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Dear Diary – Rubber Gloves

Life has been busy lately as I shift back into work-mode. I really am spoiled working at a school, having 5 weeks off in the summer, 2 more for Christmas and then 2 more for Spring Break…9 weeks off a year. What a rough life.

One of my projects today was to go shopping for supplies to replenish the first aid kits we have spread throughout the school. I opted to go to Wal-Mart, figuring I’d get the band-aids and rubber gloves reasonably cheap, and also it being the middle of the day, there likely wouldn’t be very many people there letting me pop in and out of the store quickly. Then, Andrea entered my life.

Let me start off by telling you that if you’re ever in the Wal-Mart in Yellowknife and see a young cashier named Andrea, run away. As fast as you can. Seriously.

My story starts as I stood in line at Andrea’s register. There were a couple of people in front of me and I was watching Andrea drag each item of theirs across the light in a staggeringly slow manner. One thing I do know is that Wal-Mart registers – the local ones, anyway, aren’t cable of doing multiple items – quantities of – you know what I mean. I found this out years ago when I saw someone buying a box of Kool-Aid crystals. I have no idea how many of those little packets are in those boxes, but that day I saw the poor cashier having to zap each individual packet. Wow. Talk about inefficiency.

In my line today, the person two people in front of me was buying yellow plastic tent pegs…I think five per package. She was buying 8 of these packages. I’m thinkin’ she owns a summer camp or something. Anyway, Andrea decided to zap each one of these packages individually, turning them around to find the bar code and waving them in front of the light a few times, then cramming them into a plastic bag facing in opposite directions so that they were poking through the bag. I knew then that I had chosen the wrong line, but there were people behind me and I figured I was committed to this adventure.

My turn arrived, and Andrea started dragging the boxes of band-aids across the light. I was buying about 20 boxes of them – all the same type, size, price, etc. Andrea decided it was most efficient to once again take them individually, finding the bar code and drag it across the light multiple times until she got it to beep. Then, the excitement began…the latex rubber gloves. I was buying two boxes of them.

Andrea dragged the first box of gloves across the light and her register gave her a negative beep – it didn’t recognize the item. Andrea started to argue with the machine – and I mean argue – “I HATE this! Aarrgh! I already pushed the cancel button!” she said repeatedly as she tried over and over to scan the box of gloves. Her argument with the register got louder and more bizarre every time she did this and her slamming the buttons down on the register got more and more violent. This was becoming entertaining to me. I was on the clock and wasn’t in a rush, so decided to ride it out.

I decided to try to help by saying “I got them in pharmacy – why don’t you call them for a price?” Now, you have to understand that not every register has it’s own telephone, so she had to go to the empty register next door – away from me – and paged for someone from pharmacy to call her. She stood there for probably about 3 minutes waiting for them to respond. While she was waiting I looked to the woman standing behind me in the line and said “I think we got a good one!”. She smiled back.

Finally, Andrea decided to come back to her register, frustrated as ever. I tried to help again by saying “do they have a phone in pharmacy that you could call them at?”. Her response was “I already paged them – they didn’t respond – they must be busy”. Now, I would expect that people counting pills that can cure/kill you probably don’t have muzak playing above them – I highly doubt that they have a public address speaker in their area…but I know they have a phone because they page customers to come back and pick up their prescriptions.

Andrea then decided that maybe the computer had changed it’s mind, so she tried dragging the gloves across the light again a few more times, getting louder and louder as she argued with it. I tried to help again by suggesting, “is there someone you can call for help?” Andrea wandered over to the register next to hers again and picked up the phone, paging a manager or customer service person to come to her register. She stood there another 3 or more minutes waiting for a reply…even though she didn’t page them to call her. Finally, she came back, frustrated as could be. I tried again – “Do the managers have names? Could you call them by name?” Andrea’s response – “we’re not allowed to call them by name and we don’t know who’s working anyway – we just have to wait for someone to show up”.

Andrea finally showed a sign of intelligence. Seemingly in an argument with herself, she blurted out that “someone will have to go and check the price of the gloves”. I smiled and said “whatever you think is best”. She then turned and took BOTH, IDENTICAL boxes with her and headed towards the pharmacy department. While she was gone, I turned to the woman, still patiently waiting behind me and said “run away now, while you still have the chance”. She smiled back.

Eventually (I’m guessing about 3 minutes later), Andrea walked back – okay, she had a bit of a jog going on and arrived at the register, the two boxes in hand. She seemed to know what to do – even I’ve seen this before and knew what to do – scan it, acknowledge the error, clear it and tell the machine you want to do it manually. She started this process – the machine asked her for a department – no problem. Then, it asked her for a description of the product. Andrea didn’t think that was a good idea and both said aloud and hit the “clear” key at the same time. For the next 30 seconds or so the machine, having not received the information it had asked for gave her, in as many messages it could muster and in as negative beeps it could create a message that, translated into English was “no – no – no – NO – no – NO”. Andrea stood there, angrier than ever, convinced we had to continue waiting for a manager of some sort to show up – from her call some 10 minutes earlier.

I had had enough, so I wandered down to the customer service booth thing and said “the girl on till 6 doesn’t know how to use her register – could someone please come and help her?” One of the girls there acknowledged and followed behind me reasonably quickly. Once there, she quickly saw what had to be done – the whole scan, clear, department, description, price, tah-dah! She quickly described the process to Andrea and was about to leave again. I stopped her and said, “could you stay and do this please?” Her response was “I’m in customer service – I have people waiting for me”. HA!

Okay…you know me well enough now to figure out what I did, right? I pointed at myself and said “customer!” and then pointed at the gloves and said “service!” in a reasonably cheerful, but slightly demeaning tone. The girl stayed and rang in the gloves. As she hit the final enter key, the woman behind me quickly said “times two!”, then she and I looked at each other and smiled.

Remember that Wal-Mart registers won’t allow quantities to be rung in? Andrea motioned that she wanted to try this on her own, so the customer service lady turned to go and I said “thank you” – I was sincere. Andrea was on her own again. She did okay – she got as far as entering the description again and then we were paused for about 2 minutes as she tried to spell “gloves” on their key pad. When she finally finished and hit enter I loudly said “Hallelujah!” which got a cheer out of the lady next to me and smiles from the rest of the line.

Total, credit card, print, sign. Uh…”can I have my card back please?” Yup…she’d not returned it, concentrating instead on ensuring she got her pen back (she actually yanked it away from one of the women in front of me earlier).

So, diary, today it took me about 20 minutes to buy some band-aids and rubber gloves. The adventure didn’t cost me anything and you know, I kind of want to go back tomorrow and buy another box of rubber gloves… but only if Andrea is there again.

Welcome to Wal-Mart!


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