Slow Supermarket Checkout Workers

I have some friends coming to stay with me for a few days.  I’m very excited, because I love Dan and Julie.  They’re a lot of fun, young, energetic, and they don’t treat me like I’m old.  I want them to feel at home when they are here, so I went to do some shopping this evening after dinner.  I know I should have gone to the larger supermarket near my house, but I was out for dinner at Smokey’s with some friends and I decided to get my items at the small market near there.

First of all, the market is very small and very tightly packed.  They have a lot of products from Europe, because there is a large German community that lives in the area.  However, it is run by Chinese Singaporeans, and I think the whole family works there.  After picking out some nice breakfast items (NOT the Froot Loops) from the cramped aisles, I approached the 2 registers they have.  The line was longer, but moving more quickly, at the register with the younger woman at the helm, so I decided to join that line.  When I got to the counter (in a shorter amount of time than it took the other register to move 1 person through), I was informed that if I wanted to pay with my ATM card I had to go to the other register.  So, I reluctantly went over to the other register, which now only had one person, and she was approaching the counter at that moment.  Great, I thought, I’ll only be a few minutes.

tammy faye

Tammy Faye Baker

First, let me tell you that I’m being kind if I say that the woman behind the counter looked about 80 years old.  She also reminded me of a Chinese version of Tammy Faye Baker, only with more make-up and less fashion sense.  She took each item individually and scanned it, as she’s supposed to do, but she gave new meaning to the term slow as a tortoise.  In fact, snails and sloths could have done it faster.  Luckily for me, the woman in front of me got the idea quickly and started bagging her own groceries.  I don’t think Tammy Faye Chang liked that because she took the bags off the counter and put them behind her.  Only she may bag the groceries at her counter!

When it was my turn, I put my entire basket of items onto the counter.  The basket was blocking the laser scanner.  After trying to scan my box of Corn Flakes 3 times, Tammy Faye Chang realized that she had to move the basket a little so the scanner could read the entire bar code.  So she started pushing the basket out of the way with the box of corn flakes and caved in the corner of the box.  Finally, I just picked up the basket and emptied it onto the counter.  Each item took her a full 10-15 seconds to scan.  Only to scan, nothing else.  I threw her for a loop because I got 2 different flavors of digestive biscuits, and she asked me (3 times, mind you) if they were the same price.  I don’t know….isn’t that why you have the scanner?!?!?

After the scanning was completed, she began to bag the groceries.  I would have helped her, but remember….the bags were off limits.  She slowly placed all the items in the bags and, in true wasteful Singaporean fashion, placed some items alone in one bag.  I can’t complain about that totally, because it gives me bags to use for my trash.  At one point, she put the 1.5 kilo bag of Friskies into the bag, and it literally took her a full 30 seconds.  She had to turn the Friskies bag on its side, and it didn’t fit, so she turned it upright, and it finally fit.  30 seconds!?!?  Really!?!?!

When the bags were packed, I told her I was paying with my ATM card.  She sighed and asked for the card.  I quickly pulled it from my pocket (I had had it ready for about 10 minutes already), and she slowly slid it through the machine.  I stood there for almost a minute before she realized she needed to give me the keypad to enter my PIN.  I would have reminded her, but I thought there was another step that she was (slowly) waiting to do.  Finally, she looked at me and grabbed the keypad for me to key in my PIN.  I keyed it and the approval code popped up right away.  She then looked at it, pushed “enter” on the register and pulled the receipt from the keypad machine to put into the register drawer.  Another 3 minutes!  I grabbed my receipt and booked it out of there.  I was in a taxi and on my way home in less time than it took to get through that checkout line.

Do these people not know that their customers have places to be?  Do they think that we have unlimited time to spend in the checkout line, and that we’re happy to stand there watching this human-snail-Tammy Faye hybrid move our items across a laser scanner?  The phenomenon is not limited to here in Singapore, I have encountered slow checkout people all over the world (they were rampant in Madrid).  They are the ones with the shortest line, but the most irate-looking customers.  They’re the ones who have customers moving off their line for longer lines.  They’re the ones who get confused when you give them a coupon or ask them a price before they scan it in.  I don’t want to stereotype, but it’s usually the older checkout people who are the slow ones.  Younger people know that their customers have places to be, so they’re quick with the checkout.  I usually gravitate towards the line with the youngest checkout person, because I’m positive it will be quick.  Sometimes I have no choice, like today.  I guess there’s a time to avoid these morons, and there’s a time when you’re at their mercy.  Today was just one of those days when I had to let her move at her own pace….I just wish I could have rubbed some of that eye shadow off in the meantime.

My line was only 1 person long but it felt like this!

My line was only 1 person long but it felt like this!


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