Letters to the Editor

Feedback: Checkers not always perfect

I take issue with your May 12 column, “New checkers make no judgments.” I have shopped at Wal-Mart for years and have never come across checkout lines in excess of 6 to 7 customers, except during the Christmas season. Your statement, “a line of anxious buyers a mile long,” exaggerates both the actual length of checkout lines and the mental state of customers.

Contrary to your experience, I have found shopping at Wal-Mart to be pleasant, even with a 3 to 5 minute wait in line. Self-checkout stations are fine for purchasing 5 items or less, so long as there is no lineup of customers waiting to use them. However, I have found these automated stations at Wal-Mart to be somewhat troublesome. If you happen to purchase 10-to-20 of the same item, since there is no keyboard, each item has to be scanned separately, while you wait 4-to-5 seconds for the scale to settle, before it will let you scan the next item. Thus, for 12, two liter bottles of soda, you will spend more than a few minutes scanning. Why? The logic used in the station will not permit you to place scanned items into your cart. Instead you must place them in the plastic bags on the scale. Each and every bottle must be handled in this same manner. If you do not place each item onto the scale after scanning, the station computer will not let you continue scanning the rest of your purchase.

When I finished this process with about 20 items, my station locked up, displaying a scale error message on the screen. One of several Wal-Mart employees overseeing this whole process, had to come over and hold a service card over the scanner to clear this error. Once the station was cleared of its error I was permitted to finish my transaction. The whole process took well over 5 minutes, which is far too long for a 20 item checkout.

Also, several times you imagined human checkout clerks thinking negative thoughts concerning what their customers purchase. I can inform you that checkout clerks could care less what you purchase. I’ve been a checkout clerk for six years. We do not spend time on mental associations between products and customers. We haven’t the time, nor the desire to do so. We’re usually too busy working on your transaction, thinking about the next item to scan, or code that we may need to use, all in order to get you through the line as fast as we can. We don’t give a hoot whether you’ve purchased 12 packages of Lean Cuisine or a dozen pork roasts.

James Boyes


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