I Refuse To Bag My Own Groceries!

Roz Warren

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Bagging your own groceries didn't even used to be an option. The cashier did it. Or a bagger, who was really good at filling up grocery bags without breaking the eggs. That was fine with me. I was no more eager to do their work for them than the patrons at the library that employs me are itching to answer their own reference questions.

But now? Not only can I bag if i want to, but I’m starting to feel pressure to do so. Don’t just stand there while the cashier scans your milk and weighs your apples — start bagging!

The supermarket cashier no longer grabs a bag as soon as she’s checked out enough items to fill one up. Instead, she holds back, waiting to see what I’ll do. Only if my hands remain at my sides will she do it herself. I’ve begun to avoid one particular cashier at the Acme, even when her line is short, because if I don’t start bagging, she gives me the stink eye.

Doesn't she realize that once the supermarket has gone totally self-check-out and trained us all to bag our our stuff, she's going to be out of a job?

I don’t see why a job that the supermarket handled for decades should be transferred to me.

And yet? When a cashier guilt-trips me with a glare, it works. Not enough to actually make me pick up a bag and start tossing in groceries. But enough to ruin the pleasure I would otherwise get from taking a small break from the cares of the day to chat with the next shopper in line, which I'd much rather do than fitting the bananas in between the Oreos and the Cheerios.

Should I feel bad about failing to bag?

I don’t and here's why. “Bag your own groceries” as just one part of a really bad trend toward “Customer Disservice.” Like having to pump your own gas. Or getting a phone tree instead of a person when you make a business call.

“How can I help you?” is rapidly being replaced with “How can I save a buck by not helping you?” The business world is defining good service down.

The more we give into this, the worse it’s going to get. How long before, if you’re rushed to the hospital, instead of getting to see a doctor, you’ll be handed a pair of latex gloves and an instructional DVD on “How To Perform Your Own Emergency Appendectomy”?

Once, just to see what it felt like, I bagged my own groceries. As the cashier scanned my purchases, I unfolded a paper bag and started filling it. I wasn’t good at it. I ended up using about a zillion bags,and I took far longer than a real bagger would have. But the cashier did smile and thank me. That felt good.

But she won't feel so good when all this self bagging and self check out puts her out of a job.

I know that if I continue to bag, I’ll get better at it. But I’m not going to continue. We’re clearly on our way to a world where “How can I help you?” is replaced with “Sorry, pal, you’re on your own!” I’m in no particular hurry to get there.

Do you bag? Or are you like me? Is it a matter of principle? Or laziness? Or perhaps, a little of both?

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Roz Warren, the author of JUST ANOTHER DAY AT YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY, has appeared on both the Today Show and Morning Edition, writes for everyone from the Funny Times to the New York Times, and has been included in 13 Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. Drop her a line at roSwarren@gmail.com.

Bala Cynwyd, PA
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