Thursday, March 30, 2006

U Scan - You suck

It's an epidemic that is spreading like the bird flu at a pigeon-filled square in Europe. "IT" is the self-service checkout register. From grocery stores, they spread to department stores, then on to other retailers. At the Harris Teeter grocery chain, they call them U-Scans.

The other day I went to the Home Depot in Burlington to buy a plastic tarp. Big mistake!! First, I had to find the tarps. At Home Depot, the emloyees are trained to greet you when you get near them. Now they just need to train them to slow down long enough to answer a question. Anyway, I finally located the tarps. I picked one out of the meager selection and headed up front to pay for it. I realized that I was in trouble when I saw the self-service checkouts. Even worse, there were no regular registers open. I approached the dreaded self-service register and attempted to ring up my tarp. Naturally, the machine malfunctioned. This requires the overseer to come over and fix the machine. It would have been quicker if they had just rang it up for me. After paying for it, I strolled over to the customer service desk and inquired as to why there were no full service registers open. Apparently, they had not trained the clerk for this line of questioning. After an awkward moment of silence, I changed my request to the Corporate customer service phone number. I hit the Daily Double!! I had asked two questions that they were not prepared to answer. I told them not to bother, I would just look it up when I got home. I called later and explained that their market research showing that 52 year old guys want to ring up their own lumber was faulty. They were unimpressed. No problem for me. Hey Home Depot!! Heard of a place called Lowes?? How about 84 Lumber?? If I need a lot of lumber, I go to 84 anyway. They get it and load it for you.

I have complained to Harris Teeter several times about the U-Scans. As the machines seem to be proliferating, I can only assume that I am either the only person who hates them or the only person who complains. So I have started using other techniques. First, if I need something and know that only the U-Scan is open, I go to a different store. Second, self service sabotage. Now, the grocery stores aren't stupid, so they have one or two registers open to serve a couple of hundred shoppers. This forces anyone who wants to buy anything into the U-Scan lanes. If I have to use the U-Scan, I try to entertain myself by scanning items several times. I also like to put things in the bag area that haven't been scanned, enter imaginary numbers for produce codes, and other little things just to keep the overseer busy. Tuesday is Senior Citizen Day at Harris Teeter. So on that day, a screen comes up asking if you qualify for the Senior discount. I always press "Yes". One day the overseer asked to see my ID. I explained that I was operating that register and had already decided that my customer qualified for the discount. Not impressed, she removed the discount. I left the groceries on the register and went to another store.

Why do people tolerate Self-service registers? They don't give you a discount for doing their jobs. As I explained to a Harris Teeter manger one day, "The customers get their own groceries, ring them up, bag them, and carry them to their car. The vendors buy shelf space and then stock that space. Hell, all you are doing is turning on the lights and sweeping the floors." They don't train their managers to respond to statements like that.

How do we fight this disease? Don't use them. I had to go to the restaurant for a couple of hours early one Saturday morning. My wife had asked me to stop at the store on the way home and pick up a few items. So I waited until after 7:00 AM to go to the Harris Teeter because I knew that they didn't have a cashier until then. I picked up the items for my wife and a cart full of other items (Don't send a hungry, fat man to the grocery store). I headed up front to check out. When I arrived at the front, there were no registers open except the U-Scans. I asked about a cashier and was told that she wasn't scheduled until 8:00. I told the manager that when the cashier arrived, they could put my groceries back on the shelf. I told him that I wasn't going to ring up my own groceries. He took the cart and he and the U-Scan overseer rang them up and bagged them. Try this sometime, if they won't ring them up, go somewhere else. Pretty soon even the slow learners among them will get the idea.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Gas, Grass, or Ass?

In the 1970's, there was a popular bumper sticker that read "Gas, Grass, or Ass. Nobody rides free." I never owned one of those stickers. I bought my own gas, didn't smoke grass, and was afraid of any woman who would trade sex for a ride in anything I owned.

Fast forward thirty something years to 2006. I haven't seen one of those bumper stickers in years. I don't have the slightest idea what pot or sex sells for today, but I do know what gas costs. Gasoline is 500 to 600 per cent higher than it was in 1971 and that is at the self serve pumps. I won't even look at the full serve pumps. Is there any chance that pot or sex costs 500 per cent more than it did in 1971? I doubt it, they don't have the government's blessing.

It is time for Congress to get off their asses and do something about the price of gas. You don't need a masters degree in economics to realize that gas going up ten cents a day (as it did last week) has no relationship to supply and demand. I can only guess that Congress is more involved with grass and ass than gas.

While we wait for Congress to do anything, don't worry about sex!! There is a gas station on every corner where you will get screwed everytime you pull up to the pump.

Captain D's- Racism or just lousy service??

In a rare moment of stupidity, I visited the Captain D's in Greensboro last week for dinner. My son and I met my wife there after work. We arrived at about 5:45 and went inside for a quick meal. This Captain D's is located just off US 29 in Greensboro.

We went inside and found a few people in front of us in line. The line moved quickly and we placed our order at 5:50. We didn't order anything unusual. Our three choices were all featured combos on the menu board. My receipt was number 258. If you have never been to D's, they call the number on your receipt when your order is ready. I sat down to wait for our order while my wife went to the dining room to get us a table. They are having some kind of contest, so my son checked our game piece to see if we had won anything. We won three of their new shrimp, the only good thing that would happen.

The first few minutes I watched as the order numbers before ours were served. Then at about the five minute mark, they started calling numbers after mine. No big deal, maybe they ordered something that took less time to cook. At the ten minute mark, I asked the cashier what had happened to my order as they were now on number 267. She asked what I had ordered. I gave her my order number and pointed out that my order information was available on their register system. As she appeared stunned by this revelation, I went ahead and told her what I had ordered. At the fifteen minute mark, I once again asked about my order. No response from the employees behind the counter. At this point, there were only two customers present. The cashier called number 275 , the other person waiting. He told me that he felt guilty about getting his order since he knew that I had been waiting for some time. At this point, I pointed out that seventeen people who ordered after me had been served and that I was the only person waiting for an order. About a minute later, a cashier put my order on two trays and in a moment of complete stupidity, called my number. I took our food to our table where my wife waited. She asked what had taken so long. I explained it to her and told her that I was struggling to stay calm. We ate quickly and left.

The next morning, I called Captain D's comment line. Of course, I got a voice mail message. I explained that I didn't expect to have a human speak to me on the phone since I couldn't get one to speak to me in their restaurant. I left a message explaining the previous night's disaster. The next day, I received a call from their area manager and explained their problems to him.

Now for the real issue, Was it lousy service or racism?? Of the seventeen people who ordered after me and were served before me, fifteen were black, one Mexican, and one white. The employees behind the counter were all black. If the skin colors had all been reversed, the NAACP would have been marching outside the next day. Liberals in our country are unable to believe that blacks are as capable of being racists. Let them have my experience at Captain D's and decide for themselves.

I waited while seventeen people who ordered after me were served before me. Despite my pointing out THREE times that I had not received my order, no one offered any explanation. No one in a management capacity spoke to me. No one offered an apology or explanation for their miserable performance.

Was it racism? I don't even care. I am voting with my wallet and Captain D's better frame that last dollar that they got from me. I will eat somewhere else.