Bad Grocery Store Checkout Karma

Grocery CheckoutI’ve got bad grocery store checkout karma. It rears its ugly mojo in the most ingenius ways.

For example, there is the High-Tech Meltdown: The scanner quits, the card reader goes on the fritz, etc. Inevitably this happens moments after I have removed my goods from the cart and committed myself to the checker on Register 15. While those behind me move quickly to Register 1 through 14, I’m trying to get six cans of Progresso soup (it was on sale) a case of bottled water, and a twenty-five pound bag of Dog Chow back into my cart, for the search for what I guess will be the fastest line. Just when I glide up to Register 12, the guy who was two carts behind me on 15 is leaving the checkout and on his way to the exit. The louse looks back and gives me a sly smile.

That’s when I bury my face in a copy of People and curse my checkout karma. (If they had Sports Illustrated in the magazine rack, I’d be happier; If they had the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, I wouldn’t care how long it took to get through. I might even let a few people jump ahead in line…)

Even more iritating is the Penny Pincher: In the age of the “Club Discount Card,” it’s not enough for some people to be told that with a mere swipe of their discount card they just “saved 28% on today’s purchase.” Oh, no, these dedicated penny pinchers have to bring in a variety of manufacturer’s coupons that they get from the Sunday newspapers, too. They start peeling them off to shave an extra dime here and a quarter there. Inevitably this leads to the hapless checker telling Mike or Mollie McScrooge that the Lemon Pledge dollar-off coupon was only good for the purchase of the 24-ounce bottle, not the smaller size. This leads to a gripping debate; or worst of all, sending the kid who’s packing the groceries back to aisle eight in search of the 18-ounce size of Lemon Pledge.

It’s at this point I begin to wonder if Tony Soprano would have this cheap bastard whacked.

I try to go to my happy place. I push out my thoughts of Tony and refocus on the Dali Lama. Perhaps a silent chant might help: “OHMMMM.”

Then there’s the Smoker: I don’t know what’s it like to purchase a pack of cigarettes in Winston Salem, North Carolina but here in San Francisco it’s no small feat. Just as I’m silently praising my good fortune to get behind a 25 year-old guy whose buying some snacks and a six-pack of beer, while clutching his cash for a speedy transaction, the guy blurts out, “I’d like a pack of Marlboro.” Oh crap, we’re in for it now. Cigarettes are kept in a locked case. That should be simple enough but there’s one small problem, announced by the checker in a booming voice, “Who has the key for the cigarette case?” That brings the whole operation to a halt. Now a dozen plus checkers are searching their cash draws, pockets, and aprons, for the nicotine passkey. I’m feeling lighthearted so I grab for a copy of Star Magazine to discover that Lindsay Lohan has been abducted by aliens, Jessica Alba is an alien, and George W. Bush has made a secret pact with Kubla Kahn. Sometimes you just have to laugh your way through these things.

My least favorite of all is Ms. Change Purse: Finally, I crack (almost). The little red change purse was the cause. When you see that change purse come out you’re in deep trouble. “M’am,” the checker says, “that will be $8.63.”Well here comes a single, followed by another single, and three more after that. We’re into the home stretch I think, already there’s five dollars down on the counter…

But then the change begins: first quarters, then dimes, nickels—

And at $8.56, we’re down to the pennies.

Now before you think that the poor old woman was just paying with the few dollars she could scrape together, think again. Being twice her height, I can see down into that not so little change purse, and guess what? There are several twenties in there. No, this is just a case of getting rid of all your small change. The fact that there are four people waiting to checkout, is of no concern. I’m chanting my OHMMMM and holding up reasonably well—

Until she loses count and begins the process over again starting with the single dollar bills.

To hell with Soprano, I’m taking this one out on my own.

Martin Brown
SMW Money Editor

[*No supermarket checkout personnel, registers, or annoying patrons were harmed in the making of this blog]