Re: Other than that, service is a pleasure.

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My grocery store was open and doing a lot of business. That's patriotic, because the business of America is business. Also, the employees were making double time for working on the holiday, which might not be patriotic, because it has a whiff of socialism about it.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07- 4-10 9:26 PM
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My mother's solution to this was to train her children to do the bagging. It was a highly effective strategy, with the side effect that we developed highly opinionated ideas about the best way to bag groceries.

As a result, it is almost physically painful for me to go shopping on the West Coast or at Trader Joe's, where the check-out is set up so that you CANNOT bag your own. I grit my teeth.

I did have three nice exchanges with three separate checkers yesterday about the indignity of working on holidays. One of them said he didn't mind; the other was going to the beach, and the third joined me in a hearty condemnation of Da Boss.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07- 4-10 9:31 PM
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The best way to bag groceries is quickly.

I loved shopping at the Milk Pail in Mountain View because the checkout people are all amazingly swift; likewise Golden Produce in SF. Shopping at Rainbow, by contrast, where one is expected to bag one's own purchases, is often painful, because people are so fucking slow.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 4-10 9:34 PM
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Other people, I mean. I am a marvel.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 4-10 9:34 PM
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Wait, you people shop where other people bag your groceries? I'm running out of places where you can still get someone else to scan your own groceries.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07- 4-10 9:42 PM
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It's kind of an asshole move to rant at people who earn minimum wage at really tedious jobs.
I hate this aspect of dealing with customer service people working for large corporations.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 07- 4-10 9:54 PM
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They do it that way on purpose.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 4-10 10:01 PM
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I hate it when I arrange my groceries to try to facilitate proper bagging -- heavy objects first, squishable things like bread last -- and they still somehow manage to pack the bread under something heavy.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07- 4-10 10:04 PM
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7: I know. That doesn't make swallowing my anger any more pleasant, and it doesn't make the poor SOBs on the phones any more legitimate as targets.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 07- 4-10 10:11 PM
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I quickly snatch up my avocado and put it in my purse. Usually the rest of the things are fine.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07- 4-10 11:17 PM
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I quickly snatch up my avocado and put it in my purse.

I finish bagging your groceries without comment.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 4-10 11:20 PM
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ObTroll: no wonder how yanks are all so fat if you can't even pack your own groceries.

Obserious: it always surprises me how backward the US is in certain things: gas pump attendants, grocery baggers, writing cheques or having to go to the bank to pay bills etc. Sure there are all reasons for why this is the case, but the overall impression is of a country that thinks itself cutting edge, but seems remarkably old fashioned and inefficient in a number of ways.

(The same goes for the UK as well; trains for example. Great to be able to book tickets online and get them out of the machine at the station by putting in your bankpass, but how complicated can you make your ticket system? Zillions of options, prices you can't amke sense out of and the inevitable realisation that no matter what you chose, you're screwed.)


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 07- 4-10 11:27 PM
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It does seem weird that we have nice pocket computers now but if i want to pay my rent or give my friend gas money when i dno't have cash i have to write out a piece of paper


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 07- 4-10 11:57 PM
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It's kind of an asshole move to rant at people who earn minimum wage at really tedious jobs.

Rand Paul probably has the answer: No one makes them take jobs above their competence level, there's always Soylent Green Inc.

Now, what was the good part of extending voting rights to everyone regardless of their ability to tell the difference between ice cream, fresh shrimp, and cans of Spam?


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 12:11 AM
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This was not a follow-up to Just look at my groceries, is it ?

I am such a slow reader.


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 12:35 AM
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And for the love of god be careful with the bananas.


Posted by: qb | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 12:40 AM
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I hate this aspect of dealing with customer service people working for large corporations.

So ask to speak to their manager and rant at them, after dropping a few compliments about the front line kid.

it always surprises me how backward the US is in certain things: gas pump attendants, grocery baggers, writing cheques or having to go to the bank to pay bills etc.

We stopped as a filling station in a one pub twarf in rural Wales last week, and a guy came and filled our tank. I think he owned the place, which was also the village shop. My wife said she'd never had anybody do this in her life.

No one makes them take jobs above their competence level

The list of jobs with a competence level below bagging groceries is short.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 1:53 AM
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The list of jobs with a competence level below bagging groceries is short

Yet strangely, such jobs cover a large range of life situations:

1. Estate agents
2. Lay magistrates
3. HR managers


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 2:05 AM
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Great to be able to book tickets online and get them out of the machine at the station by putting in your bankpass, but how complicated can you make your ticket system? Zillions of options, prices you can't amke sense out of and the inevitable realisation that no matter what you chose, you're screwed

That's by design, though. On the mistaken assumption that train travel is like air travel (and also on the basis that off-peak fares are almost totally unregulated).

I have sometimes wondered what US employment figures would be like if it didn't have so many people "wastefully" employed doing things like bagging or greeting that other developed countries seem to manage without. I suppose it's the flipside of companies like Walmart driving suppliers' prices down (and hence reducing employment in production).


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 3:29 AM
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Shit, just realised I hadn't changed my name on this box.

Agreed, greeting is a really weird pseudo-job. "Good morning, how can I help you?" "You can get out of my way and let me look around, please." "OK, have a nice day."

But bagging can be a good way of clearing the old and the halt out of the aisles - our Sainsbury's has a small number of optional baggers (read cashiers on their breaks) who can be called on ad hoc, and it probably does help their throughput, which is what they measure.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 3:36 AM
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One of my first part-time jobs, while at school, was as a petrol pump attendant. Even then [1987/88], it wasn't that common any more. People really were often total arseholes to you. I remember one woman extending her hand to me as if about to leave me a tip, and when I put my hand out, she opened it to dump a load of litter into my hand, and drove off.

The other pleasant side of it was large, grown men yelling at you [I was 14 or 15 and built like a stick insect] because a tiny drip of petrol dripped on their car.

Still one of my favourite ever jobs, though, because I had the pleasure of telling the over-bearing Swiss Tony style boss to fuck off, to his face, in front of the entire company.

re: 17.1

I used to be very good at that. I used to work in [and was a manager in] a call-centre so I'm usually pretty good at remaining polite and insisting on speaking to a manager when I need to make a complaint, and I have the phone voice of doom when I want to use it. The last few times I've found that no longer works, as I've been fairly straightforwardly told by managers the last couple of times that they don't care, and I can fuck off, and my choices are to take my custom elsewhere or to sue them, because otherwise, I'm shit out of luck.

The worst being a car-hire company, recently, who were spectacularly rude beyond anything I've ever experienced in that context before. If I was the sort of person with the money to hire a lawyer, I'm pretty sure I could have profitably sued their arse, as they were (almost certainly) fraudulent, and brazen about it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 3:47 AM
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19: Oh, I'm not surprised it's by design: the UK is aping America in that regard, where every other company has decided it's more profitable to deliberately screw over their customers this way than to compete with great service.

21: that's when you go Radio 4 on their arse and contact Moneybox Live or You and Yours...


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 4:20 AM
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22. Good advice. Are there equivalent programmes in the Netherlands, or would you go to R4?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 4:34 AM
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re: 22

In retrospect, yes, although it would have been hard to provide evidence for my claim. Essentially I damaged a hire car [small scratch/dent], they took the large deposit, and the local office gave me a rough estimate of how much it'd be. I went into the office a few weeks later after the work had been done and they showed me on their terminal how much it had cost, and told me I'd get a refund of about half the deposit amount, but it might take a week or so. When I finally phoned the head office the bill had been inflated to the full amount of the deposit by a number of spurious 'charges', and the repair bill they quoted was significantly larger than the one I'd seen on screen. But, as I didn't have a printout or written copy of that, there wasn't anything I could prove.

However, when I spoke to their head office and asked why I hadn't received a bill, or a breakdown of costs, or even a copy of any of the receipts they said that was because it was 'policy' not to do that anymore, and then when I asked why I'd been charged an £80 admin fee and why that hadn't included sending out a photocopy of the bill, the guy basically told me to shove it.

Thinking back, I probably could have made a fuss with some sort of consumer representation radio show, or local newspaper, or something, but without hard evidence for my claim, I didn't see where it might go.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 4:41 AM
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Matt, where it goes is into the large pile of similar complaints -- you find out you're not the only one, and between the evidence is there. This wasn't a one-off, and other people will have asked for and got the initial quote printed out. Yours is additional evidence.

(A friend -- abominably ripped off and bullied at the place she worked, and manoeuvred into resigning -- was in no position to sue, or to anything but suck it up and move on. By chance she had a final routine role-assessment* meeting with her line-manager, and basically unloaded every single complaint. He said "what of this can you back up?" -- she showed him some of the emails. He said "I am taking this company to court for [everything]; would you be happy to stand up in court and repeat all this?" She said sure; this guy CAN afford good lawyers, and will almost certainly win a big class settlement.)

*bah theres a proper technical word for this, begins with A: I never have them as I am freelance -- what is the word?
*


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 5:22 AM
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Appraisal?

Incidentally, any word on pubs etc for later this week when LB is here? Has anything been agreed?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 5:27 AM
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Appraisal, yes of course

I am self-banned from making pub-decisions in case it turns out to have lap-dancers, live dwarf-throwing and a shouting&vomiting competition. Hence I am waiting for others to pick.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 5:41 AM
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I guess they just see in your eyes that you will go & rant all over them in ways they'll be defenseless against. They see chicken & they say - "Let's have it bleed all over his ice cream. He'll be able to buy himself some new Ben & Jerry stuff anytime."


Posted by: Earnest O'Nest | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 5:44 AM
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Wow, I've never had anyone do my petrol either.

Self-scanning my shopping is really pissing me off. If you want to use your own bags, those bags have to be empty beforehand, so god forbid you've already done any other shopping elsewhere. And some stupid thing always seems to go wrong. I guess I've had about 50% smooth processes, 50% where I've ended up ranting to myself like a crazy person.

There have been times when I have appreciated the offer of bag-packing, mostly whilst pregnant or with babies. There was one old bloke at my Tesco who was really good at it. If I'm shopping with C I don't let him pack because he's shit at it and, worse, doesn't think there's any reason to do it properly.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 6:17 AM
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Yes, was going to ask about pub thoughts for Friday. I'm seeing LB on Wednesday for a touristy day with the kids, but am still hoping/planning to come out on Friday evening too (although I just realised my parents are arriving that evening).


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 6:21 AM
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27 - Are people concerned about dwarves being thrown into the lap-dancers, leading to shouting and vomiting? Are these famous stories of your pub-picking on previous outings?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 6:41 AM
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But all self-scan areas are full of people shouting back at the robotic voice (RV: Unknown item in bagging area! Customer: NO THERE ISN'T! ).


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 6:43 AM
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Our Sainsbury's recently got some of the self scanning things. I've discovered:

- If it says "unexpected item in the bagging area" take something off and put it back on. If that doesn't help, hit the tray. This will make you feel better and will often work.

- Don't admit to having any bags. When you swipe your Nectar card you can inform the machine of any bags you have regardless of what you said earlier.

- When the tray is full unpack a reasonable amount of stuff into the bags you've brought. You'll be able to confirm that you took stuff off and continue scanning.

With the above my experience has gone from shouting at the machine to merely muttering under my breath.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 6:54 AM
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Re: pubs - I vote Monkey Chews. If only because I want to do some flat hunting around Kentish Town/Chalk Farm in the afternoon. Plus it's a nice pub with good beer.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 6:58 AM
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31. No, they vomit into the laps of the dwarves, who then start shouting and dancing about.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 6:59 AM
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Monkey Chews is no more, I've heard. How up to date is your information, GY?

And I was all set to make a firm recommendation for The Old White Bear, Hampstead (no, really), because I remember spending a few happy boozy hours there. Big pub, slightly shabby, laid back, great location. But again, I hear it's been closed, or as good as; it's been improved into a gastropub.

I'd like dwarf tossing.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:17 AM
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The final comment on fancyapint -- June -- says Monkey Chews has closed down, and to ignore the still-live website. This might be a anti-dwarf-tossing pubtroll though.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:22 AM
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To be a bit more specific about the nature of this ongoing problem, let me quote here from a pub review web site:

Vintage yet immaculate, The Old White Bear seems to be like something out of the glossy pages of an interior magazine ... This gastropub could easily be featured in the pages of a luxury lifestyle magazine. However, there is none of the stiffness and self importance of over-designed venues and The Old White Bear is relaxed and enjoyable. Sultry chill-out music works as an undertone to the loud chit-chat of the wealthy Hampstead residents, who come in to enjoy a pint or two rather than to show off. Casually dressed Heathians come in small groups with their dogs but don't be put off if you are not rocking a corduroy blazer and a Labrador - The Old White Bear is the type of place where you and your friends become engrossed in conversation rather than people-watching. Intimate, despite the openness of the space, it's an ideal retreat and a place to enjoy some me time.

But I swear, only a year ago, it used to be good! A proud representative of a dwindling resource. Die, gastropub landlords. Die, die, die, die.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:24 AM
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So, on Friday, we are seeking a decent sized, not too loud pub, where we are likely to get seats? Somewhere in the region of Swiss Cottage? No-one has any suggestions that aren't closed or en-gastro'd?

I don't know that part of London at all. I think the only place up that way I've been is the Czech/Slovak place in Hampstead.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:26 AM
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re: 38

The horror! The horror!


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:27 AM
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I get annoyed with the lengths to which I must go not to collect any more plastic bags. I have a few in my grocery backpack, and I have to put meats inside them before they're even scanned to prevent an automatic single--or double!--bagging of them prior to going into the backpack. And then, when I'm distracted by paying, they throw the lettuce into one. Can't get a little moisture all over!

Hopefully default: bag will be replaced with default: ask as the reusables catch on.


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:27 AM
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The Old White Bear ...

That's a bit hard, she's only about 30, I think.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:29 AM
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A friend confirms that the Monkey Chews is no more. Not my part of town either, at all.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:29 AM
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Gastropub sounds so medical. Come visit our digestive-pubic tubing!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:31 AM
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It looking up the locale on the map, I see that the Freud Museum is in the vicinity. And it can be hired for private parties, If you're looking for an unusual setting for your party, seminar or filming,
the Freud Museum provides an atmospheric venue.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:44 AM
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I am not from around there either. How about a snooker club instead.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:46 AM
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I've been to the Freud Museum, it has weirdly shallow stairs. Also his famous couch is just a big brown beanbag, and his desk is artfully covered in fetishes -- obviously so he could secretly read the paper as his clients recounted their very boring dreams.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:51 AM
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Weirdly shallow stairs symbolize a weirdly shallow subconscious.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:53 AM
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Beerintheevening doesn't offer much around there. You need to go into Hampstead or elsewhere to find anywhere with a rating much above 5 out of 10.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:56 AM
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And a weirdly shallow subconscious is a result of having big hands.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:01 AM
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The final comment on fancyapint -- June -- says Monkey Chews has closed down, and to ignore the still-live website. This might be a anti-dwarf-tossing pubtroll though.

Aargh. I loved that place. That'll teach me to leave north London.

Well, I'd suggest some other places in Kentish Town (eg Pineapple, Torriano, Junction) but that's probably getting too far from Swiss Cottage.
I'm sure I've been to some decent pubs in St John's Wood, but I can't remember their names.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:07 AM
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49: Most of the reviews have a bimodal distribution. It seems to come down to how much of a traditionalist one is. For example, the Albert got points off from some for not having real ale. Now I don't care one bit about real ale but for some this is one of the defining elements of pubness. Or see 38. To me this review sounds like a very good pub...

(About 7 years ago I went to the Albert a quite a few times and liked it. The reviews don't suggest it has changed much since then.)

(Also, someone much a fucking decision!)


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:07 AM
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As far as scores go, Fancy A Pint is a bit more reliable than Beer In The Evening, because as said above, BITE readers seem to occupy either end of the pub-going spectrum, so the score depends mainly on how many people have commented. Plus you get a proper editorial review, so you get a better sense of what the pub is like instead of snark about service or the beer selection.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:10 AM
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I second 52.last


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:11 AM
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I see that FancyAPint has the Sir Richard Steele listed as a high scoring nearby pub, which, if I remember rightly, someone suggested as a possible venue for the last meet-up.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:20 AM
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it always surprises me how backward the US is in certain things: gas pump attendants, grocery baggers, writing cheques or having to go to the bank to pay bills etc.

Only two of 50 states have gas pump attendants, I believe.

What's backward about grocery baggers? Is your supermarket entirely automated with no employees except the people who stock the shelves?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:25 AM
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Ooh, I've been there. Sounds good to me.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:27 AM
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Is your supermarket entirely automated with no employees except the people who stock the shelves?

Increasingly so, yes. The Tesco near Liverpool St has about 20 self service checkouts and about four manned tills.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:29 AM
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Is your supermarket entirely automated with no employees except the people who stock the shelves?

No, there are people who take your money. And security. Occasionally there are baggers, but only if you or the cashier ask for one and odds are there won't be one free at the time.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:30 AM
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The same friend suggested The Southampton Arms: unless that's too far west?

This is not me picking btw, it's my friend er er


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:32 AM
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Too far east I mean.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:33 AM
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In my experience, the cashier is the bagger. Or a trainee-cashier, or a cashier whose register isn't being use at the moment, serves as a bagger. Full-time baggers are likely to be hired from the ranks of the mentally or physically challenged.

As Asilon states above, the fully-automated tills are annoying and don't seem to be a step forward in any way other than enhancing business productivity a.k.a. unemployment.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:35 AM
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At our Sainsbury's they put the token educationally challenged cashier on the "quick line" to force people onto the automated tills. Clearly American supermarkets still hire a very generous number of cashiers.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:39 AM
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In my experience, the cashier is the bagger.

Last time I discussed this with a supermarket cashier, his target was 32 items a minute. You can't hit that and bag stuff at the same time.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:41 AM
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re: 61

Does look quite far east to me, but then I live in Ealing, so all of these places look like they are an Essex.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:42 AM
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Southampton also not very quick to reach from Swiss Cottage, so let's nix that. Sir Richard Steele is pretty handy for me travelling-wise.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:54 AM
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This was not a follow-up to Just look at my groceries, is it ?

Maybe. Quit with the third degree already.

Here there's usually the cashier bagging, in which case I'll step over and help, but there's also often a floating bagger, who just steps over to any line that has someone buying a big grocery haul. This time I was still unloading groceries while he was scanning and the other guy was bagging incompetently.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:03 AM
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47: Don't diss the couch! I think of that couch as a friend I've never met. It is even my user icon elsewhere.

Anyway he didn't need the fetishes to hide his newspaper. Isn't there some piece of conventional Freudiana where he admits he dreamed up the whole choreography of analysand lies on couch with analyst behind because it's too tiring to be looked at for fifty minutes? I can't google this up so let's assume there's a good chance I made it up.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:06 AM
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Reiterating my recommendation of the Steeles.

BTW, the canonical UK supermarket has checkouts with a continuous flow design. You load stuff onto the belt at one end, and once your stuff reaches the cashier, walk around to the other, and stick it in bags as the cashier scans your goods and sends them down the belt. At the same time, someone else will be buffering their goods on the other end of the checkout.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:10 AM
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56: New Jersey and what? (I think we're talking about places that have mandatory gas pump attendant action. Which is annoying.) What's really unpleasant is restroom attendants.

At my nearest grocery, I think you're supposed to tip the bagger, which I have chosen to ignore because I go get like two items a lot and it would lead to penury. Well ok no, I've just never heard of it anywhere and it annoys me. I try always to remember how much it sucks to have a low-paying, uninteresting job and act accordingly but...


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:12 AM
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That doesn't sound any different than the canonical here supermarket. All the same, if you're still loading when your stuff reaches the cashier, I presume you keep loading.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:14 AM
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Yeah, the Sir Richard Steele is OK for me. It's a single tube change, and should be do-able in less than an hour door to door, so I second/third that. And it's Friday, yes?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:16 AM
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Actually, I bet - based on nothing - that typical American stocks up on much more food than typical European in a given shopping trip. Either general glut & waste, or more like to have driven, driving bigger cars and kitchens, and once it's an established norm, you can shop less frequently.

This would mean more Americans are still loading groceries while their stuff is ready to be bagged.

I, however, do perfect-sized grocery shopping.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:17 AM
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73: I suspect you're right. You'd have to have pretty big family to fill up the entire conveyor belt in the UK.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:21 AM
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56: New Jersey and what? (I think we're talking about places that have mandatory gas pump attendant action. Which is annoying.) What's really unpleasant is restroom attendants.

New Jersey and Oregon.

In my life (98% in Pennsylvania, 1% in North Carolina, 1% miscellaneous) I personally have seen a gas pump attendant at one gas pump, which was a Texaco station that no longer exists. Have never seen a bathroom attendant except at the opera or something like that.

The cashier bagging things is the most common situation in my experience. Obviously this means the cashier is not keeping up a continuous flow of items at a rate of 32 per minute. Tipping at a grocery store? Never heard of it.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:23 AM
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56: New Jersey and what? (I think we're talking about places that have mandatory gas pump attendant action. Which is annoying.) What's really unpleasant is restroom attendants.

New Jersey and Oregon.

In my life (98% in Pennsylvania, 1% in North Carolina, 1% miscellaneous) I personally have seen a gas pump attendant at one gas pump, which was a Texaco station that no longer exists. Have never seen a bathroom attendant except at the opera or something like that.

The cashier bagging things is the most common situation in my experience. Obviously this means the cashier is not keeping up a continuous flow of items at a rate of 32 per minute. Tipping at a grocery store? Never heard of it.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:23 AM
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56: New Jersey and what? (I think we're talking about places that have mandatory gas pump attendant action. Which is annoying.) What's really unpleasant is restroom attendants.

New Jersey and Oregon.

In my life (98% in Pennsylvania, 1% in North Carolina, 1% miscellaneous) I personally have seen a gas pump attendant at one gas pump, which was a Texaco station that no longer exists. Have never seen a bathroom attendant except at the opera or something like that.

The cashier bagging things is the most common situation in my experience. Obviously this means the cashier is not keeping up a continuous flow of items at a rate of 32 per minute. Tipping at a grocery store? Never heard of it.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:23 AM
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56: New Jersey and what? (I think we're talking about places that have mandatory gas pump attendant action. Which is annoying.) What's really unpleasant is restroom attendants.

New Jersey and Oregon.

In my life (98% in Pennsylvania, 1% in North Carolina, 1% miscellaneous) I personally have seen a gas pump attendant at one gas pump, which was a Texaco station that no longer exists. Have never seen a bathroom attendant except at the opera or something like that.

The cashier bagging things is the most common situation in my experience. Obviously this means the cashier is not keeping up a continuous flow of items at a rate of 32 per minute. Tipping at a grocery store? Never heard of it.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:23 AM
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56: New Jersey and what? (I think we're talking about places that have mandatory gas pump attendant action. Which is annoying.) What's really unpleasant is restroom attendants.

New Jersey and Oregon.

In my life (98% in Pennsylvania, 1% in North Carolina, 1% miscellaneous) I personally have seen a gas pump attendant at one gas pump, which was a Texaco station that no longer exists. Have never seen a bathroom attendant except at the opera or something like that.

The cashier bagging things is the most common situation in my experience. Obviously this means the cashier is not keeping up a continuous flow of items at a rate of 32 per minute. Tipping at a grocery store? Never heard of it.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:23 AM
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56: New Jersey and what? (I think we're talking about places that have mandatory gas pump attendant action. Which is annoying.) What's really unpleasant is restroom attendants.

New Jersey and Oregon.

In my life (98% in Pennsylvania, 1% in North Carolina, 1% miscellaneous) I personally have seen a gas pump attendant at one gas pump, which was a Texaco station that no longer exists. Have never seen a bathroom attendant except at the opera or something like that.

The cashier bagging things is the most common situation in my experience. Obviously this means the cashier is not keeping up a continuous flow of items at a rate of 32 per minute. Tipping at a grocery store? Never heard of it.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:23 AM
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56: New Jersey and what? (I think we're talking about places that have mandatory gas pump attendant action. Which is annoying.) What's really unpleasant is restroom attendants.

New Jersey and Oregon.

In my life (98% in Pennsylvania, 1% in North Carolina, 1% miscellaneous) I personally have seen a gas pump attendant at one gas pump, which was a Texaco station that no longer exists. Have never seen a bathroom attendant except at the opera or something like that.

The cashier bagging things is the most common situation in my experience. Obviously this means the cashier is not keeping up a continuous flow of items at a rate of 32 per minute. Tipping at a grocery store? Never heard of it.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:23 AM
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56: New Jersey and what? (I think we're talking about places that have mandatory gas pump attendant action. Which is annoying.) What's really unpleasant is restroom attendants.

New Jersey and Oregon.

In my life (98% in Pennsylvania, 1% in North Carolina, 1% miscellaneous) I personally have seen a gas pump attendant at one gas pump, which was a Texaco station that no longer exists. Have never seen a bathroom attendant except at the opera or something like that.

The cashier bagging things is the most common situation in my experience. Obviously this means the cashier is not keeping up a continuous flow of items at a rate of 32 per minute. Tipping at a grocery store? Never heard of it.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:23 AM
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Also, using Safari to comment on blogs is v ery rare in my experience, with right now being an exception.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:25 AM
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Eight re-posts! Is that a personal best?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:27 AM
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Have never seen a bathroom attendant except at the opera or something like that.

Horrible redneck/tourist clip joints in Orlando.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:30 AM
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And nightclubs. Quite a few nightclubs have bathroom attendants, it seems, trying to sell you stuff.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:33 AM
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We have an attendant in our bathroom here at home. It's a little bit expensive, but who wants to reach for their own towel all the time?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:35 AM
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Safari winning the Shout&Vomit competition there, on Cryptic ned's behalf.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:38 AM
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What's so bad about gastropubs? I had a fantastic meal at a gastropub.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:39 AM
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It's a funny word. Plus, you were probably stuck there because of a volcano or something.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:40 AM
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re: 89

There's nothing wrong with pubs that serve good food, but the description in 38 is of a pub populated by hideous scum, tbf.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:43 AM
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What's so bad about gastropods? I had a fantastic meal of a gastropod.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:43 AM
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What's so bad about gastroenteritis? I've had wonderful bouts of the shits before.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:44 AM
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38 seems so long ago. Really, everything before ned's epic series of comments seems like a different epoch.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:45 AM
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It was a different, gastroepic time.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:46 AM
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Ned's great gastroflub.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:47 AM
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Last time I discussed this with a supermarket cashier, his target was 32 items a minute.

Knowing that there are places where these things are monitored and, presumably, enforced makes me that much happier with my slow-checkout experiences.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:00 AM
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Before there were foodies, there were check-outies, who liked to savor the slow experience.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:03 AM
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||

The problem is either that this paper is so fucking boring, or maybe that math in general is boring. At least reading math is boring. I have math problems.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:06 AM
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Full-time baggers are likely to be hired from the ranks of the mentally or physically challenged.

I lived near a grocery store where this was the case. You feel even worse being upset about the bagging when it's a mentally handicapped person -- who I suspect may not be paid anything -- but gah, six grapefruits on top of the bread?!

At the groceries in Germany they tend to have a divider on the already-scanned side of the checkout, so you can be at the end finishing up your bagging while the next person is already being checked out, and their stuff doesn't get mixed up with yours. I've never seen one of these in the U.S.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:09 AM
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I always find it interesting to see which fruits and vegetables the checkers can't ID and have to ask about.

Once in my hometown I was buying a clove of garlic, which clearly confused the high-school-aged checker. I later realized he had rung it up as an onion, which ended up making the garlic come to something like $0.19.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:14 AM
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I've never seen one of these in the U.S.

They've got 'em at Rainbow! Doesn't stop me from being annoyed with people, of course.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:16 AM
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Is scanning and labeling your fruits and veggies ahead of time a net good or net bad? It saves time at check out, but then you're scanning and labeling your fruits and veggies ahead of time.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:17 AM
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I have no idea what practice 103 is referring to.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:19 AM
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A single clove of garlic?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:20 AM
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Where you weigh them in the produce section and print out the bar code, and put it on the bag or item?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:20 AM
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Huh. I've seen this "weigh and print out the bar code" system in Europe, but not in the US.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:22 AM
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107 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:24 AM
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As a teenager I loved typing random numbers into the scales and then pressing down as hard as I could with my hands to see what it would print out. Wow, $890 worth of MANCHEGO! $543.21 of STARFRUIT! $150.20 of ASSORTED NONPAREILS!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:24 AM
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Aha! Because we Texans are so advanced! No one expects us to be the advanced ones!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:26 AM
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Wild and crazy times with Ned.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:27 AM
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Wow, $890 worth of MANCHEGO!

Fuck yes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:28 AM
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$850 worth of parmesan!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:30 AM
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$800 worth of saffron!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:35 AM
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Actually, I bet - based on nothing - that typical American stocks up on much more food than typical European in a given shopping trip. Either general glut & waste, or more like to have driven, driving bigger cars and kitchens, and once it's an established norm, you can shop less frequently.

Counterpoint: the existence of Carrefour and Auchan. Go into either one and you'd swear you were in a Walmart. (But neither one has grocery baggers.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:39 AM
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Fast times at Wegman's.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:40 AM
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$165 worth of vinegar!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:47 AM
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A solid majority of the gas stations I've been to in the US have a full service aisle. I don't know if they still check oil, but presumably they still wipe windows and pump gas.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:49 AM
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Or: $230 worth of vinegar!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:49 AM
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I've been in a grocery store that has signs saying that the baggers are paid only with tips. It's in a lawless yet socialist paradise, though, so I wouldn't draw any inferences.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:51 AM
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It's in a lawless yet socialist paradise, though

In which the state has already withered away? The mind boggles...


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:54 AM
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What do you tip someone who just bagged three small items, total value $6.45? Who smiles and wishes you a very good day?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:03 AM
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A shiny nickel, presumably.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:05 AM
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I never know what to do with bathroom attendants. In my experience, they tend to be in places one would never expect, like the cavernous Terminal 5 and The Cutting Room. Both places are the sort where people seem to go to the bathroom to vomit or do drugs, not really high-end primping parlors where a lady simply cannot imagine soiling her digits by touching the faucet. They put a big huge gob of soap on your hands, turn on the water to an inappropriate temperature, and then get really pissy if you don't give them a few dollars. I understand that a girl's gotta eat, and it's awfully hard to get a job in this town, but I do not feel I should pay money every time I need to go to the bathroom to have someone ruin my handwashing experience.

I am a terrible person.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:14 AM
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$240 worth of pudding


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:15 AM
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I could tolerate a bathroom attendant at an extremely high-end restaurant, where one is presumably there having a stressful time with a client or a fiancé's parents. You might want someone there to hand you a towel while you pat your face with a splash of cold water and re-apply lipstick. I have, however, never seen a bathroom attendant at a high-end restaurant--only divey music venues.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:17 AM
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At the groceries in Germany they tend to have a divider on the already-scanned side of the checkout, so you can be at the end finishing up your bagging while the next person is already being checked out, and their stuff doesn't get mixed up with yours. I've never seen one of these in the U.S.

I have, I'm just not sure where - I think maybe an Ikea? It was handy, was what it was.

Counterpoint: the existence of Carrefour and Auchan.

I was completely baffled by Carrefour when I first went to France - a combination of this is awesome,* and, also, these people gives us shit for Walmart? Also, French cashiers might possibly be the rudest people I have ever encountered. No mercy for the slow-witted (or language-handicapped). The Scots, on the other hand, were very kind to the poor American who had no idea how the system worked.

Finally, I absolutely love bagging. I shop most at our Co-Op, where bagging your own goods is normal but they often have people floating about to step in and lend a hand - I always shoo them away. I probably could have had a nice, happy slacker life as a bagger.

*Because the stuff there - at least food wise - was a good deal better quality than in the US.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:19 AM
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124 and 126 get it exactly right. Also, I've encountered them at some music venues where it really isn't at all clear if they're actual employees or just random dudes who decide to hang out in the bathroom and ask for tips.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:19 AM
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I've always understood that you were supposed to tip baggers at the grocery, but I've never known anyone to do it. But friends who worked as baggers in high school were told that would be part of their compensation. They were paid by the hour in shit wages, like restaurant servers, but they always ended up making exactly minimum wage anyway, since they never got any tips (and their employers had to make up the difference).

I'm familiar with the weigh-and-print-label things heebie describes, but I would never think to use one unless a sign were posted saying something to the effect of "you must weigh and bag your shit or the cashier won't know what to do with it."

A solid majority of the gas stations I've been to in the US have a full service aisle. I don't know if they still check oil, but presumably they still wipe windows and pump gas.

They just pump gas, IME. A real disappointment when your windows are dirty. There's another place I'm always unsure about tipping. Like, I *know* you're supposed to, and maybe if someone would wash a fucking window or check a fucking oil then I might, but I've never had anyone do anything other than pump gas, and the gas itself is already marked up over the self-service prices, so a tip seems wrong.


Posted by: ZBroxk Landers | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:20 AM
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ZBroxk!

Gas station attendants in NJ are not tipped. Either that or I'm an asshole.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:21 AM
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At the groceries in Germany they tend to have a divider on the already-scanned side of the checkout, so you can be at the end finishing up your bagging while the next person is already being checked out, and their stuff doesn't get mixed up with yours. I've never seen one of these in the U.S.

I see these all the time. They're everywhere. I'm in the U.S.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:22 AM
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A single clove of garlic?

Oops, my bad.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:23 AM
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I always find it interesting to see which fruits and vegetables the checkers can't ID and have to ask about.

I have so much fun with this. I expect the checkers at the co-op to be much more knowledgeable than your average ones (because they so often are), so I am always surprised when they have to ask about something I find relatively normal, like a lemon cucumber.

Also, I've noticed that they consistently under-charge me for bulk items (pine nuts get rung up as something cheaper, etc) and I can't figure out if this is on purpose or sheer accident.

(In case you couldn't tell, grocery shopping is my absolute favorite chore. I love it. You get to buy things! All these neat foods, right there for you to examine!)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:23 AM
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"Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?"


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:25 AM
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Fiddleheads flummox checkers without fail.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:28 AM
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I've seen this "weigh and print out the bar code" system in Europe, but not in the US.

It used to be the norm in Germany, but most stores now seem to be going over to the scale-at-the-checkout system. I've been told that too many people cheat when they weight their own.


I see these all the time. They're everywhere. I'm in the U.S.

Weird. I truly can't think of a place I've ever seen one in the U.S. And I shop at a range of groceries-- big box chains, medium-sized stores, TJs, a co-op.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:29 AM
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Lemon cucumbers are kind of weird.

I have never encountered a bathroom attendant ever, I think. Certainly not at a music venue.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:29 AM
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137.2 is astonishing. Maybe it's a New York thing? Seems like mostly that's where I've encountered them.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:30 AM
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The DFW story in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men in which the narrator's father was a bathroom attendant is excruciating.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:32 AM
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Tipping is such a shitty invention anyway, Even in perfectly normal and well understood contexts , like dining out. It's supposed to be a mechanism to reward good service, but fuck. Is there anyway to communicate that? If I leave no tip, or a small tip, does that tell the restaurant that I received poor service or that I'm a cheap bastard? I feel like the message received is more likely to be the latter. It would work better if there were absolutely no expectation of a standard tip, and that absence of expectation was built into the pricing and compensation at the restaurant. And sure, you'd be free to leave a few extra dollars if a server were truly great (although you don't do that in most other market contexts--you just patronize the restaurant again, and tell your friends).


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:33 AM
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Lemon cucumbers are kind of weird.

I know....that's just the one that happened to me most recently and I was failing to remember the more commonplace ones. Quinces completely confused one checker, but that didn't seem a huge surprise to me. (My favorite is when they say, "What the heck is that? What do you do with it?" and then I embarrassedly have to tell them about whatever silly scheme I have going, which I always feel makes me look like an ass.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:34 AM
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139 is true. Ugh.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:34 AM
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Weird. I truly can't think of a place I've ever seen one in the U.S. And I shop at a range of groceries-- big box chains, medium-sized stores, TJs, a co-op.

Now that I think about it, I don't remember seeing many (any?) in groceries around Boston. Maybe there's a law.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:35 AM
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At Volna in Brighton Beach last week, my friend and I got a couple of beers and some pelmeni and were charged a 10% automatic gratuity, which I found strange. If you think we won't tip, why not credit yourself the full 20%?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:36 AM
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Maybe there's a law.

Maybe some socialist thing to preserve the baggers' jobs!


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:37 AM
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I've never seen the divided checkout thing in the US. Not in Boston, not in California, not in Nevada, not in... well, whatever other states I've bought groceries in.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:37 AM
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Well 140 sure came out ugly.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:40 AM
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147: It read like Winston Churchill to me.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:41 AM
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...which is to say, that in the morning, it will still be ugly.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 12:03 PM
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No, in the morning it will read soberly.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 12:07 PM
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133.last gets it exactly right. When I was a kid, I dreamed of owning a grocery store so I could TAKE WHATEVER I WANTED without my parents telling me 'No'.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 12:23 PM
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Wow, grocery shopping is different in different places. We've had the divided-conveyor thing here in every major grocery store (not the snooty ones) since I was a child. And all the baggers, cashiers etc. are union, so while their wage is not great, if you stick at it for awhile, it's not completely absurd to think about living off of it. The guys I knew in high school who bagged groceries did about as well as anyone else with a job, and better than most.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 12:32 PM
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Knowing that there are places where these things are monitored and, presumably, enforced makes me that much happier with my slow-checkout experiences.

neb, are you being uncharacteristically mean or is this a particularly dry joke? For the record, timed work is lousy and stressful.

I'm pretty sure I haven't seen a bathroom attendant since the 1980s. No, wait, I think I've seen one at a sports stadium. My experience is nothing like AWB's, though -- they were just there to clean up the unbelievable amount of trash that people threw on the floor (paper towels, etc.) and generally keep a high-traffic public bathroom from looking like a bomb hit it.

I'm fairly sure I've never seen the divided-checkout thing. One thing that's frustrating about the self-serve thing is that it's more efficient to have a cashier ringing things up and (the customer) bagging. If you have to do both parts, you take longer. Unfortunately, stores seem to feel they save more by firing the checker.

I always find it interesting to see which fruits and vegetables the checkers can't ID and have to ask about.

It makes me sad when checkers ask you about perfectly ordinary vegetables. Making food was such a constant part of my childhood that I have to work to remember how many people it's not natural for. Of course, probably 60% of my childhood friends' families didn't cook, so it's not a new phenomenon.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 12:39 PM
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153.1: I think he's taking the slowness of the checkout as evidence that his place is not timed.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 12:41 PM
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Ah, indeed, I misread it. Thanks, Merganser. Sorry, neb! At least I said "uncharacteristically."


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 12:44 PM
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Honestly, Witt.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 12:51 PM
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Of course, probably 60% of my childhood friends' families didn't cook, so it's not a new phenomenon.

My high school friends used to starve themselves before coming over to my house because they knew they'd be able to ask my mom for our leftovers from dinner. Even in the case of perfectly ordinary leftovers--meatloaf, corn on the cob--they preferred them to whatever they had at home. We were among the poorest families at my school, and these wealthier kids begged for our food because it was homemade. That always struck me as odd.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 12:51 PM
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Poland still has bathroom attendants in lots of places, particularly the more public ones. These always require payment. Fortunately, they long since eliminated the toilet paper rationing, but well into the nineties there would be none by the toilet, instead you needed to ask in advance to get a very small number of sheets of fine, stretchy, easily torn sandpaper. This of course a by product of the fact that toilet paper was very difficult to get in the eighties; people used to buy huge amounts whenever it was available.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 1:26 PM
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Now, when I travel, I am going to have to try to go to large supermarkets and figure out which places don't have divided check out lanes. That's SO BIZARRE! This is even at self-bagging places, right? How do they keep the lines moving?

Albrecht's Fine Foods just came to Minneapolis a couple of years ago, and I still can't get over how stupid and counter-productive they make the check-out experience. The paying-for-a-bag thing is reasonable -- it's just the reverse of getting a credit at a fancy place for bringing your own. But the "no debit card" and the "one cashier on duty at a time" stuff, plus the extremely foreshortened line space (i.e. you are backed up well into the shelving if there are more than 3 or 4 people in line) means that approximately 50% of the time I've gone in there, I've wound up just dropping my stuff and walking out. But I think even THEY have divided conveyors, but they're only a foot or two long, so it defeats the purpose.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 1:41 PM
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Although I'm still not clear on what "divided checkout line" would be, I'm pretty sure I've never seen or heard of one before. Therefore a good heuristic for identifying which places don't have them would be by observing which places are not Silopaennim or wherever Brock Landers lives.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 2:00 PM
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158: I like Poland's bathroom attendant system (at least when they're not totally crabby, like most of the cashiers are). It's awesome to be able to go into a large public restroom and know that it's going to be clean. I think that I've only run into the toilet paper rationing thing in the Ukraine (and maybe Slovakia), which is also the only place I've ever encountered a Roman toilet.

As for bagging, this is a major hobbyhorse of mine. I bagged groceries all through high school at a chain of supermarkets that required a cashier and bagger for each register and strongly encouraged carryout service. I was paid minimum wage, but usually made a few bucks in tips each day as well. These days, I usually politely explain to the cashier how I'd like my groceries bagged if it looks like he or she is doing anything wacky.


Posted by: JennyRobot | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 2:36 PM
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It's awesome to be able to go into a large public restroom and know that it's going to be clean.

This was one thing I noticed on our European road trip a couple of years ago: roadside restrooms were uniformly cleaner and more pleasant than the equivalents in the US. The inconvenience of needing to have change on hand was totally worth it.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 2:47 PM
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The inconvenience of needing to have change on hand was totally worth it.

No way. I'm a dirty and free kinda gal.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 2:56 PM
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163: I'm a dirty and free kinda gal.

I like my coffee the way I like my women.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 2:57 PM
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But do you like your roadside restrooms like or unlike your women and coffee?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 3:01 PM
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160: Although I'm still not clear on what "divided checkout line" would be
Okay, this is crazy, I searched all over flickr, and the best I could come up with was a video of an IKEA lane, which I can't even link to.

So apparently Brock and I live in some kind of alternate, much more efficient universe.

I'm going to attempt to draw the principle in ASCII art though, because I am that much of a dork:
.........__________
* \___________
______________

The asterisk is the cashier, the backslash is the divider. When one customer is done ringing through, the divider is switched so that the next customer's groceries are diverted into the other half of the lane, giving the first customer a chance to bag their groceries without the other groceries bumping into them.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 3:02 PM
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I like my bathrooms like I like my coffee: with plenty of urinal cakes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 3:03 PM
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I like my roadside restrooms the way I like my women: accessible with under a dollar in change.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 3:06 PM
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I'm starting to realize I've never seen a divided checkout line, either. So the back half of the checkout stand is divided into multiple lanes, one for the customer who just finished and is now bagging their groceries, and one for the current customer? And possibly a third? And there's a little traintrack style switch so that you can block and activate whichever lane you want?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 3:08 PM
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165: But do you like your roadside restrooms like or unlike your women and coffee?

For most of my years as a child, Ohio rest stops (other than the turnpike) had pit latrines. I fucking hated them.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 3:11 PM
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So pit latrines....like or unlike your women?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 3:12 PM
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Able to be urinated into by many people simultaneously! What's not to like?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 3:13 PM
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171: Just a sec, I'll ask my wife.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 3:18 PM
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169: Yes, if by "back half" you mean the part that you get to later, i.e. nearer the exit. There's a conveyor belt in front, where you place your purchases. Then the cashier scans them. Then you pay for them. Then you bag them. The shunting to one side happens as the cashier scans each item: he or she places it on the conveyor belt, which then goes past the gate, pushing the items to one side or the other of the central divider. Like a "Y", where the tail of the Y is the initial point of entry (tabloids, gum, little plastic sticks to separate your groceries from the preceding and following ones), and the fork represents each side of the divided lane.

So there are seriously places where you bag your own groceries that don't have this? That is so weird.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 3:24 PM
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Lots of bathroom attendants in Paris, from what I remember. I remember one in a park, who scared me, and then when my kids went in there, after I'd dug about in my purse for change (because you had to pay too - had to pay to go in the blooming playground too!), she was really nice to them and they came out with lollipops.

And yes, Ikea have that lane-switcher thing. I shop in Lidl quite often, because it's two minutes walk from my house, and the checkout people there swipe your stuff through more quickly than anyone could bag it, into an area about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. The faster they get, the slower I pack.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 3:44 PM
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127: I've often thought that France is more Americanised than Britain in some ways. Big-box retail parks are exhibit A. Every little town near an autoroute or a 4-voies tout court has a zone (commerciale/industrielle/artisanale) full of big cocktail stirrer signs and big shed retail/motel/bad food operations. And they do build a lot of roads. The counter to this is that they keep this shit out of cities. Which is great if you live within the city limits, or out in the sticks - although if you do the latter you'll certainly drive to the next Leclerc for your shopping. It's probably less interesting to wish that the US was more like Paris than that it was like France really is - more egalitarian, with better infrastructure, but still with a lot of people who live in the suburbs and exurbs and a lot of big box shopping.

152, 157: I can certainly recall kids like that, but not to the extent of taking home leftovers. I can also recall the opposite - what, Andy ******** has a Super Nintendo and his dad drives a BMW, but he has to eat this shit? Oddly enough, people who didn't have the SN or the BMW were usually better cooks too....

Also, although Tesco is the national icon of massive retail capitalism in the UK, it's surprising how few people realise the shop floor people are organised (USDAW). When I worked in a Kwik Save, the only union member was the manager.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 4:46 PM
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||

Speaking of food, jesus christ, how the hell is this going on in a first world country?

Christina McNaughton wasn't sure where to begin looking when worrisome levels of arsenic turned up in two Utah County children last summer. The family's water wasn't contaminated. Not the soil either. The trail eventually led McNaughton, a toxicologist for the Utah Department of Health, to the family's backyard chicken coop -- along with the eggs that came out of it, the feed that went into the hens that laid them and, finally, widely used animal-feed additives containing arsenic.

|>


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 5:12 PM
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This isn't a first world country.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 5:19 PM
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I later realized he had rung it up as an onion, which ended up making the garlic come to something like $0.19.

A friend of mine, who is otherwise an individual of high ethical caliber, has taken to ringing up all produce as onions (resulting in a pretty steep discount) when she does self-checkout. She had picked it up from a former boyfriend, who justified the behavior by telling himself that the supermarkets were evil for forcing him to use the machines, so his produce chicanery was righting that wrong. Asked if anyone ever questioned him on buying three different sets of "onions", he said no one ever had.

The thing that irks me about the self-checkouts is, it seems they still require cashier intervention like half the time (like if it gets hung-up or you're also buying stamps or something), so I'm not convinced they save any time (no that that's their intended purpose, but still: annoying).


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 6:48 PM
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176 Yup. And it's a relatively new phenomenon. When we moved to Geneva in 1980, there were very few of the big box things and they were all supermarkets. Now the strip mall, or the French version thereof, is king. Plus fricking subdivisions all over the place, and I'm not just talking the outskirts of the major metro areas. This really started taking off about twenty years ago. And talking about Geneva, there's an unholy Nimby alliance between Green types and conservatives to force car centered development. Block all housing and office development in the urban core, block park and ride, make it as unpleasant as possible to drive into the city. They've also sharply limited development in the inner suburbs. The results are what you'd expect, a gazillion new US style suburban subdivisions for the middle class, and car centered low rise apartment ones for the poor, way out in the exurbs, mostly in France.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 6:50 PM
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I like automated checkouts. Like online pizza ordering, they reduce my interaction with actual humans without actually decreasing the functionality of the product.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 6:55 PM
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online pizza ordering

I'm irrationally pleased with Domino's online order process. In particular, the part where they tell you personalized updates:

"Dan is preparing your pizza"
"Dan put your pizza in the oven."
"Maria is leaving the store with your pizza."

It's exciting!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 6:58 PM
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We've had the divided-conveyor thing here in every major grocery store (not the snooty ones) since I was a child.

Not everywhere, but yes, definitely common since I was a small child. I think that why it never dawned on me until this thread that they were in any way remarkable.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:01 PM
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I also like the automated check-outs. Here they limit you to 10 or 20 items, though.

I've read that the users of automated check-outs have a bimodal age distribution: Young(ish) adults like them because they're speedy, old people like them because they can go exactly as slowly as they want, and investigate the price of each item along the way, and the baby boomers in the middle are intimidated by them.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:47 PM
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I also like the automated check-outs. Here they limit you to 10 or 20 items, though.

I've read that the users of automated check-outs have a bimodal age distribution: Young(ish) adults like them because they're speedy, old people like them because they can go exactly as slowly as they want, and investigate the price of each item along the way, and the baby boomers in the middle are intimidated by them.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:47 PM
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Sometimes you wind up paying twice for the same thing, though.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:48 PM
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The first time I posted it, I got a weird error saying too many people were simultaneously submitting comments. Where's my multitudes?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:49 PM
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You contain them.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:50 PM
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I contain a single multiple. Not 'tudes.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:55 PM
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And talking about Geneva, there's an unholy Nimby alliance between Green types and conservatives to force car centered development. Block all housing and office development in the urban core, block park and ride, make it as unpleasant as possible to drive into the city. They've also sharply limited development in the inner suburbs. The results are what you'd expect, a gazillion new US style suburban subdivisions for the middle class, and car centered low rise apartment ones for the poor, way out in the exurbs, mostly in France.

OTOH, Strasbourg has gone the opposite direction and substantially redeveloped the center city; they've built a ton of (underground) parking structures in the last 15 years, and both built a hell of a lot of apartments and dramatically expanded the light rail system. I was astounded at the change since the last time I was there.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 7:56 PM
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I hate automated check-out. I want human contact in my commerce. Like, with people who have jobs. I'd be tempted to use the automated dealies just to figure out ways to jam the system, but that would mean shopping somewhere other than my grocery store, where there are baggers who make a living wage and have good benefits, and where the checkers are unfazed by unusual varieties of produce.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:02 PM
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189: Nice tuple.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:04 PM
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See, I feel entirely non-misanthropic in my dislike for the purely instrumental human contact engendered by the modern corporate supermarket checkout line. If it was a local shop where I knew the kindly shopkeep, sure, I'd love to chat about my onions. But in your average Safeway? If I'm going to be treating my interlocutor like a machine, why not actually make it a machine?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:10 PM
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I just like the fact that the line for the automated check-outs is generally way shorter than the line for the people-checkers.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:15 PM
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Well, sure, if you shop at Safeway.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:18 PM
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Yes, yes, obviously artisanal grass-fed local checkers are superior to any machine.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:19 PM
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The lines at Safeway take even longer when the checkers have to consult with everyone else in the store to figure out what a cherimoya is. "Do we even carry these?" they ask. "Of course you don't," I reply, "I brought it in just to challenge you. This store sucks."


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:25 PM
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The thing that irks me about the self-checkouts is, it seems they still require cashier intervention like half the time (like if it gets hung-up or you're also buying stamps or something), so I'm not convinced they save any time (no that that's their intended purpose, but still: annoying).

No, they don't. I've used them hundreds of times in the last few years, and needed cashier intervention maybe three times. It mostly only gets hung up when people haven't learned how to use them yet. (Though sometimes I find myself in the annoying situation of waiting longer to use the self-checkout than I would in the line, because everyone using them is incompetent and just stands helplessly until the cashier gets around to helping them.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:28 PM
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Essear lives exclusively off of Doritos and Pepsi, why do you ask?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:40 PM
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I've used them hundreds of times in the last few years, and needed cashier intervention maybe three times.

I've observed that they seem to fall into two categories:
1. Stores that went cheap on the technology (that is, it doesn't work very well) and similarly skimp on the human:automated ratio, so that they have, say, one employee watching over eight automated check-outs.

2. Stores that paid for better technology (or maybe were just later adopters) and have a 1:2 or so ratio of staff available to deal with problems.

The main problems generated by auto-checkouts, AFAICT, are:
- Machine refuses to read price on item (can't just ring it up as "Miscellaneous")
- Machine continues to insist you have additional unscanned items when you just want to pay and get out of there
- Machine refuses to accept your form of payment (with a human checker it's possible to pay $20 in cash and put the rest on credit; this is theoretically possible by machine but generally seems unworkable). A related and major issue is machines refusing to accept the cash offered. Huge delay-creator.
-Machine takes so long to go through simple steps that customer loses patience and leaves (seriously, on some of those machines, just getting the thing to the screen where it looks up produce is agonizingly slow, and then you have to scroll through four pages of "C" vegetables before you get to cucumbers -- and it's NOT in alphabetical order, it's some weird algorithm based on frequency of purchase or something, so you can't even run your eye quickly over the list and find the one you want).
- Machine refuses to grant sale price on item. This is especially infuriating when you've already entered your club code or other discount, and yet cherries remain @7.99/lb. instead of $2.99. At that point there's no human to hand them back to and say "Well, I don't want them," and no place to put them. So you end up either signaling for help and waiting, or abandoning $24 worth of cherries ($9 if the sale was accurate) at just the location guaranteed to make the machine think the next customer is cheating it.

I am not a fan.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:46 PM
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Ours are not nearly so riddled with problems as Witt's. At worst, the machines insist that you haven't put the item in the bag yet. But generally by pressing on the item, the sensor catches it and you can continue.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:49 PM
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The only time I've ever been annoyed with one of the automated checkout doohickeys is buying liquor when the store's sort of understaffed. Maybe I just have a way with machines?

The times I've been annoyed with actual human checkout people's incompetence are innumerable.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:50 PM
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Machine refuses to grant sale price on item.

Ugh. There's a local store whose machine doesn't calculate BOGOs until after you choose your form of payment, despite showing other sale prices right away when you scan. Annoying.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:50 PM
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I use the self-serve checkout machines only if I have a very small number of items. Otherwise, the actual human checker is faster. The interaction with the person might or might not have a spark of humanity, but even if I treat them as a machine, they're a better machine than the computerized one.

I'm also puzzled by their existence at Home Depot, where some significant fraction of the items one purchases are unwieldily in one way or another, so both scanning them and convincing the machine that you've done something with them are extremely awkward.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:55 PM
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I usually just punch in the PLU code rather than going through the screens where you enter names of vegetables. If I pick up some fruit or vegetable without a sticker for the PLU code, I make a mental note of the code when I pick it up.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:56 PM
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I'm also puzzled by their existence at Home Depot, where some significant fraction of the items one purchases are unwieldily in one way or another, so both scanning them and convincing the machine that you've done something with them are extremely awkward.

In my experience, the Home Depot machines don't use weight sensors in the bagging area, and also come with those gun dealies so you can scan big items in the cart. Is that not universally the case?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:57 PM
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Plus by now I just know a lot of them. Bananas = 4011, red leaf lettuce = 4075, Braeburn apples = 4103. Luckily Doritos don't need a PLU code.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:57 PM
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The times I've been annoyed with actual human checkout people's incompetence are innumerable.

My self-image is one of a grumpy misanthrope, and it's certainly true that I will go out of my way to avoid human interaction in most shopping settings. But for whatever reason I don't find service-worker delays particularly irksome. An ex once remarked on how chatty I was with grocery checkers, which is probably more of comment on his general taciturnity (is that a word?), but possibly also on my strict childhood training in empathy.

In other news, my brother-in-law reacted with horror to learning which shopping center I had visited over the weekend, and in an attempt to prevent me from returning, lectured me that the grocery store in that complex has ARMED security guards. It would have been a fair point, had I been going to the grocery store.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:58 PM
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taciturnity (is that a word?)

You want "rightheadedness".


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 8:59 PM
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If I pick up some fruit or vegetable without a sticker for the PLU code, I make a mental note of the code when I pick it up.

Dude, I accidentally memorized a truly frightening number of zip codes back in the day doing data entry, and even I could not possibly remember the produce codes for more than 1/3 of what I buy. Either you have an astonishingly good memory or your produce-buying habits are narrow and highly structured.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:01 PM
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the grocery store in that complex has ARMED security guards

Can't trust them tomatoes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:03 PM
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Can't trust them tomatoes.

They're pretty seedy little fellers.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:06 PM
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Possibly I've just assumed the Home Depot ones were like the ones in grocery stores and never bothered to try. The fact that I don't feel inclined to use them in general contributes to that, I'm sure. I also haven't tried the setups (mostly at Stop&Shop, around here), where you pick up a barcode scanner gun and scan things yourself as you go.

I sometimes wonder if I'm cantankerous about this stuff because I'm a professional technologist, or in spite of it.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:09 PM
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You are a professional technologist because you are cantankerous.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:19 PM
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I sometimes wonder if I'm cantankerous about this stuff because I'm a professional technologist, or in spite of it.

It seems, possibly, orthogonal. Maybe you just like people!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:19 PM
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Neat, it's opposite-pwn.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:20 PM
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nwped?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:21 PM
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i've gotten kumquats for about half price the last few weeks because it doesn't have a bar code on the jewel case, so the alarm thing goes off on the checkout, the roving cashier comes over, says 'hum it doesn't have a price, let me go look'

and i finish ringing things up, and he comes back and says 'couldn't find a price, how about i charge you a dollar fifty' or something like that. i keep wondering when they'll get that straightened out.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:43 PM
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Man, now I'm all nostalgic for kumquats.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 9:55 PM
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The PLU is 4303. You go rolling, high baller.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:01 PM
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Or is it "go balling, high roller." The kids and their lingo are hard for me to follow.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:15 PM
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Go hauling, bowl riler?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:16 PM
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Then memorize the PLU, if that will move her;
If you can roll high, roll for her too,
Till she cry "baller, PLU-knowing, high-rolling baller,
I must have you!"


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:21 PM
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I always find it interesting to see which fruits and vegetables the checkers can't ID and have to ask about.

Once in Lubbock I brought put a small bundle of asparagus in my shopping cart and tried to pay for it. The exchange went something like this.

Teenage Clerk: What is this?

Me: Asparagus.

TC (looks in little book): I don't see 'sparagus in here. Does it have another name.

Me: Not that I know if. It's just asparagus.

TC (flips around in book, returns to the page she was originally on): Are you sure it doesn't have another name?

Me: Its asparagus.

TC: If it doesn't have another name, I can't ring it up.

Me: ....

TC: There's no 'sparagus in here.

I peer over the counter. Sure enough, she's looking in the book under "S." She wasn't dropping the "a" in "asparagus." She thought I was saying "a sparagus."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:22 PM
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She wasn't dropping the "a" in "asparagus." She thought I was saying "a sparagus."

How foolish. There were plainly multiple sparaguses there.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:24 PM
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The plural is "sparagodes", Stanley.

[…]

The title of this thread puts me in mind, whenever I read it, of The Pentangle's rendition of "The Cuckoo": "The meeting was a pleasure, but the parting was a woe".


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:27 PM
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It is times like these that I wish I was far more computer adept. My Imac desktop has decided it no longer wants to work. I blame Firefox. Wah.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:35 PM
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(The only thing that's comforting me is that in the meantime I completed a sewing project I'd been putting off. At least I can wield a needle.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 10:36 PM
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A long time ago, I meant to

In other news, I met a very attractive lady tonight. Crossed fingers!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:29 PM
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Fuck. [heart] 134 is what I meant to do.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:30 PM
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Well, this is tantalizing.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:30 PM
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Ok, it was tantalizing.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:31 PM
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I'm still tantalized. I'm, like, thirty goddamn tantalized.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:32 PM
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She's pretty and smart and German. I like her. I don't know if she's into ladies though. I tried to make it clear that I was and she said she wanted to hang out sometime. No smooching though.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:34 PM
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Is she beautiful and angular? If she were a gas, would she be inert?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:37 PM
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235: Yes, and yes. We might just be friends, but that would be cool too.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:40 PM
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235: Helium is inert and has a new episode coming soon.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:42 PM
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I've seen the dividers between customer's groceries in the US. I've also helped bag my own groceries at Trader Joe's.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:47 PM
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sparaguses

One of the best phone calls I've ever received (in mirth:call duration terms): "I'm at the store and I'm looking for the molasses, but I don't know where to find them."


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 07- 5-10 11:58 PM
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Also, the European system of tagging your produce bags with bar codes at the produce section and then bringing the bags, tagged, to the register takes a while to get used but is vastly superior to the find the code at the register system.

Also, self-checkout machines everywhere I've gone in both California and New York City have had a high enough wait-for-attendant-rate that I almost always avoid them unless I'm just about the only one using the machine. The last one I used kept giving me some "unauthorized product in the bagging area" error, or something like that and it got to the point that I could not scan another item or put down the one item I'd managed to scan anywhere, including, apparently, the floor, without the machine barking at me about some problem. The attendant was already helping someone - the attendant had been helping people, consecutively, for the entire time I'd been in line - and after looking around, I decided to cancel things and start over. This produces a message telling me that I had to wait for the attendant to authorize the cancellation. So I left and got into a regular line. I felt bad that I'd left the machine tied up until the attendant could get to it, but it wasn't any slower than if I'd been waiting there, plus the people behind me no longer would have to wait for my inability to get the machine to work. The attendant finally came by, pressed a button, and the machine went back to work (and the attendant went on to help with yet another problem).

This was the first time I'd gotten an error since the first time I'd used a self-checkout machine. Only about 50% of the machines at that store were open at the time, by the way.

I've found library self-checkout machines, on the other hand, to work pretty well.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:02 AM
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This isn't a first world country.

No shit, Sherlock.


Posted by: Opinionated Christopher Columbus | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:04 AM
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Hmm. It's possible I've seen the divided checkout counters in North America only in Canada.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:10 AM
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56:

What's backward about grocery baggers? Is your supermarket entirely automated with no employees except the people who stock the shelves?

No, we just bag our groceries ourselves. Grocery baggers look just as old fashioned as having live in maids.

There are some automated checkouts, but only in a few supermarkets and only as an option. I boycott them because their widespread use would put an entire class of people out of work when being a cashier is one of the few jobs still available you don't need a university degree for. Also automatic tellers sucks donkey balls through straw.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:19 AM
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automatic tellers sucks donkey balls through straw

Are you a non-native speaker of English, Martin? I super-duper love this added-onto (the straw part) version of the expression but was curious if you coined it yourself or what.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:36 AM
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Oh, and in New York City, but only in Inwood and the Bronx, I've seen tip jars down at the end of the counter near the bagging area. People generally dropped in just the coins they got as change, if they dropped in anything at all, so that's what I did if I had a substantial amount of groceries (more than just an item or two) and someone bagged them. Never seen them anywhere else.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:44 AM
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I've never seen a bagger in NYC. The grocer bags mine, or I bag them.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:48 AM
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239: One of the best complaints I got on an assignment was when they had to write about prose, and one student asked how many pros they had to write about. He was not a native speaker, and very bright, but I got a tickle out of it.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:06 AM
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There are some automated checkouts, but only in a few supermarkets and only as an option. I boycott them because their widespread use would put an entire class of people out of work when being a cashier is one of the few jobs still available you don't need a university degree for. Also automatic tellers sucks donkey balls through straw.

fuck this noise. we can have robots do the work to maintain our utopia now, but instead we have to go do boring jobs just to maintain this 'productive member of society' charade. go play authentic-workingman-dressup if you want but don't drag anyone else into it.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:11 AM
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I like automated checkout because it provides an illusion of control, even if the total time spent checking out is roughly equivalent; it's basically why I prefer to drive "shortcuts" on surface streets rather than stop-and-go on the freeway even if the drive takes the same amount of time.

I'm pretty sure that, at least locally, the big supermarket chains are heavily pushing the automated systems in order to bust or weaken the very strong union, so I try to avoid them for that reason, but sometimes I just want to run my own scanner and get out.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:35 AM
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It ceases not to scare me that "union" is a bad word in the pretty Democratically inclined circles I run in.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:47 AM
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248: excellent attempt to be prolier-than-thou, but in actually existing reality, having robots take over anybody's work, no matter how boring it might be, does not lead to utopia but just to more people getting into shitter jobs or kept on the dole.

Supermarket jobs over here are very much sought after as a first job for those who don't go for office work, as it pays fairly well and may be hard but not too hard work.



Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 5:46 AM
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251: I thought the US was backward for having supermarket jobs.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 7:14 AM
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252. Unless the vast majority of US supermarket workers are baggers, I don't think anybody has made this claim.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 7:27 AM
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242: Minnesota is technically a part of Canada since the 1984 Presidential election.

I refuse to use the self-checkout, partly because it cuts out jobs, often union jobs, but also because it smacks of forcing me to work for my leisure. And especially at Home Depot (which I try to only patronize for lumber & tools that would be prohibitively expensive/poor quality at the local hardware store or Menard's) because it fits in with their whole race-to-the-bottom mentality about understaffing the stores.

I did use the self-checkout at a grocery store a couple of months ago when someone else was driving me and he had an appointment to keep, and it actually worked pretty well. Admittedly, I wasn't buying any produce or other complicated merchandise, except for some boxed strawberries, but I thought the technology was about as good as you would expect. Still, I'm politically opposed to it.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 7:40 AM
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but also because it smacks of forcing me to work for my leisure.

My leisure forces me to work for smacks.


Posted by: Opinionated Sadist | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 7:43 AM
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250: Really? That's disturbing.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 9:01 AM
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My smack works for me, forcing leisure.


Posted by: Heroin Addict | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 11:23 AM
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but also because it smacks of forcing me to work for my leisure.

This. Or rather, forcing you to do the work in order to take the place of actually-paid workers. The US Postal Service* has been engaging in this in a widespread manner: if you routinely mail large numbers of things, they really, really would like you to run your own postage for them and just drop the packages off at the Post Office. To the point of suggesting that they will refuse to serve you if you don't make this switch.

* the USPS is admittedly an outlier, being publicly-funded and struggling mightily.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:18 PM
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258: I know there are exceptions, but nearly everybody who routinely mails large numbers of things is a huge asshole trying to get me to spend money on something too stupid to contemplate.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:21 PM
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Well, I sell books, Moby, so every package sent out has been requested.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:37 PM
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Unless you are Amazon, you probably aren't hitting what I thought of as "large numbers of things." The Post Office may define things differently.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:43 PM
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259: Those guys already have their own franking machines, and some even deliver to the post office presorted by zip code. The ones getting dinged are the people running online stores like the more prolific users of Etsy or eBay, or small brick and mortar establishments with independent online presence. Pretty much the folks I'd like to see the Post Office bend over backwards for, actually.

And on preview, people like Parsi.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:44 PM
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262: Actually, I know about the presorting by zip code. I've had to do that from time to time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:47 PM
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the USPS is admittedly an outlier, being publicly-funded and struggling mightily

Is this a fully accurate description of the USPS in 2010? I suppose I'll go look it up, but my grandpops used to be a postmaster and is mega-grumpy about changes that were made to the USPS, significantly privatizing some aspects of it.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:47 PM
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261: Correct.

252: Also correct. We've gotten used to it, but the fact is that we're now, ourselves, doing the labor (running the postage) that the P.O. used to do. They're offering early retirement to their employees, and sharply reducing staff*, and offloading the lost labor onto the user. It's been hard not to notice the trend -- and it extends to self-checkout aisles at the grocery store.

*Again, though, the USPS has an unusual situation, being taxpayer funded, yet legally committed to providing universal service, even to the remotest backwater, and they are legitimately struggling.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:52 PM
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264: changes that were made to the USPS, significantly privatizing some aspects of it.

Yeah, I don't know many details on that. I know that FedEx (or is it UPS -- I think FedEx) now carries a lot of the USPS's airmail. You'd think that would be more expensive, no? But there's some reasoning out there that subcontracting to a private organization is actually cheaper. I don't know.

Where's Knecht?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 12:56 PM
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Morning Edition today had a piece about the USPS wanting to eliminate Saturday delivery, among other changes. They've been hit hard by the recession and UPS and FedEx creaming their most profitable routes.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:03 PM
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the USPS has an unusual situation, being taxpayer funded, yet legally committed to providing universal service, even to the remotest backwater, and they are legitimately struggling

This is a very odd sentence. What does it mean to say they're "legitimately struggling", if they're taxpayer funded? Just that they don't have sufficient funding to effectively meet their mandate ("providing universal service, even to the remotest backwater")? Because I'd agree with that, but the same thing could be said for a great many public institutions, and I don't think we'd usually say they're "legitimately struggling". (Would we?) That strikes me as inappropriately business/profit-oriented terminology. I'd be more inclined to say they're "underfunded".

My sense is that there's a common perception that the postal service shouldn't be funded by taxpayers--i.e., that it should be self-supporting. And in that sense, it could be said to be legitimately struggling--struggling to support itself. Just like the metro is "legitimately struggling" when it doesn't bring in enough revenue to support its own operations. But the federal highway system brings in close to $0 (there are some toll roads, but in the grand scheme I believe they're mostly rounding errors), and yet no one says it's "struggling". More generally, it's sort of crazy to think that government operations necessarily ought to be able to finance themselves, instead of being supported by general tax revenues. Things that can finance themselves usually don't need to be government functions.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:04 PM
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268: I think the USPS is self-supporting, yes. So "taxpayer-funded" is wrong, yes. Public institution, that's all, which requires Congressional approval to make any changes to its service provision. What's odd is the combination of being self-supported with the mandate to provide universal service.

I stand corrected.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:13 PM
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To be clear, I've heard the phrasing in 265 plenty of times before--I'm not accusing parsimon of originating it. It just strikes me as odd whenever I hear it, and I'm never quite sure exactly what it's intended to convey.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:14 PM
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How does a government agency that is specifically mentioned in the Constitution get privatised? Take that, strict constructionists.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:16 PM
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271: It isn't privatized. It is still the government, just a part of the government that runs on a separate budget. Like the Pennsylvania Turnpike, but with less corruption.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:19 PM
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269 before seeing 270, and that makes more sense. Although, it really is in an even weirder place than I'd thought--no public funds, but it has to run changes in its prices or its business methods by Congress? (Although: it's borrowing boatloads of money from the government to cover its deficits, which--let's be honest--isn't likely ever to be repaid. So it really is receiving quite significant taxpayer subsidies, they're just being disguised.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:21 PM
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One way that USPS is hobbled is that FedEx, UPS, and other private delivery services get to comment on USPS rate changes for parcel post. Parcel post makes money for the post office, and this review by their competitors restricts USPS from competing effectively.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:23 PM
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Large portions of various agencies in the US government are subcontracted out to private agencies, TLL. The USPS is a really weird case, since as Brock rightly points out, it's also supposed to be self-supporting. But yeah, a lot of taxpayer money funding other government organizations doesn't actually go to pay public employees, but private companies.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:25 PM
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a lot of taxpayer money funding other government organizations doesn't actually go to pay public employees, but private companies

All together now: Blackwater Xe!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:29 PM
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I know that, and don't really have a problem with any of it. Nothing wrong with contractors (ahem, I'm looking at you, Blackwater), but I remember being really sad when they changed the designation from USPO to USPS. And I don't understand why they thought it would be better, given the restriction placed on USPS.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:31 PM
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274: FedEx, UPS, and other private delivery services get to comment on USPS rate changes for parcel post.

"Comment"? Do you mean, like, comment before whatever Congressional panels review USPS rate changes? And these comments convince the Congressional reviewers that ... what? I don't quite understand.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:33 PM
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Formally, the other package delivery services get to read and respond to rate changes that go before the Postal Regulatory Commision. Parcel post is lucrative compared with other services, and the final rates approved by the commission can be higher than the initial USPS proposal.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 1:50 PM
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Okay. So the Postal Regulatory Commission is intentionally setting USPS parcel post rates at a less-than-competitive level.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 2:00 PM
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The whole "customers' time is free" thing really frosts my shorts. Any business that thinks it's OK to make a customer spend five or ten minutes working their way through some God-awful voice response system before they're allowed to speak with someone making 30 cents an hour in a call center is in desperate need of more competition. But American business no longer believes that providing acceptable customer services is worth bothering with, and as long as the competition sucks just as bad, they're more or less right.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 2:57 PM
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But American business no longer believes that providing acceptable customer services is worth bothering with, and as long as the competition sucks just as bad, they're more or less right.

I feel the same way as you, but I think a more correct formulation of the above would be:

But American consumers are are no longer willing to pay even a modest premium for acceptable customer service--they'll choose to buy from a company that makes them deal with ten-minute automated voice-response systems if it means saving a nickel on the upfront price of the product--as so as long as the competition is willing to spend as little as possible on customer service, it's hard for anyone (who isn't catering to a niche, "upscale" consumer) to do differently.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 3:08 PM
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282: There's a lot of truth in that, but I don't think you can blame it all on the consumers when vast marketing budgets are devoted to make it as hard as possible to figure out whether Company A sucks worse than Company B.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07- 6-10 3:18 PM
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Didn't we have this thread about the banks already?

It's not that American customers cannot afford or do not want better services, it's that in every industry where it's possible the big boys have all decided this isn't something they compete on. If Clueless and Worse is as bad as Cantcast, the customer has no choice but to swallow bad service.

Individual consumers cannot change this and boycotts are too hard. As Upton Sinclair showed 105 years ago already, in the absence of firm laws restricting what businesses can get away with, they'll happily sell you the torn off arms of their workers as beef jerky.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 07- 7-10 2:32 AM
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280

Okay. So the Postal Regulatory Commission is intentionally setting USPS parcel post rates at a less-than-competitive level.

This is kind of ambigious. Do you mean too high?

I expect the private companies don't want a publically subsidized competitor selling below cost which is understandable.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07- 7-10 7:20 AM
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256

Really? That's disturbing

This is surprising to you? Part of it is class prejudice and part of it is the numerous real examples of unions advancing their interests at the expense of society as a whole. And probably part of it is an American tendency to identify with management to which I suspect the left is not immune.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07- 7-10 7:27 AM
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286: As someone who traces a lot of the modern US's problems to the decline of unions, I am amused to find myself in more-or-less complete agreement with James.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07- 7-10 7:38 AM
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...numerous real examples of unions advancing their interests at the expense of society as a whole.

Many, if not most, of which are either exaggerated, distorted, or made up out of whole cloth in order to advance the agenda of corporatists. The kind of crazy things said about unions put Reagan's welfare queens mythology to shame.

There are problems with unions, but there are problems with any form of organization. Corporations are no less subject to corruption and are much more likely to do things that force negative consequences onto other people than unions are. See BP for an excellent example.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07- 7-10 7:45 AM
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Anecdata here, but I think there has been some little upsurge in customer service. Remember how hard it used to be to cancel a service or close an account over the phone? You had to go all broken-record for half an hour while the CS rep walked you through all the ways and reasons to keep you and you slowly lost your mind. I've been placing a bunch of CS calls recently, some of which I've put off for years, and found even the notoriously horrible companies (Verizon, Bank of America) to be helpful, quick, and friendly, even going out of their way to calculate ways to save me some money in the process.

I still hate and fear corporate America, but at least I don't break into a cold sweat at the thought of having to call an 800 number. Several friends have mentioned similar experiences. It's like talking to people whose job is actually to help you. Very thrilling stuff.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 07- 7-10 8:39 AM
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I've also had AWB's experience: customer service no longer makes me murderous with rage. It seems like it's returned to merely infuriating to get someone on the line, but once someone is on the line, they actually are more likely to help you.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 7-10 8:54 AM
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Many, if not most, of which are either exaggerated, distorted, or made up out of whole cloth in order to advance the agenda of corporatists.

I was putting a more generous interpretation on James's comments. A corporatist will tell you that what's good for General Motors is good for the country, and as a unionist, I'll tell you what's good for SEIU is good for the country. But the job of both is largely to pursue their own interests, whether or not their interests are costly to society.

I liked James's comment about the "American tendency to identify with management." I think that tendency exists, and it explains a lot.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07- 7-10 8:56 AM
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What's good for General Motors is what's good for Americans who like adequate cars and, based on who owns the stock, the UAW.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 7-10 9:14 AM
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We are apparently soul mates.

Quite seriously. I get so unnecessarily pissed off at bad grocery bagging that it takes me an hour to shake the mood.

I think that everybody who bags groceries should be required to spend $300 of their own money on groceries for a family of four, including actual fresh fruit and vegetables (rather than food in a package) and then actually bag it. I'd bet the tomatoes don't end up under the melon then.

Bitchy over the top rant completed. Thanks.


Posted by: Elizamuqin | Link to this comment | 07- 7-10 9:09 PM
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