Yesterday, the hassled looking Wal Mart employee running self-checkout told me I had the patience of a saint.
By which I really think she meant she had the patience of a saint, but didn’t want to come out and say so. After all, she did all the work. I caused the problem.
I just wanted to pick up some rolls and a new card game. I figured I’d save myself some hassle and pay with a gift card. But the card apparently demagnetized and wouldn’t swipe. I explained the problem to the lady in charge of self-checkout and she waved me over to her command station for a manual check out.
Except that didn’t work either. She needed to call someone higher up on the Wal Mart food chain. He’d be right there…just a moment…
And she hustled off to take care of the people lining up for self-check out. From my angle, I got a view of the screen that lit up every time someone needed help. “Check I.D.” – “bagging error” – “help needed.”
5 minutes passed. 10 minutes.
“He’ll be here any moment…where could he be? We’re supposed to have a floater around for these situations…” She would say to me as she ran back and forth. I started feeling lazy standing there. After all, I could see the screen same as her. How hard could it be to check someone’s I.D. or get something bagged? Two people would get this done so much faster.
She turned her back to help another customer and I saw the person next in line staring blankly, missing the empty check out machine across from him.
“Sir!” I motioned towards the correct machine. He nods. Then, remembering the employee’s frequent line about that machine, “It only takes cards!”
I feel quite pleased but then realize there is nothing else for me to do. The lady running the place can direct traffic quite well on her own. Another 10 minutes pass.
Finally, someone in a yellow vest walks over. He punches in some numbers and walks away. I go to put in the pin on my gift card…and put in the wrong thing. Everything freezes and then goes back to where it was before.
In other words, we need the manager again. The Wal Mart employee takes this news with good grace. She goes in search of a manager again.
A line begins to form behind me. I really want to get behind the register and help people. After all, that woman just wants to place the plastic laundry basket she just bought here while she runs back to get a non-cracked one. And that guy over there wanted to pay cash at a card-only machine.
10 more minutes pass. Despite the long lines and cranky customers, the Wal Mart employee remains extremely cheerful. Every now and then she casts me an apologetic look. But I’m the one who feels apologetic. I want to help. Maybe she had an extra vest floating around somewhere I could slip on? Or one of those employee-override cards?
Another 5 minutes pass. The guy in the yellow vest finally shuffles back. He lacks his co-worker’s cheery smile. Or any smile.
I get my pin in correctly this time and wave to the employee. She says her line about me having the patience of a saint. But we both know she’s the one who has the patience of a saint. I get to go home. She gets to deal with the line of overwhelmed customers. And she’s still smiling. If anyone from Wal Mart ever reads this, you should know Sabrina-at-checkout does an amazing job.