Monday, October 26, 2009

Cheating is Often More Efficient

My goal is efficiency. In some aspects I completely lack in this regard, but in other aspects I am highly officiant. I am slightly obsessive with efficiency in these aspects.

I consider my grocery shopping skills to be highly efficient. So much so, that it bothers me if something spontaneous pops up to interrupt my well laid plans. Allow me to give you an example;

On Saturday I did my grocery shopping. I went to one store and then needed two items from the other store; Cottage cheese for our dinner on Wednesday (I plan all meals two weeks ahead and buy the items for them one week ahead), and coconut milk, which was on sale (For ten cents less then the other store's sale price. Also, coconut milk is rarely on sale so I needed to buy five cans to stock up for future meals). Drek dropped me off at the door and waited outside with the baby. I estimated the trip would take five to seven minutes, depending on the check-out line. I went and knew exactly where to go, since I had planned out my route using a detailed floor plan. When I walked in I saw a sign that said they needed toilet paper at the food bank. I quickly calculated this fact in my head; I should buy toilet paper. I should drop it in the donation bin on my way out. But! My plan! My efficiency! That's an impulse buy! I didn't research toilet paper! I don't know which store has the best price! Could I get it cheaper online? I don't have it on my list! I didn't figure the cost into my calculations! Does the food bank want small packs or economy packs? I can't buy it until I am sure! And then reason kicks in and I realize I am insane. It's toilet paper. Relax.

Ok, I will buy it, now I need to adjust my route. It fits so nicely into the floor plan! I can grab it last, on my way back from the cottage cheese, which puts me on the far side of the check-out lines, which is best because then I can walk toward the exit while looking for a short line. I execute my plan, congratulating myself on how adaptable I am while still being efficient. I have my items in less than two minutes. I spot a short check-out line. While I qualify for the "10 items or less" line (Which should read; "10 items or fewer" BTW), I decide that that the two people waiting in that line, will take more time that the one person in this line who is almost done. I line up my items on the conveyor belt; re-usable bag first (so the clerk will see it first and not ask me if I want paper or plastic, an inefficient question) then caned goods (to put at the bottom of the bag) then the cottage cheese and last, the toilet paper. I will have to grab it before they can bag it so I just drop it in the bin on my way out.

I should point out that the most effective way to get people through a line is to set it up as one single line that moves through the next available clerk, like the Post Office or the DMV, except you actually have to have the clerks working. I despise the way grocery store check-out lines are set up; as a guessing game instead of the most efficient way to move people through the process. But I digress.

The customers in front of me in line are a middle-aged couple. By the time my items are loaded on the conveyor belt, theirs are all scanned. They are arguing with the clerk about the price of BBQ sauce. Apparently it was on sale, but the clerk won't give them the sale price because they grabbed the wrong size. After some debate, the husband goes back to return the wrong size and grab the correct on-sale size. I sigh. This is not efficient.

The couple's food is still being bagged (plastic). Their cart is already bursting, that must be why they have two. I wonder why they would need that much food for the week. Then again, maybe it's not just for the week. I ponder this for a few minutes.

A college girl gets in line behind me. She unloads her basket. The man comes back. He asks the clerk what isle the BBQ sauce is on. She tells him and he leaves again. Sigh.

The girl behind me has finished unloading her groceries. The couple's groceries have been bagged. The clerk and the women are discussing why they gabbed the wrong size.

The man comes back! He hands the clerk the bottle. She scans it and gives the couple their total. The women pauses and then says "Oh!" and hands the clerk an envelope stuffed full of coupons. Really. There there were fourteen coupons inside. I counted. I had plenty of time to count because the clerk had to take them out one by one, find the item the coupon was for, and then type the code in by hand.

She finally finishes and tells the couple their new total. The women takes out her purse and starts looking for her wallet (She couldn't have had her card ready? You know, you can swipe your card as soon as they start scanning your items, that way when they finish you just sign your name and you're done with no time wasted). She finds her wallet, opens it up and pulls out cash. Cash. Who pays for $300 worth of groceries in cash? And not in big bills, in 10's, 5's, and 1's. She painstakingly counts out the correct amount and hands it to the clerk, who now has to count it. She then has to sort it into the register and count change. She hands the change to the women, who now has to count the change. Shoot me.

And then the clerk hands the women her turkey vouchers. She counts them and then argues that she earned more than what the clerk gave her. At this point, my eyes have popped out of my head. My internal alarm is blaring "Inefficient!" so loud I'm surprised it's not setting off the car alarms in the parking lot. I know I have a knack for picking lines that take the longest, but this is ridiculous. The women finally convinces the clerk of her error and the clerk writes up more turkey vouchers while saying things like "how silly of me." and "I'm so glad you caught that."

Finally, finally, they are done and the couple leaves. I take my place in front of the clerk with my credit card in hand, waiting for the first item to be scanned. She does not scan it. She smiles at me, says "I'm so hot! I need to take of my jacket!" And then proceeds to take off her jacket.

That was it. I was about scream, or at least gape in horror that this clerk still has a job, but the college girl behind me, who has been waiting just as long as I have, land is still waiting, laughs. She laughs a polite laugh, like the clerk's comment was meant to be funny. It stops me dead in my tracks. If that girl can laugh and be polite, so can I. I smile back at the clerk, ask her about her day while she is checking out my groceries, and then wish her well when I leave.

I drop the toilet paper in the donation bin on my way out of the store, load the groceries into my trunk and jump into the car. Fifteen minutes. Huh, it seemed a lot longer than that.

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