I went shopping this afternoon, for groceries. I have been housebound for going on a month now while I tend Rusty who is recovering from surgery. He’s almost well now and a friend watched him for me while I got some groceries.
When I was toting my grocery bags into the house, I started to remember when I was a checkout clerk at the Grand Union when I was in college. Today my purchases were placed in a lot of nearly empty plastic bags. When I was a clerk, we had to neatly pack the groceries into large brown paper bags. A grocery clerk back then had to learn how to pack things neatly and efficiently with heavy things on the bottom and perishable things on top. Today a person can grab the handles of the plastic bags and carry many of them into the house at once. Back then, a person with four or five bags of groceries made more than one trip to unload the car.
But that wasn’t all that is different. Another thing, we had to have the groceries unloaded from the store cart, and lined up neatly on the counter. Then we would start at one end and touching each item with one hand, we would punch in the price on the cash register with the other hand. A really good clerk was aware of the price of each item and any changes that would be made daily.
In New York, where I worked, we were not allowed to give savings stamps for the price of milk or beer. Remember Green Stamps? Haven’t seen them for years. This policy sometimes made it possible for wily customers to get away without paying for their heavy packs of beer. They would put it on the bottom of the grocery cart, since it was so heavy and we would deal with the other purchases, saving the beer to last. And then once in a while, the check out clerk would forget the beer and the customer didn’t pay for it.
Being a check out clerk was a demanding job. It probably still is, but scanning prices and plastic bags must make it easier for clerks today.