Slice Of Life Story Challenge -Check Out My Supermarket!

So many businesses world wide have now adopted self serve as their preferred mode of customer connection. It all seemed to start with fuelling up our cars and withdrawing cash from our banks and has continued to spread, -in the manner of influenza. 
My local supermarket has adopted the practice of self serve on an optional basis. You can continue to wait in line to be served and have your items bagged for you, or you can choose to do it all yourself. I find myself so well trained to be an independent operator that I  have quickly found myself being my own ‘checkout chick’ to use a colloquial term.

Some people lament the loss of old fashioned service. However, in this situation I find I actually prefer to serve myself, rather than wait for someone to serve me, particularly when I don’t have many items to purchase. I do get frustrated when the technology fails, but my efficiency has improved with practice and it results in me spending the minimum amount of time in the supermarket. Now, that’s a great outcome. I like the idea of getting in, getting what you need and getting away. Life is too short to waste in the aisles of the supermarket.

I am familiar with checking groceries, having worked for a short time at a food co-operative in Park Slope, Brooklyn while living there in 2002. After a few tries, I could zip and zap those products with some degree of certainty. We moved to Manhattan not long after this, so my check out days were soon over...

It is interesting to watch the ’newbies,’ -those consumers unfamiliar with the demands of this new system. There is an element of fear in their eyes as they tentatively work their way through the process. The checkout machines ask questions and give prompts at a rate that quickly has them flustered.  Some commence talking to the machine, (a disturbing action) while others appeal for help from a partner, the person next to them, or they look to the heavens for divine deliverance.  They need not fear, a conveniently located consumer support operative employed by the supermarket stands at the ready to rescue the hapless and fight for supermarket sanity!  These lovely people, equipped with eternal smiles, rescue people throughout their rostered shift.. They are the life guards of the checkout station.

Some befuddled consumers adopt a look indicating they want to be beamed up and out of the predicament in which they find themselves. At the very least, they wish they had a brown paper shopping bag lodged on their head.  I see people displaying a quiet determination. They remain calm and work their way through the challenge, no matter how long it takes. They walk away just a little taller, despite the weight of their shopping bags.  There goes persistence personified! The music rises in my head and I can clearly hear the Finn Brothers singing, ‘It means that I won’t give in, won’t give, won’t give in…’

 As I stand watching this theatre of the food palace unfold, I find myself thinking that the self serve section of the supermarket is a metaphor for problem solving. Some persist, while others flame and burn and melt; vowing never to revisit such discomforting fortune.  Who would have thought that standing at the checkout would reveal so much? PRICE CHECK ON AISLE THREE!


  1. I really enjoyed this Slice! As I read, I could picture every single detail you gave and it led me to laugh aloud. "They look to the heavens for divine deliverance," and "ready to rescue the hapless and fight for supermarket sanity!" and "persistence personified" were a few of my favorites. Your metaphor was right on target, too! I was definitely one of the confused the first time I did "self-checkout," but now it's the only way to go!

    A great slice to take me into the start of my weekend. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What a wonderful slice of life. You have put to words what we have all observed. I smiled at your words, "theater of the food palace." Every area of the country has their own grocery stores' however, those words, connect me to a small grocery like a Trader Joes (where they all where Hawaiian print shorts)!

  3. Alan, perfect example of taking a mundane task and turning it into a literary lightning rod! Your writing is a great example for students to see one can take almost any topic and turn it into something we enjoy reading.
    My frustration at the self-serves...when what I place in my bag does not weigh enough for the machine to know I have placed it in the bag...and it keeps telling me to put it in the bag!

  4. I love this vignette. What a great way to take something you've observed and show the larger observations within!

  5. Reminds me of the old "You're on Candid Camera" shows.

  6. Loved this post. I've watched it, too. You don't want to be behind someone who doesn't know what they are doing. It can take longer than a line with "checker chick and bagger boy" (though bagger boy is quickly becoming extinct or is learning to hide well).

  7. Your observations gave me several chuckles. I too love the way you turned an ordinary sometimes annoying task into a great piece of writing. Truly a slice of life story.
    ~ Theresa


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