Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mercantile Store


Today's picture is from July, 1936, and shows a general mercantile store in Alabama. I love all the details you can see on the items on the shelf on and on the floor. I like the Coke poster back on the wall, and the way all the items were very practical in nature.

OK, so far this week, the most important thing we have learned is that we do not let the system manipulate us by nudging us into running our own items through the checkout. So, we choose the lane with a live person in it, but now one must decide which line to choose. Most of you simply choose the shortest line, and then feel like you are in the slow line. That is because you do not understand fundamental mathematical concepts like Extremal Dynamics, Chaos, Fractals and statistically activated systems. All right, I don't understand those things either, but I can tell you how to get through the checkout quickest. I have made a lifelong study of it, and will share my findings. First, the "length" of the line is about the least important thing. If you choose the short line, often you will have made a poor choice. You must go in with a strategy, and then stick with it.

First and most important, you need to scan down the line of cashiers. Look at their hands. You want to see fast, smooth, and methodical motion in the hands. Not bursts of speed, followed by pauses. Certainly not slow and clumsy motion. The hands should move like a well oiled German sewing machine. Fast cashier hands will be your first "tell" of a fast moving line. Once you have identified several potential marks, you then need to examine the people in the lines. I suggest avoiding lines that have one or more old people in them. Nothing against old people, and I know I have many loyal followers that are old, but I must say sometimes you folks want to pay for your purchases in nickels and quarters. I understand why, and that is fine, I just don't want to be behind you when you do it. As a matter of fact, as you scan the lines of people make note of anyone with bulging pockets. This might be an indication that they are going to pay with change. AVOID AT ALL COSTS EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO GO BACK TO A CASHIER WITH SLOW MOVING HANDS! 

In scanning people in line, also avoid lines that have women in them with large purses. This is why. I own lots of different stuff, but I have been able to prioritize the things I own. I have determined the six critical things that I need to carry with me, and they all fit in my wallet. By carrying a wallet, I prove to you and the world that I can prioritize things. A woman that carries a big purse is unable to prioritize things. She thinks she should carry ALL the things she owns with her. This is the issue. If she can not prioritize her things, she probably can not prioritize her time. She probably is also not that cognizant of your time. Women with big purses will get to the critical "payment" step, and will start digging for a checkbook or credit card. While digging she will find pictures of the new Labrador Retriever or neighbor's new baby, and will share pictures and story (long version) with the cashier. AVOID THIS LINE AT ALL COST. If you must get in a line with women in it, search out a line with women with small handbags or clutch purses. You will be glad you did.

OK, so we have scanned the cashiers looking for fast hands, and scanned the lines of customers, wanting to avoid old people and people with large purses. Do one last scan of the faces of the people in line. Here we are just trying to avoid anyone with that "Appalachia Duhh" look on their face. This is hard to explain, but just rest assured that somehow, someway, this person is going to cause things to come to a grinding halt when they get to the cashier.

Now, finally scan the items in the baskets in the line. Avoid lines where people have clothing type items in the basket. These often cause confusion and require the dreaded "Price Check on Line 12" announcement. Also, realize that some items cause problems for the scanners. Canned goods always scan easy, but bags of vegetables with the bar code on the wrinkled plastic bag cause problems. Make sure you do not get in a line where there are too many "problem" products in the baskets ahead of you.

Now, as a last priority, you can look at the overall length of the line, and number of items in basket.

Give these things a try, and see if they don't get you out of the store quicker.


25 comments:

  1. Cute and funny post, reminds me of an article Dave Barry wrote once and is entirely true. I used to dread clothing and bag items.

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  2. Today this is the appropriate link to share:
    http://www.engineerguy.com/videos/video-lines.htm

    This guy carefully explains why the "other" line is statistically more likely to be faster than the one you are in.

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  3. Whatever happened to going to the shops for the sake of an outing. Shopping used to be an adventure to be savoured. We knew the cashier by name. We chose the line by the person who would be serving us. It wasn't inconvenient to stand in line, it was a chance for a chat. Whatever happened to that?
    You can tell I'm a woman with a big handbag!

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  4. One of the things that slow up the line also, is the person who waits until they get their total before they even make a move for their checkbook.
    They know they are going to write a check, why then can't they have the book out of their giant purse and have as much info filled in as possible. NO, they have to wait until they get their total and then start digging.

    I too have noticed that the shortest line always seems to have the newest, or the slowest clerk and they take forever to get the job done.
    I guess thaqt is one of the reasons I do go through the sekf-check line.

    One thing about the old stores, is they one carry one kind of an item. Like one kind soap, one kind of napkins, one kind of rice, one kind of coffee. Ok maybe a few different kind of cereal, but not a whole aisle full of cereal.
    That is one of the problems with suoer markets, they have to care 100 differnt kind and sizes of cereal. The same one is plain, one has nuts in it, differnt kinds of nuts, sugar, no sugar, brown sugar, fiber, sticks, leaves, branches, tree bark, prizes for the kids, free bowling coupons, etc. And that was just one kind of a brand

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  5. Great photo! Did you notice the calenders are different months?

