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The Saga Of The Battle Of The Checkouts

, , , , , , , | Right | March 27, 2020

I am a customer at a grocery store waiting to check out. There are three lanes open: one regular checkout, one express checkout, and the self-service checkout, which has six registers. There are lines at all three but things are moving fairly quickly and smoothly.

A woman carrying around five items, [Customer #1], walks up and looks over the lines. Rather than simply get in a line, she walks to the checkout next to the open express line. The light indicating which lines are open is between the actually open one and the one she chooses, both express. [Customer #1] dumps her items on the belt, even though it clearly isn’t manned, and proceeds to glare at the back of the head of the cashier at the open express line who is currently in the middle of another customer’s order. Once the cashier rings everything through and is waiting on the computer she turns and politely apologizes and tells [Customer #1] that the light is for the other register and indicates where the line is.

[Customer #1] huffily picks her items back up and walks to the end of the belt of the open express line. The next few customers in the express line, though, step up, essentially blocking her access to the belt — note that everyone in the express line has the appropriate number of items. [Customer #1] glares at them and surveys the three lines again. She sees that the couple currently unloading at the regular checkout are just finishing putting their items on the belt. So, she walks over and stands next to the next guy in line, [Customer #2]. He does have a full cart but is in a regular line, has been waiting, and clearly saw what [Customer #1] just did.

[Customer #2] turns his back to [Customer #1], putting himself between her and the belt, picks up a couple of his items, and begins unloading immediately when there is room. [Customer #1] pretends to almost drop a couple of her items — she has not seemed to have any difficulty holding everything before this — and sends a death glare at [Customer #2]’s back. When he doesn’t turn around and completely ignores her, [Customer #1] turns to survey the three lines again.

[Customer #1] apparently decides to try the self-checkout line next. There is a line of around five people off to one side so none of the aisles are blocked. The woman at the front of the self-checkout line, [Customer #3], has a full cart — again, nothing improper as the self-checkout lines at this location have no item limit. I am second with six items and there are another few people behind me with varying numbers of items. [Customer #1] approaches the self-checkout from the side opposite where the line-up is and tries to walk into the middle of the area. [Customer #3], in front, casually steps into the middle and uses her cart to block the opposite side. I actually admire the move as [Customer #3] does it with much ease and nonchalance, never even actually looking at [Customer #1]. The rest of us in the line also move up and toward the middle, making sure [Customer #1] isn’t able to step between anyone in line.

The employee monitoring the self-checkout — who is actually standing right next to where [Customer #1] tried to push in — very politely informs [Customer #1] that the line goes the other way, apologizes for the wait, and indicates where the back of the line is. [Customer #1] glares at the employee and pretends to almost drop her items again. She then glares at everyone in the self-checkout line, and then at everyone in the express line — a couple of people have left and a couple more have joined the line — and then at the two people now in the regular checkout line. When everyone ignores her and she can’t catch anyone’s eye, she finally goes to the end of the express checkout line.

It was satisfying to be part of a group effort to stop this woman from getting her way. She was just so clearly trying to bully her way to the front of a line. It was amusing to watch her be stymied as pretty much everyone ignored her. While I kind of wish the cashiers had been able to tell her off for trying to cut, watching her get extremely frustrated by their polite, feigned ignorance was also funny. And bottom line, she probably would have been done faster if she had just gotten into the express line in the first place.