Check This Out!

I have several part-time jobs. Call me crazy but I don’t remember the application process or the interview. There was no offer letter or a benefits package. I work a flexible schedule. Whenever I decide to show up, I’m on the clock.

I’m moonlighting at Shoprite, Target, Michael’s, Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart and occasionally some random store like CVS with one employee stocking shelves. It seems as if most big-box stores have decided the shopping experience should include self-checkout. I must bring my own shopping bags, peruse the store and work the registers.

They put in self-checkout lanes as if it’s a perk we’ve been denied.

Dear Shopper,

We’ve read your suggestions from our nonstop email surveys. We’re happy to say we’ve determined you don’t have enough to do navigating our stores, scanning each item with our extra savings phone app, and choreographing your aisle movements to avoid the fellow shopper who’s knocked down four store displays maneuvering a shopping cart, the size of a limo, which carries a three-year-old seated in an attached plastic car. So, we’ve made the experience more interactive. Enjoy the slow-moving lines where you’ll have the privilege to scan, search our 1,000-page produce directory, to weigh one tomato, and bag all your purchases. Yes, we’ve put you to work.

Remember to smile. You’re being recorded. As a non-employee employee, we want to insure you’re providing the best customer service to yourself. We’re always concerned about pilferage, and we don’t trust you to do the job we’ve not hired you to do. A qualified store security guard, who didn’t make it through the Police Academy, might have to search your purchases and frisk you in front of the in-store café.

Kindly comply with security or you might have to visit the employee lounge for a cavity search. Not only is it embarrassing for you, but think of poor Tyron who’s trying to eat his lunch. A word of caution: microwaves, flat screen TVs, air fryers and Keurigs have been confiscated. This leads to arrest and automatic termination. Don’t risk losing a job you don’t have.

Hopefully, you’ll work independently, but we do have Sales Associates who can assist you. (We no longer refer to our employees as salespeople.) They’re not just people, every individual is a skilled professional. They’re trained to look disinterested and annoyed when helping you search for merchandise.

Equipped with high tech scanners, developed by rocket scientists, they can search for any item and tally how many are in stock. Usually there are one or two remaining that can’t be found on the premises— remember pilferage.

They might offer to check the stockroom, but be aware the stockroom doors lead to a parallel universe. The associate might not return. You don’t want their disappearance on your hands. Do you really want us to tell poor little Anna that her daddy’s not coming home because you wanted an extra can of Scrubbing Bubbles?

Not to worry, we’ve six in our Poughkeepsie location. It’s only an eight-hour drive or it can be shipped directly to the store. Then, you’ll have the privilege of accompanying it through the self-checkout process. Don’t forget to bring a reusable bag or you can buy one of our beautifully designed ones for doing the job yourself.

You’re more than just a loyal customer, you’re a member of our family. That’s why we’ve given you a job. A happy family works together. Think of yourself as an Honorary Associate without minimum wage renumeration.


 Big Box Retailers Inc.

 So, I’ve had to learn how to properly operate the self-checkout machine. A learning curve is to be expected. There are touchscreens, scales, price scanners and an A.I. Karen inside who just wants to f**K with me. She has more instructions and warnings than a Marine Drill Sargent.

“Please scan your shopper card!”

“Please select your number of bags.”

“Please place your bags in the bagging area.”

“Please rescan your item.”

“Place item in the bagging area.”

 “Unidentified item in the bagging area.”

“I said, unidentified item in the bagging area!”

“Pay attention! Do I have to do all the work for you?”

“Do you really need two bags of chips? Watch your carbs chubby!”

“Unscanned item in the bagging area!”

“I saw you roll your eyes!”

“Unscanned item placed in bag!!”

“Call supervisor, Call Security!”

“Please select payment type.”

“What no cash cheapo?”

“I find it difficult to work with you.”

“I don’t like the way you touched my screen. I’m reporting you to HR.”

“Please take your receipt dummy!”

“Thanks, and have a nice day.”

When I’m through the whole process, I rush home, down four dirty martinis and contemplate  online shopping. The thing is, although it’s the ultimate annoyance, I like picking out my own merchandise. I don’t want some random associate squeezing my melons. If the order is delivered wrong, then I’m back in the store anyway.

For awhile, I instituted a moratorium on the self-checkout lines. I’d only deal with a live person. Stores are hiring less employees to work the checkout. There are usually only one or two registers open. The lines are always long. I’m the lucky one who gets in back of the woman, in her pajamas, with fifteen gift cards she wants to use for her purchases. “I think there might be five dollars left on this one. These three could have a couple of dollars. The rest I don’t know… Hehe!”

Guess what? I’ve just developed checkout rage. Flannel faux pas is about to be rear-ended by my family-size bag of Twizzlers™. I’ve played Candy Crush four times, posted a pic of her pajamas on Facebook, and trolled six people on Twitter. At least I’m productive. We all know how important social media time is.

After forty-five minutes, I can finally unload my cart. The frazzled store associate shoves my items across the scanner and asks if I’m a member of the Shopper’s Club. The only club I want to belong to is the One Percenters’, so my seventy-five personal assistants can day drink after surviving the indignity of the new retail experience.

Oh, by the way, I love when the highly skilled sales associate stands back, sucking a morsel of lunch from their tooth, while I do all the bagging. I still can’t bypass working and I haven’t attended employee orientation.

The other day, I filed a Workers’ Comp. claim at CVS.  While using the self-checkout, I tripped over the ten-foot receipt and twisted my ankle. I got three coupons for toothpaste and floss plus a trip to Urgent Care.

My friends and I plan to picket the Super Target near me— we’re demanding non-employee rights. We want longer break times and better vending machines in the non-employee lounge. It’s the least we expect for taking a job from someone who actually wanted one.





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