We live about equidistance from three Walmart stores in Little Rock. I often shop at one more than the other two; however, I do switch it up occasionally, sharing my hard-earned retirement cash with all three stores. Some time ago, I found myself in one of the stores going through checkout and realizing most of the checkout lanes, normally operated by humans had no humans stationed there. The store had installed several self-checkout lanes. More of them by the way than the ones requiring a human to operate.
When I first noticed the addition of more self-checkout lanes at Walmart, I remember thinking that one day I’ll have to check myself out. The image of me having to checkout a week’s worth of groceries and various household items myself didn’t seem very appealing. Shortly after my experience of noticing the increased number of self-checkout lanes, I placed a post on Facebook about this. Many of my Facebook friends were troubled by the idea that they would have to check themselves out some day. One of them even said, “I’ll politely leave the cart full of groceries and walk out of the store.” That seemed a bit extreme to me. I reminded them of a time when we enjoyed personal service at auto service stations. These were wonderful places where you drove up, and someone uniformed in an outfit that displayed the brand name of the oil company immediately came out smiling and asking you what they could do for you today. There was no need for you get out of the car. That unique experience faded like vapor a long time ago. We’ve been pumping our own gas and checking our tire pressure for decades. It would seem strange if someone suddenly appeared when I drove up to a gas station, asking me what’s my pleasure.
I got out of the house early this morning and made my weekly trip to one of my Walmart stores to buy groceries. I normally do this early to beat the crowd. I often find myself navigating through stockers replenishing goods on the shelves; however, that’s okay because there’s normally not a shortage of any merchandise early in the morning. I’ve been noticing a steady, albeit small, increase in prices for many of our staples over the last few weeks. News reports have informed us that the production of many things is reduced and supply chains aren’t operating as they did pre-pandemic. I understand this, and I have adjusted, allowing us to keep our grocery bill about the same as it was a year ago.
Then it happened. As I made my way to the first checkout lane there was no human. Looking down at the other lanes, I saw no human at any of them either. All shoppers, who had finished selecting whatever they needed were lining up at self-checkout. Emotionally, I felt something that almost tempted me to do as my Facebook friend told me she would do. After spending a good forty-five minutes or so filling the cart, I couldn’t see myself leaving the store without my carefully selected goods. Don’t let anyone tell you the registers are programmed to be intuitive for all things. Everything I removed from the cart had a barcode on it except the produce. I needed some assistance from the friendly attendant, standing by with the produce. After showing me how to look up cabbage, bananas, apples, and few other things without barcodes, I think I can do it next time.
I have a confession to make. I didn’t feel good paying more for groceries this morning than this time last year, while receiving less service. I mentioned to the lady behind me that it was shameful we’re paying more but getting less service. She smiled and said that’s true, but we shouldn’t be upset with the employees, because it’s not their fault. I wouldn’t dare mistreat the employees. Most of them at Walmart are very pleasant no matter the level of service they’ve been charged with providing customers. Sooner or later more changes will come, leaving products in the cart, and walking out of the store isn’t a nice option. Some nice employee, who might be high teched out of a job soon will have to put your stuff back on the shelves.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.