I never dreamed I would need to perform a technological trained monkey act to check out in a store.
Actually I find it more of a nightmare. Long gone are the days you would place your items on the counter, the clerk would scan the barcodes and announce the total, and then you would hand over your credit card and she would take it from there.
Sometimes you can still enjoy a similar quaint and simple process if you are paying cash, but now I’m finding that luxury is going the way of the dinosaur as well.
If you are paying by credit card you need to devote close attention to the little electronic card machine. It seems they all are a bit different, forcing you to concentrate on the hoops you must jump through. Is it asking you to insert the card for the chip reader, or is it still the old-fashioned kind that you swipe? If you do swipe it, did you go too fast or too slow and need to wait for the clerk to hit a button and swipe it again, or did it actually take?
If it is a chip reader, it now likely is beeping at you, and the clerk may will be looking at you and clearly picturing you as a moron. OK, now what? Does it need your phone number? If so, why do they need your phone number when you are right here in the store? Well, actually I know the answer to that – they want to track your buying habits which I consider an invasion of privacy, but that’s an entirely different matter.
Anyway, I digress. Now the machine is still beeping because it wants your zip code, but the print on the screen is too small to read at that angle through the progressive lenses of your eyeglasses so I don’t realize that. The clerk is still looking at you wondering about your mental capacities, and now the people waiting behind you in line are also wishing you would get your digital act together.
Another beep follows because it wants more from you. And now the natives in the line are really getting restless. What is it after now – do I want to punch in my email to receive special offers? NO!!! Do I want to sign up for their special card to receive discounts – in other words do I want my already overthick wallet to make an even deeper dent in my posterior when I sit down? NO! NO! NO! NO! NOOOOOOOOO!
Finally the process is complete. I’m disgusted. The clerk is disgusted. The people behind me in line are disgusted. And now the cash register is spewing out a receipt the length of a Dead Sea scroll trying to get me to take an online survey – another attempt at invading my shopping privacy for now and forever to come – and offering me special deals if I shop in the store during a four-hour window a week from next Thursday,
At this point I will take a deep breath, hold it a few seconds and try to let go of my frustration. If the clerk has been patient and pleasant, I will say something nice while departing. If she is still looking at me clearly telegraphing her mental image of me as a Neanderthal, I say nothing and just move on.
The other day I purchased a stack of sardines that were on sale. I was pleased that I was paying cash and could quickly move on, but I was to be disappointed. So far it had been my ideal shopping trip – I was after one thing, I found it immediately, there was no one in line ahead of me, and I could quickly pay and be on my way.
I was accompanied by my wife Diane, who is a savvy shopper and participates in the store’s rewards program. As it turned out we had $3 accumulated, and would I like to redeem it?
Three bucks is three bucks, so of course I said yes – how difficult could that be?
Well of course it was difficult, and of course I was rerouted to that accursed card machine, which of course needed my phone number and zip code, on-screen directions which of course I could not read through my progressive lenses of my eyeglasses because the print was too small and the angle was too low.
Fortunately this clerk was both patient and pleasant, so after hopping through the hoops I took a deep breath, paused and bid her a good day.
And I filed away in my memory that, next time I’m flying through the line paying cash at this store, I will let the cash rewards remain for Diane later. Trust me, the world will be a better place because of it.
Don Allison is an author, columnist and retired editor of The Bryan Times.