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Minimum Competency Testing For The Express Line

We have all been there. We just need to run into the grocery store for a couple of quick items. Maybe it is almost the kid's bedtime and you just want to get in and out - a surgical strike of groceries. We get in the express line and - nothing. We just stand there. What the heck is going on? The person in front is somehow making this all too difficult. Are they buying groceries or refinancing their house? Much later you finally get out of "the express line", a bit older and no wiser. Since it is probably not going to be politically acceptible to have someone with a cane standing by the check-out to wack people that are slowing things down, I am issuing a formal call for minimum competency testing before customers are allowed the privilege of using the express line.

Buying groceries is not really a complicated transaction.
  1. You put your stuff on the belt.

  2. The checker tells you how much.

  3. You pay the checker.

  4. You pick up your crap and get the hell out of the way.

Done. Wasn't that easy? For some people, it is just a lot more complicated. The whole idea of the express line fails because some shoppers just are not express people. Hence the need for minimum competency and licensing.
How do you know if you are part of the problem? Here are some tips that will let you know if you should never, ever get into the express line:
  • If you feel the need to haggle, do not get in the express line. I know that most of the world still has market bazaars and people negotiate the prices of goods. Unfortunately we stressed out Americans have these computerized checkout thingies and the price is fixed. Crazy, I know, but the price marked is the price that you pay, even if your cousin in the old country sells them for half the price.
  • If you like to memorize every price in the weekly ad down to the penny - and argue about them with the clerk - then you should not get in the express line. Sure, someone could have misentered the price into the computer, but it is more likely that you are just wrong. Again, the annoying precision of computers. Of the thousands of people who go through the store is it likely that you are going to be Perry Mason and catch the evil grocery empire trying to steal a few pennies from you? Probably not. Also, if you are in the express line, then you need to place your order on the belt and step to the right. If the price does happen to be off a few pennies then consider it an express tax, shut the hell up, and pay the nice checker.
  • If it is your first day on food stamps, or if you are borrowing someone else's food stamp card, do not get into the express line. It seems like people always get the wrong apple juice, the wrong milk, or the wrong baby formula when they are using food stamps for the first time. The checker has to stop, find a bag boy/girl, and then send them off to put the stuff back and get the right stuff.
  • If you think that food stamps are for things besides food, do not get in the express line. When the checker asks if you want to donate a dollar to charity, you can't put that on your food stamps.
  • If you find yourself arguing with every clerk in every store - do not get in the express line. There is no getting around it, some people are just a pain in the a$$. Everything is a problem and they have difficulties where ever they go. You know who you are, so just do everyone else a favor and stay out of the express line.
  • If it comes as a surprise to you that you are going to have to pay money for your groceries, do not get in the express line. There are many things in life that one can't count on, but one thing is for certain: every time that the clerk rings up your food they are going to ask you for money. Every time. Have your money or debit card or food stamp card out. This should not be a surprise to you. We do not want to sit and wait while you dig through Earth's Largest Purse to find your money.
  • If you can't look at your groceries and tell if you have enough money, don't get into the express line. Letting the clerk add it all up and then asking him or her to remove one item at a time until you are under the amount that you have in your pocket should not be done in the express line.
  • If you are buying smokes, do not get in the express line. The clerk has to leave, go somewhere, unlock a thing, get the right hard/soft/filtered/unfiltered whatever and then come back and check you out. Meanwhile, all of the rest of us non-smokers grow a little bit older waiting for you to get your fix.
  • If, after purchasing your groceries, you feel the need to stand in front of the register for several minutes putting away your cash, receipts, coupons, finding your keys, and who knows what all - do not get in the express line. You need to get the hell out of the way so the next person can pay for their groceries.
  • If you are paying with a check - and especially if you balance your check book after every check - do not get in the express line. I know that the sign says that it is OK, but it isn't. It just isn't. Time to join the 1990's and get a debit visa card and speed it up.
Perhaps some extension courses should be offered at comunity colleges. A holographic sticker could be placed on the grocery store discount card so you can prove that you are elegible for the express line. This is a problem that crosses all economic, social, and ethnic boundaries, but with some help - or a large stick - we can make a difference.

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