I went to my favorite warehouse emporium yesterday. Unlike the usual trip, which usually ends in a triple-digit figure on the receipt, all I had to pick up was a gallon of milk while in the area.
In the checkout line, after ringing me up for a whopping 2-dollars-and change purchase, I looked at the total and told the cashier “Wow, that’s got to be a record for the lowest amount purchased here ever!” ( I don’t think there’s anything in the store packaged in the sub-$10 range.)
She looked at me and appeared somewhat shocked. Kind of like the shock you’d feel if you looked at the other end of the couch and your dog said “So what we doin’ today?”
I guess she wasn’t expecting anyone to make conversation with her that wasn’t a complaint or question about the direct business at hand. She probably is so used to seeing people listlessly shuffle through the checkout line to be scanned and silently exchange legal tender before wordlessly pushing their carts out the door that someone going off-script with a simple comment surprised her.
It’s not the first time I’ve noticed this. The city I live in is a relatively new ‘burb, and there aren’t a lot of stores and restaurants here that aren’t part of the Age of Franchise. They all look alike, the efficient employees say the management proscribed lines, and the bland commercial color schemes are pretty much the same.
I remember what stores used to be like before mass commercialization hit. Real people used to work in them, and they didn’t have to wear name tags. They were unique enough that when they quit or left for whatever reason you noticed and asked what happened to them.
It’s hard to remember an individual employee now even at the places I frequent. They either turnover so often or just anonymously perform their task that you don’t (and probably aren’t) supposed to notice them.
Shopping should be fun. Humans – not canned music or boring color schemes – can make it that way. The relentless drive for efficiency and standardization now extends right down to making buying something – a book, a gadget, or a meal – as soulless and frictionless as possible.
Most people aren’t too thrilled with what they have to do to earn their dough. The least we can expect is to have some fun spending it!