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  6. One must also look for smokers. Where I shop the cashier leaves their post to go retrieve a pack of cigarettes from some hidden safe way in the back.

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  7. I like to look for a line where I'll be behind someone distracting. If you are watching the break-up of a relationship, or two teenagers talking about last night, or a three-year-old asking impossibly personal questions, time passes very quickly. Look for the little old lady with the mohawk, the toddler in the process of disrobing or anyone who is blushing or laughing hysterically. I promise your wait will seem negligible.

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  8. Also watch how the customer puts their items on the conveyor belt. If they are just put on haphazardly, this slows the cashier down. A good cashier does not just throw everything in the same bag. Frozen and cold things together, canned goods together, boxed items and so on.

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  9. I think the calendar behind the counter is most likely an unused giveaway from the fertilizer company.

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  10. On the manipulation issue JPM, I'm right with you there as a staunch opponent of Edward Bernays tactics.

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  11. When I am Emperor all retail establishment will be required to have at least two check out counters
    for:
    "Men Only With Cash"

    Al from Chgo

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  12. Then there are those of us who simply have "Bad Line Karma" . I can guarantee you that any line I get in, no matter how short or how efficient the checker may be, will quickly enter a state of chaos compared only by the Keystone Cops on meth.

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  13. Mathan's mate,
    Would you please describe your purse size.

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  14. another tip is to avoid the cashier that likes to talk too much, i have forgotten bags at wal- mart because the lady wouldnt shut up and i accidentally left my main purchase on the spinning thing. my wife couldnt find the chicken i bought.

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  15. I hate shopping, so when I do, I bring my husband. We use two carts (one for each of us). The wheels on our cart never stop and we just want out. We have our own Indy 500 happening up and down the isles. By the time we check out, the carts are both overflowing. No one gets in line behind us.

    How do I chose a line? I avoid the one with the bagger. In my experience, I'd rather bag it myself then wait for the one with the "duhh" look on his face, or the one who anally places each and every item in the bag perfectly squared as if we were somehow packing this to move across country. No thanks. My husband and myself are two perfectly capable adults, and we want out! Go help someone who has all the time in the world to kill, we're in a hurry.

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  16. I look for the check out with the prettiest cashier. :)

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  17. I love your treatise on checkout line strategy. Having worked as a cashier, and having been quite good at what I did, I can tell you that one learns to spot the problem cases a mile away.

    Emotional neediness seems to be the biggest culprit. Women with large purses are telegraphing their neediness. They don't feel secure unless they're carrying a lot of stuff with them. When that purse opens, all the stuff needs to be checked to make sure it's all right. So while the customer appears to be searching for some method of payment, she is actually checking her stuff—making sure that her stuff, and by extension herself, is all right.

    It can be a very time-consuming process.

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  18. One of your best postings ever! Haven't we all been in these predicaments? Now I know enough to observe more.

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  19. I don't mind getting in a long line. I have a lot more time than money! I generally carry a book in my purse, or I'll pick up a magazine from the rack and read it - very carefully - then return it when it is my turn to check out. I do put all the cold stuff together and my cooler bag on top of it, and have my debit card and store card handy.

    Back in the dark ages when items had price stickers, I gave our youngest a royal growl for just tossing the stuff on the belt. "Put the prices up." "That's her job." "The idea, DE-AR, is to make it faster for all of us." I thought the cashier was going to kiss my hand!

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  20. odd place fer the safe, in the middle of the floor? hmmmm,,,,,,,,
    oldbear.

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  21. It seems to me that the scanner checkouts take cashiers much longer than back in the days when they would enter the price by pressing keys. Especially when they have to scan, scan, scan the sme item to get it to 'read.'

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  22. Another great photo, thank you Mr. PJM!

    Looks like this store had only 1 kind of soap, like Roger said, and it wasn't good soap. Just O.K. soap.

    Nice shelf of ammo there, my kind of store.

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  23. I make it a point to avoid lines with clothing purchases if I can. The bags with hard to read bar codes will eventually scan, but invariably clothing results in someone being called to go back and check the racks for a similar item.

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  24. Just a brief note on the big handbag comment...I wouldn't worry as much about a big handbag if the woman has a young child with her. When my firstborn was young, I found that carrying my purse, plus the carseat, plus the diaperbag was a balancing mess. So I got a big purse and used it as a combination purse/diaperbag. One less item to try and balance!

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  25. You omitted the biggest delay in lines. The coupon shopper. Seems most coupons must be entered by hand and there is the inevitable dispute with the cashier, purchasing the wrong sized items, expired coupon etc.

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