Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Listen To Me!

So I’m at Fresh & Easy, which is a grocery store, and they only have those self-check-out machines. My partner has bought a bottle of wine, and I guess when you scan something like that, a certain screen comes up on the monitor, telling you that you have to call over one of the store clerks.

Now, I feel bad for these people, because they always look over-whelmed and under-prepared, no matter what they’re doing. And I don’t envy them having to contend with Today’s Consumer, who’s usually angry/entitled/stupid/in-a-hurry/whatever. Having worked similar jobs myself, I always try to be extra-nice, extra-patient and extra-friendly with/to these fellow workers.

So today’s check-out helper is a short, stout woman who’s probably in her 50’s. She sports a salt-and-pepper bob and the store’s uniform: a green t-shirt and jeans. She’s busy helping someone else, so I wait patiently, and when she’s done, I wave her over, a welcoming smile on my face.

She kind of ignores me at first, but I keep waving broadly, making sure she can’t miss me. I want to let her know that we are trying to comply with the Rules of Check-out. I mean, technically, we could probably just walk out of the store with our groceries, and there would not be a jury on earth that would convict us of shoplifting. Right? After all, we’re the ones trying to pay for our groceries, but no one (or machine) will take our money.

So she comes over and starts complaining about how busy she is, which might be interesting in some other context or if we knew her personally or if we were asking her to do us a favor. But we’re just trying to follow the store’s rules. That’s all.

She punches all the appropriate codes into the machine to clear whatever needs to be cleared, and continues to chat, but now in a more friendly way. That’s when I make the mistake of asking her about my Reward Points.

I’m supposed to get an extra $5.00 savings by using my store card, and I have the electronic version of the card on my iPhone, but I don’t have the physical, plastic card. Is it possible to get my $5.00 savings?

Oh, did I mention she’s not a native English-speaker? Which is fine. For a while I taught ESL (English as a Second Language), and I also lived in Italy for a year – so I feel like I know what it’s like on both sides of that equation.

So she’s telling me that if I want to pay, I need to swipe my credit card. And I’m saying, Yes, I understand, but I’m asking about getting my $5.00 off, because once I swipe my credit card, I know I will NOT get the discount. And we go back and forth a couple of times, and then she says very slowly and very deliberately, like she’s talking to someone who doesn’t speak English or who is mentally challenged, “No, you not listening to me. You need to listen to what I say and understand my words. You need swipe your credit card to pay.”

And now we are no longer friends. In fact, I feel Betrayed. SHE’S telling ME? A frosty wind sweeps into my voice. I know I’m being harsh, because I see my partner wince and take a step back. He knows this voice. He tries to avoid this voice.

“Yes, I have heard you. Now YOU need to hear MY words. I think what you’re trying to convey is that I need to swipe the plastic version of my “Friends” card in order to get the $5.00 taken off my bill. The electronic version will not work.”

“Yes, that is correct,” she says.

“But that is not what you said. You said that I needed to swipe my CREDIT card to PAY. That is something very different.”

“Yes, but that is what I meant.”

Oh, but I’m not letting go.

“Yes, that is what you MEANT, but that is not what you SAID. So YOU need to be the one who listens to ME. And YOU need to be choosing YOUR words more carefully. Because I’M not the one who—“”

“I get the manager.”

“No, there’s no need for the manager. I’m just making the point that I was listening to you, but you were not listening to me…”

But she has already gone for the manager. He tries getting the machine to give me my discount, despite my saying, That’s okay. I’ll bring my card next time and swipe it, etc…

We get out alive and without the discount, and in the larger scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. But still, I’m exhausted. I don’t like causing a scene. I don’t being that hot young guy yelling at the old lady. (Okay, so I’m not young and hot. I’m old and cranky. But still.)

I don’t feel Fresh. And that sure as hell wasn’t Easy. ::sigh::


  1. Peajaye - We're really sorry to hear you had a bit of a frustrating time at the check-out! We'll be sure to share with our teams your story so that we can learn from it - we do often explain to the teams that people should swipe their Friends card 'like the would a debit or credit card' so that may have been a bit of the confusion there. We're very sorry you had that experience and we're going to send you a separate email to follow-up.

    ~Nicole, social media manager, fresh&easy

  2. Ahem. Nice comment from Nicole...