide what to do.
The store were I was employed was very busy and cashiers had the ability to use their discretion when situations like this arose. I would usually wait for a few moments but when no it was apparent that the line shopper wasn't coming back any time soon, I would check out the next customer. This usually was no big deal and the returning line shopper was quick to apologize when they came back to their cart. However, sometimes the customer would get angry and try to drag me into a heated argument. I would usually just smile at them and say something like, “Sir, out of respect for the other customers in the store, I can’t let you shop from the line. I will be happy to ring you up when I am finished with this customer.” As you can see, line shopping often left me in a sticky situation that wasn't good for me or the business I was working for.