People are stupid. There’s just no other way of putting it. And this becomes its most obvious in check-out lines at grocery stores. It all starts with the line. I’m starting to call it the “line mentality.” It goes like this. On an average day, four tills will be open, let’s say 1, 3, 5 and 6. 6 is the express lane, it closes for nothing. This leaves 1, 3 and 5 for normal shoppers. Lane 1 is empty. Lane 5 is empty. There’s a line of about 2 people at lane 3. A shopper comes along, and to which lane does this shopper go? The shopper will go to lane 3. Another shopper will come along and go to lane 3. And another. And another. There is now a line-up of 6 people at lane 3, while lanes 1 and 5 are still empty. No matter how much of a rush a person is in, they’ll see a line, and want to get in it. There are two other lanes open, but they’d rather be fourth in line and complain about how no other lanes are open. It’s stupid! And while they’re in line, they start complaining, and this leads to a term that I’m sure the experts will coin shortly: line rage.
We’ve got road rage, air rage, why not line rage? I’ve been working the job long enough to have had a few run ins with angry customers. Actually, I have to hand it to the cashiers. They are the ones who get the brunt of it and I just happen to have front row seats. Take this one incident I saw just a few days ago. See, Extra Foods sends out these flyers, and we’ve got coupons in them. If a customer forgets their flyer, or comes in with a mangled coupon that our scanners can’t read, we’ve always got a couple extra coupons kicking around that we use instead. Just the other day, I bore witness to this event:
Woman with mangled coupon>> I’d like my dollar off on my oranges, please.
Valiant cashier>> Oh, I’m sorry, this coupon is mangled and we can’t accept it. Don’t worry, I have an extra…
Woman>> What do you mean, you can’t accept it? The flyer came like that!
Cashier>> But I’m going to use this….
Woman>> I took all the time to cut it out of the flyer and bring it. I damn well want my dollar off!
Cashier>> And you’re going to get…
Woman>> Suddenly, I changed my mind. I don’t want those damn oranges if I can’t get my dollar off.
Cashier>> But you’re going to get it….
Woman>> How about if I don’t want all these groceries? How about I just go up the road to IGA and get my groceries there? They take my coupons.
Cashier>> This extra coupon….
Woman>> Or I’m going into the city tomorrow. I’ll go to Superstore instead! I’ll…
Cashier>> I CAN’T TAKE THE MANGLED COUPON BUT I HAVE AN EXTRA ONE RIGHT HERE THAT I’LL USE INSTEAD!!
Woman (rather smugly)>> You do that.
And then that woman just kind of leaned back with a slimy smile, as though her ranting and idle threats actually accomplished something. If she just took the time to hear out that poor cashier, she could have avoided making a spectacle of herself.
A similar incident happened to my mother during her recent election campaign. One day, in the campaign office, my mother answered the phone, and this actual conversation took place:
Mom>> Monika Cappis campaign office, Monika speaking, how may I help you?
Person Voting Tory>> I have a message for that Monika Cappis person.
Mom>> This is Monika Cappis.
Tory>> When she come back in, you tell that Cappis woman that this is a Tory house, and there’s no way in Hell that we’re voting Liberal!
Mom>> But I am Monika Cappis.
Tory>> You tell Cappis that she’s got no right walking up to our door and sticking her pamphlet in our mailbox. Nothing that bitch could do would make us vote Liberal.
Mom>> But I am Monika Cappis.
Tory>> Cappis is going to lose, anyway. Those stupid Liberals don’t have a hope in Hell! You tell that to her!
Mom>> (frustrated sigh) I’ll pass along the message.
Tory>> You do that. (Hangs up phone.)
See? What makes people refuse to listen? And then, it gets worse when they’re really pissed off, and their anger combined with their refusal to listen just really makes for a potent combination. Take this incident in the store around Christmastime. See, in a grocery store, there occasionally comes products where the bar code is mangled and the scanner won’t read it. In instances like that, I’m sent to the shelves to get a second one with a clean bar code. We use the clean bar coded product to scan into the register, and you get the one with the mangled bar code. This woman comes up with a loaf of sourdough bread, and the bar code is mangled:
Cashier>> The price tag is torn. Mark, go grab another one, please.
Woman>> NO!! I picked that one! I want that one!
Cashier>> Yes, but the price tag is torn, so we need another one.
Woman>> You people always do this to me! That’s the one I want, I don’t want any other one, I WANT THAT ONE!
Cashier>> And you’re going to get this one. We only need one with a price tag on it so we can scan it into the computer. This is the one you’re going to get.
The Woman gets lost in thought for about 10 seconds as she thinks this over. Then, she speaks. Or rather, yells.
Woman>> YOU’RE MAKING THIS TOO COMPLICATED!! IF IT’S GOING TO BE THIS MUCH HASSLE, THEN I DON’T WANT IT!! TAKE IT BACK!!
Needless to say, she walked out without her sourdough bread.
I wish I could say that I’m not stupid, but sadly, it take one to know one. As I look back, I think that this was the only time I did something that a customer could perceive as rude. This couple came through with three loaves of bread. It turns out they only wanted two. So, they began discussing, then arguing, about whether to take this third loaf of bread. I had no desire to watch their argument, so I retreated into Markworld while they discussed their bread. I was brought back to reality when they tossed the loaf of bread in my direction. I didn’t hear their resolution, but since the last thing I heard before retreating was, “We don’t want it,” I assumed they were giving it to me to put back. Since the store was rather busy, I tossed the loaf onto an unused till with the idea of putting it back when things slowed down. As I wandered off to another till to begin bagging another person’s groceries, I spied them out of the corner of my eye. They walked up that unused till, grabbed the loaf, and stuffed into a bag. As they walked by me on their way out, they sneered, “We wanted it.” Now if I had just taken the time to listen, another ugly incident would have been avoided.
There’s no doubt about it. People are stupid. And, if there’s one thing that doesn’t help, it’s when stupid people are angry. I think that there’s one thing we can do to combat stupid, angry people. It’s quite simple. All you have to do, is walk up to the person at the end of the line and tell them, “Hey. Lane 1 is open. You don’t have to stand in line.” But, sadly, as soon as they are on their way, another walks up and…gets in line. Angry we can do something about, but stupid is here to stay.