More thoughts on the retail checkout line

I don’t know why I feel so strongly about lines. And I don’t know why I put so much thought into them. Maybe it’s because while most people waiting in a line would pass the time by thinking about the important things going on in their life, if there isn’t a new episode of Survivor on that night, then I’m SOL. Instead, I stand there stewing over everything that is wrong about the situation. Take note: I don’t take any action to change things; I just carefully scrutinize how they are wrong. For fun. I’m not going to do anything about it. What can I do? Lines happen.*

*So what’s the point of making us read this? you ask. Shut up, you.

You may have read my first foray into line analysis in a vintage post called Line Etiquette–Learn It! and now, apparently, I have more thoughts on the subject.

The Costco Self-Checkout

Why, oh why, in God’s name, is there not an item limit on this? “Self-checkout – 12 ITEMS OR LESS” would make a world of difference. Isn’t the point of the self-checkout to allow people to get out of the store faster? Nothing irks me more than going to Costco to pick up a single item (probably a Costco-sized jar of pickles) and strolling over to the self-checkout only to be stuck behind the Duggar’s with three full shopping carts in tow. How does this system make anything faster? Let the professionals do it! Gramps can’t find the sticker on a watermelon!

And then, of course, there are always the items that have to be scanned by the attendant because us cretins of the world can’t be trusted with a hand-held scanner gun. They walk over to you like the sheriff saving the world. Yeah, I could have pointed and clicked too, you know.

The Wal-Mart Express Lane

Conversely, when I have a lot of items, I want special treatment. I’m spending more money–shouldn’t I get to line up in a fancy line with a million cashiers at the end of it? Instead, the express lane caters to the people who are spending less money. (More like the expless lane, am I right? Crickets.) If they are going to have a special line with multiple cashiers at the end of it, shouldn’t it be for people with “20 items or MORE” ? After all, it promotes further spending.  “Awww, I only have 18 items. I’ll just grab these mints and batteries and BAM! I’m in!” Recently, as I stood like an asshole in the only regular lane that was open and watched the express lane shoot people through with their small number of items, I contemplated taking items out of my cart and jumping ship. How is that sensible business?*

*I didn’t. I guess Wal-Mart wins.

The Nosy Cashier

I know they are just being friendly by asking, “Big plans this weekend?” but usually, I don’t. So what am I supposed to say? “No, but thanks for reminding me of that fact!” and watch the blood drain from their face? Since I have social decency, I oblige them and either make something up or deflect the question to them. But I don’t care what they are doing. I just want to buy my turkey pepperettes in peace.

One time, I was loading up on junk food on a Wednesday and the cashier said, “Big party tonight?!” Clouded in shame, my mind raced and I heard myself say, “No, tomorrow night!” You know, because a Thursday night fake party is more believable than a Wednesday night fake party.

In sum,

When I have few items, I want to be catered to. When I have many items, I want to be catered to. And to the cashiers out there–stick to the weather.



9 thoughts on “More thoughts on the retail checkout line

  1. Costco over here in the UK doesn’t have a self checkout, they don’t trust us enough. In fact they are so paranoid that stuff is going to be stolen that the your trolley has to be pulled through by the cashier on their side of the till, woe betide any non costco worker who tries to take the same path, you will be blocked and told to walk around the other way.

    Then on your way out with your oversized trolley piled high with goods you have to give your receipt to another person who looks like they are checking off the items in your trolley with the items on the receipt because yanno they can count 150 items all piled in the same trolley.

    Joke is they spend no more than 30 seconds peering into the trolley then looking at the receipt to sign it.

    1. First, I love that in the UK, a cart is a trolley. Way fancier.

      In Canada, we also have the “security” at the exit who takes your receipt, pretends to look through your full cart, then draws a line down the centre of the receipt as if to say, “I deem you not a thief.” Costco is kind of bullshit, but I’m a slave.

      1. Yeah me too, Although compared to Canada/US our prices are like the national debt of some smaller European countries they are quite cheap for the package sizes (oh er lol) so I’m a slave too.

  2. Haha.
    I always find myself wishing more stores had self checkouts but I don’t know why…since people use them INCORRECTLY. Also, most of them are so annoying. “Please place item in the bag.” IT’S ALREADY IN THE BAG, WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT!


    1. YES!!!! The bag thing is so annoying!!!

  3. I was once purchasing the magazine Maxim (for the articles, honest). The female cashier picks it up, starts looking it over (as the line up grows behind me), and finally exclaims “wow, that’s Topanga from Boy Meets World! She’s got a rocking body!” Thanks, I hadn’t noticed when I grabbed it off the shelf, now RING THE DAMN THING THROUGH! Its nice to know other people have the same issue with nosy cashiers.

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