Express no more

ONE Saturday morning, I was at a leading Johor Baru supermarket to buy cakes and chocolate bars. When I was ready to pay, the queues at the checkout areas were already long.
In my opinion, I just have two items -- cake and chocolate bar but there were 10 cakes and eight multi-packs of chocolate bars in my trolley.  So which counter should I go to pay for my shopping?

Now, most supermarkets in the world have the Express Lanes or Express Counters for that. The checkout lane is usually designed with a narrower access and smaller counter area without conveyor belts. They allow shoppers with a few items to pay and leave the supermarket quickly.  Shoppers who use a basket or just carry the few items in their hands can easily go through this express checkout.

Unfortunately, my 10 cakes and eight packs of chocolate bars in the trolley did not count as two items so I quietly joined the queue at the normal checkout.  I guessed if I queued at the Express Lane, I was only asking for disapproving frowns from other shoppers who were qualified to use it.  They may think I need to go back to kindergarten because it looks like I cannot count!

A few days later I met a friend who shops at this supermarket for at least twice a week. He appeared upset when he was about to relate his experience at a supermarket.  "You should have been there," he said emphatically.  I thought I was going to hear about a supermarket brawl as a result of "supermarket rage" (as in "road rage").

On one of his shopping trips, my friend saw three shoppers struggling to squeeze a trolley through the narrow opening of the Express Lane.  That gap was deliberately designed to be narrower at the Express Lane compared to that of normal checkouts. This is to keep trolleys out and enable just Express shoppers carrying baskets to use it.  When my friend saw the stubborn shoppers struggled to squeeze their trolley through, he could not hide his annoyance anymore and pointed out to them the Express Lane's limit on items.

While the three were visibly flustered at being cautioned for flouting the rule, the "spokesperson" defended their action by saying that the shopping belonged to the three of them, and when divided, the number of items for each of them, will not exceed the item limit imposed on the Express Lane.

They knew that the Express Lane is for those checking out with only a few items.  But by sharing a trolley, which is not designed for the Express Lane, they also held up the queue of shoppers who were using it.  And while my friend was trying to make this point, other shoppers waiting in the queue just looked on in silence probably hoping that the situation did not escalate into something worse.

Finally, the "spokesperson" brushed off my friend's explanation by declaring: "I don't understand!" Such an encounter among angry shoppers may have ugly consequences.  The cashier, too, probably realised too late that these shoppers have exceeded the number of items but quietly checked them out to avoid a scene.

I can understand why my friend felt so upset because while these rule-breakers seem to be tolerated by the silent majority of shoppers and the supermarket management, law-abiding shoppers like us are made to look like fools!

The items that he buys on each visit are usually less than 10. He often used the Express Lane and usually noticed how stubborn shoppers had refused to comply with the express lane policy.  My friend, who used to live abroad, was appalled at how local shoppers simply pay no heed to the rules.  Very often he encountered shoppers queuing in the Express lanes with baskets of items numbering way above the limit.

The "10 items and below" or "less than 6 items" ruling may not be law and the rule not strictly enforced, but the onus is on shoppers to practise good shopping etiquette.  Shoppers with more than the stated number of items are just being inconsiderate because they make the cashier work harder and other shoppers in the queue wait longer -- all of which defeats the purpose of having an Express Lane.

So if shoppers were civic-conscious and obeyed the Express Lane item limit, those queuing in the lane will get their shopping checked out smoothly and leave quickly.  Shoppers have no excuse because large signs above or next to the Express Lanes or counters clearly state the item limit. 
It just takes discipline to abide by such simple rules but yet there are many who are either illiterate, unable-to-count, or just simply don't care. And when they disobey the Express Lane item limit, the rule-breakers are not advised or reminded of their habit but are instead tolerated and even accepted!

To educate shoppers on good checkout etiquette, supermarkets can carry out campaigns and competitions. They can also install cameras to snap photos of recalcitrant shoppers using the Express Lane and post them up as a deterrent to others.  Remember, exasperated shoppers driven to violence is not unheard of, so let's not wait for that to happen in Johor Baru before doing something.
This article was first published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 26 September 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment