Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hitchin' a Ride on the Express

I am a local legend.  Well, local in the sense that those who live at my address know my reputation for being frugal (they call it "cheap" and even crack wise regarding my name and my reluctance to save a dime -- you figure it out).  Anyhoo, every Friday morning I pour over internet ads to find the best sales, and plan most of my menu for the week around bargains.  Now, I know people are making ridiculous money on books and blogs about this kind of behavior, but I have been doing this since the days when "blog" could have been some sort of derogatory term about one's mother.  Because I missed the gravy train on that one, let me be the first to expound on the "Benefits of Obeying the 'Fifteen Items or Less' Sign."

First, let's discuss the meaning of "Fifteen Items or Less."  Fifteen, it's the number after "a fortnight," and the number before the birthday that every teen in sneakers longs to observe.  It is two more than a baker's dozen and two less than the age at which my child no longer qualifies as a tax credit.  Now, some people feel as though this is a very subjective "fifteen," as if fifteen has multiple definitions, or there is "fifteen EST and fifteen Central."  Some use the interpretation, "If I have multiples of one item, it only counts as one."  Let me be the first to say that "Fifteen is fifteen."  If I owed you $15, would you accept $14 or $13?  Or, if the price of one of those items was $15, would you pay $18 or $19?  I reiterate, "fifteen is fifteen."

Second, let's discuss some of the benefits of the "Fifteen Items or Less" line:

A)  Speedy Checkout.  I think some stores still use this term in relation to the "Fifteen Item or Less" rule, and the premise is that the folks standing in the "Fifteen Item or Less" line do, indeed have fifteen items or less, and are therefore "with" the program.  They are interested in checking out at the speed of light.  They are not going to write a check and leave their check cashing card at home.  They are not going to dispute the price on each item, or ask the cashier for a subtotal every third item.  And they DO NOT have an entire cart full of canned tomatoes at the Can-Can Sale which they believe constitute one item!  But, I digress.  The word here, Boys and Girls, is "speedy," let's make it happen.

B)  Seasoned Cashiers.  Many of the markets I frequent have the Customer Service Counter strategically positioned near the "Fifteen Item or Less" line in order to make the most of their head cashiers or customer service people.  These are the employees that either have been with the company longer than the Ranch dressing in aisle sixteen, or have more brain cells than the guy bagging my eggs under the four industrial-sized cans of yams I just purchased.  These are people who can, presumably, multi-task.  They can, quite possibly, adapt if you decide once your change has been calculated, that you have the 3 cents in your pocket that will keep your change to a minimum, as opposed to the store putting a call to the Denver mint.

C)  The Proper Tools for the Job.  Have you ever noticed that some registers have shorter belts, smaller bagging areas, and only the cashier to bag orders?  There could be a reason for this.  Perhaps, fifteen items do not require two and a half miles of landing strip on which to place items.  (When wrestling with the concept of "fifteen," the length of the belt might be a tip-off.)  The bagging area is usaually designed so that the talented, multi-tasking individual known as the cashier can ring "smaller-sized" orders, bag "smaller-sized" orders, and offer a level of service designed for the individual "just picking up a few things."

D) Public Safety.  One of the key benefits of the "Fifteen Items or Less" line is public safety.  I cannot say enough about this.  Have you ever witnessed an angry mob at the Deli?  It starts with #47, shifting from one foot to the other.  Then, #52 mumbles a complaint about the three people being waited on who, apparently, are buying cold cuts for a small country.  Instantly, #39 pipes up, "I'm only here for a pound of cheese."  And that's when it gets ugly.  #26 turns beet red as she orders her last pound of chipped dried beef; #25 nervously squeaks, "No, never mind, that's everything."   #27, with all eyes upon her, brazenly orders the remaining ingredients for myocardial infarction and shakes off the crowd's indignation.  The tension in the air is more palatable than the Limburger, and you can just sense that someone's getting jumped in Organic Produce.  "Fifteen Items or Less" is a convenience and a key safety measure -- let's see it for what it is, and resist the temptation to abuse it!

In summation, I hope I have been helpful and my advice, perhaps, revolutionary.  Oh, and don't forget to buy my book, coming out in early spring, tentatively titled "Confessions of an Express Lane Prodigal," or "Express Lanes for Dummies."
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