Saturday, March 18, 2017

Supermarket Life: Preferential Treatment?

Why is it people are always in a rush at the checkout tills? People can spend hours shopping, yet when they get to the checkout tills, they can't wait for more than a few minutes.

Hey everyone, I have to say I'm almost embarrassed in writing this post, as it's the most unusual chain of events in my 26 years of working in a retail supermarket.

As seems the case with most unusual events they either happen at the beginning or end of your shift, and this event took place just minutes before I was going home. I was working the scan & go (self check out tills) assisting a customer when I was approached by an elderly couple who were requesting help entering in reduced bananas. I replied to their request, that I would have to assist them in entering their reduced bananas, and that they could continue on entering their groceries as I would be there momentarily, when I finished helping the customer I was with. I finished helping the current customer and as I was making my way over to the elderly couple, with the bananas, as my passage was obstructed by a young man and his wheelchair.

The wheelchair bound young man asked if I could assist him in putting through his order, which isn't technically my job. Concentrating my efforts on one singular customer while at scan & go, means the other 5 are left waiting, and slows down the whole process. It's also frowned upon by management, because not only will those customers waiting patiently in the express lanes complain, the scan & go tills aren't made to maximize a cashiers speed and efficiency, they're made for ease and accuracy, it actually nullifies a cashiers training and speed. Basically it's much faster to have a cashier on a regular lane assisting people, than having a cashier use scan & go to enter orders.

So what do I do? Do I refuse to assist this young man who is confined to a wheelchair?

I looked over the items in the young mans basket, and realized it was about half a dozen items, I could easily put those items through in a matter of minutes. Hopefully, by that time, my replacement would show up, and they could cover the other 5 tills. I looked over at the senior couple and they hadn't even started their order, so I proceeded to assist the young man.

I begin the process of entering in the young mans order, assisting him in getting his loyalty points card out of his wallet, as his shaking hands was making the process too difficult for him to do on his own. I got about half way through his order when I'm interrupted, once again, by the senior (reduced bananas) lady, insisting I go over and enter in her bananas. I kindly ask the young (wheelchair bound) man to wait as I go over to assist the senior couple with their bananas.

Where is my replacement, I should be off work by now!

I get to the till where the senior couple is, and their order isn't finished, it's not even half way done. There was no immediate need for my assistance, apart from them wanting to be served next. I was appalled, and instantly infuriated by this behavior. They saw that I was busy helping someone that was physically disabled. It wasn't that I had forgotten about them, or ignoring them, they were upset that I assisted the disabled person before assisting them. I remember thinking to myself, is this what society has become?

I couldn't remain silent, and in a loud voice I politely asked the senior (reduced bananas) lady, why she felt that getting her reduced bananas put through was so much more important than me assisting a physically disabled person. She immediately turned red as the rest of the customers turned and looked at her, even her husband gave her a stink eye stare. She responded that she didn't know he was physically disabled, clearly a lame attempt to justify her actions, as it was impossible not to see the motorized wheelchair at the other till. I shook my head in disgust, put through her reduced bananas, and went back to continuing the young (wheelchair bound) mans order. After completing the young man's order I glanced over to see that the senior (reduced bananas) couple still weren't even half way through their basket (so much for their urgency to get reduced bananas). My having chosen to assist the young man, would not have hindered the senior couple in any way from completing their order in a timely manner, regardless of when I tended to them.

My replacement finally arrived, and I was finally able to leave work.

In the weeks following this unusual event, I find myself wondering what would have happening if the senior lady complained that I had a bad attitude and had embarrassed her. Would I be able to defend my actions? Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change what I did, but looking back, I still don't know what the social edicate should have been. Do seniors get priority over the physically disabled? Should I have flat out refused to assist the wheelchair bound young man? Is it first come first serve no matter what? Lets face it the young wheelchair bound man's request really put me in a shitty position, by requesting preferential treatment and having me break conventional rules. After all, he did manage to get all his groceries into his basket without my help, so did he really need my assistance? I don't know? In hindsight perhaps I should have merely referred him to the already long line at the customer service desk, but that would have taken much longer than the few minutes it took me to complete the order.

My particular retail supermarket used to have a specific till for people with physical disabilities in the past, but they were removed several years ago. Is this an indication that we no longer give people with physical disabilities assistance anymore, is this a new modern movement? I know, from experience, that I'm not supposed to hold the door open for women anymore, which is totally another conversation, because I sometimes hold the door open for men too (it's called being courteous)! However am I being insensitive to physically disabled people, and their wanting to be treated equally?

Seriously though I'm curious? Was I right in handling this the way I did? Am I right in being offended by the senior ladies behavior? What would you have done?

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