Ringing up my purchases is a cashier’s job, not mine

Self-serve checkouts may fulfil the dreams of some shoppers but not mine. I’m with the comic who checked out his purchases himself before declaring, “I don’t want to work here!”

If I had opted for a career as a cashier, I’m sure I could have found work as one beginning years ago.

I shop Walmart periodically mainly to replenish my dogs’ stock of rawhide chews. They prefer that special brand. Beyond that, I can manage quite nicely finding what I need at comparable prices at other stores. But I was taken aback last week when I approached checkout carrying one bag of chews to discover only two cashiers working, both facing half a dozen carts mounded high.

The wait promised to be a long one.

The only other checkout offered was a field of self-serve machines installed since my last visit this year. At each machine, customers were busily scanning their goods with practised aplomb. Not for me, thanks. The last thing I want to do is learn a new high tech routine. I prefer to deal with a live person, even a harried cashier with sore feet waiting for quitting time.

Later, discussing this mechanized update with a young mother adept at one-handed texting, she said the self-serve machines have a 20-item limit which would seem inconvenient if someone is doing major shopping for Christmas or back-to-school. The practice also suggests the store isn’t truly keen on expanding my purchases. You’d expect an enterprising establishment to stand ready to check through as expeditiously as possible as many items as a shopper might care to haul away.

And what happens when a shopper’s cart exceeds the 20-item limit? Do they have to step out of line and give others in the queue a chance to check out, then line up again at the far end of the queue? Or move to an entirely different machine? Or come back next day? Maybe leave items in the cart and walk away?

Rather than staffing a third till, the store pays a traffic guide to direct customers to the shortest checkout lines. She suggested I take my bag of chews to the service counter where the manager was ringing through older averse patrons like me.

While he made change for me, I protested the self serve tills. He explained the store is unable to hire staff, so has been forced to bring in machines. Yet from a cashier at a rival store I heard that at least one cashier who had worked 40 hours a week for Walmart for years has had her hours cut in half. Does that sound like difficulty hiring staff? To me it rings more like reducing the cashier’s hours to save paying the person medical, dental, RRSP and holidays unless they actually work the day.

In addition, the arrival of so many machines (How many? Ten? I didn’t take time to count them. I was rattled, in a panic to exit the building) leaves me to conclude this downgrade is permanent.

I recall Henry Ford, manufacturer of early Ford automobiles. He recognized every worker he hired at a decent wage then had the means to buy his product. By replacing cashiers with inert machines, that’s fewer people who may have spare cash to spend at the store. Since Walmart is bent on cutting every corner possible to increase their profit, this move seems counter productive in the extreme.

For sure, Walmart’s machines will send me to stores with cashiers who converse.

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