Friday, September 24, 2010

Lady, Just Shut Up!

"Man Attacked At Food Store for Having More Than 15 Items in Express Lane."

"Opinionated Shopper Verbally Assaults Man Behind Her In Line Due To Perceived Injustice To Store Employee."

"Kroger Employee at Register Attempts to Turn Away Paying Customer Though Store Is Empty".

Welcome to the headlines that could easily describe my battle this morning at the supermarket.

Let me set the scene for you: it's 8:30 on a Friday morning, I had significant purchasing needs since I had not shopped for food earlier in the week, and the store is practically empty. Most of my walk around Kroger had been quiet and uneventful so when I proceeded to checkout I figured that there would be very few people in line. For that I was correct.

As I walked from one side of the store to the other, I noticed that there were 4 self checkouts, 1 store employee at the Express Lane, and one other lane open which was busy. My basket was pretty full, not mega-packed, and I knew that the only lane that was probably available to me was currently being attended to by one store employee, one manager, one sack stuffer, and a woman in line who was having some problem with her receipt that they all were taking several minutes to resolve. I steered my cart into that lane, like a good lemming should, but I soon realized that there was another customer waiting ahead of me with an overflowing cart. It was as soon as I stopped my cart and began to understand that I had quite a long wait ahead of me, that I glanced over to the "Express Lane" and saw that there was no one waiting, a customer who was just about finished checking out, and a possible alternative to standing in line unnecessarily.

This is when the fun began.

Being the good natured person that I am, I walked over to the "Express Lane" to ask if the store employee would let me pay for my groceries there, but before I could say anything, I was told that I was in the "Express Lane", and my cart had more than 15 items in it (as if that really mattered considering the situation). Lakeitha, the ever so helpful employee, almost finished saying that she wasn't going to take me when I decided her reason was pure BS, and I unloaded my cart onto her conveyor belt. This was my non verbal indicator or unhappiness. No interpretation was needed.

Here's what was obvious: THERE WAS NO ONE ELSE IN THE LANE BEHIND ME, THE STORE WAS EMPTY, AND THE ONLY OTHER AVAILABLE LANE HAD UNRESOLVED ISSUES AND OTHER CUSTOMERS! Being that her customer service was shoddy at best, I decided she was going to take me whether or not the sign said "Express" or not. Seriously, what was Lakeitha going to do with herself once she finished checking out the customer ahead of me? Drink her coffee? Read a magazine off the shelf? I guess reminding employees to give good customer service at Kroger is such a problem for management that they truly do need the little bell the customer can ring to alert everyone in the store that he/she just had a wonderful checkout experience. I considered ringing her bell but it wasn't the one they provided.

Just when I was just starting to really enjoy this moment, my fun was taken to a whole new level.

Apparently the customer ahead of me, the one who was just about done purchasing her groceries, decided she was going to teach me a lesson. "That's messed up!" she loudly proceeded to tell me while giving a dirty look. I looked at her, gave her the face right back that I was getting, and said "Do you think I need to wait over there where they are having problems?". "This lane is open and the store is EMPTY."

"Well you need patience". Seriously? This woman just couldn't mind her business a minute longer that she needed to lecture ME about patience? Considering that Althea Sharpton grumbled a few more unintelligible sentences and was getting all riled up because I kept poor Lakeitha working, at the place she is supposed to be earning a paycheck, I decided to give the civil rights activist the one thing she wouldn't know how to handle: politeness.

"Ma'am, you sure do have a right to your opinion" I said with my best faux southern accent.

That about knocked her off her pedestal. Immediately she went from combative to flustered, "That's the problem in the United States; everyone is in a hurry." I wasn't in a hurry at all despite what she thought. I was just trying to buy food and saw an opportunity to do so without causing anyone to suffer. My actions gave an employee some work to do that would pass the time.

Again with a smile I turned to her and said, "Ma'am, you have every right to your opinion."; despite the fact that you are obviously ill informed, ignorant, racially prejudiced, obnoxious, and arrogant to think you need to lecture me on anything. I left that last part out for fear that this interaction would last longer. No need to get shot at Kroger today.

With that, the woman said "Have a great day" a few extra times to Lakeitha, and walked away in obvious frustration because I wouldn't engage her in an argument. Maybe this woman thought she needed to protect Lakeitha from me, a bald middle aged white guy who couldn't obey the "Express Lane" laws of our country. Who knows? Who cares? I just told the employee "Thank you for checking me out" because that's the polite guy I am, and wheeled my cart out of the store. Shopping excursion over. Drama too.

"Loyal Customer Won't Shop At That Location Again Due To Poor Customer Service." That's the headline that will run in my mind every time I think about stopping to shop there in the future. I just hope that my 53 items helped Lakeitha's day pass more quickly. I'm so thoughtful that way. :)