Thursday, January 17, 2013

Define 12 Items or Less

I don’t like grocery shopping. There I said it. I don’t like it at all. And it has nothing to do with the multiple cease and desist orders that the Nabisco corporation has filed against me. Which I don’t want to get into. OK fine, let’s just say they’ve grown tired of my enthusiasm for Nutter Butters and even though they claim to have no affiliation with the Keebler Company they refuse to let me know if they have any information as to whether or not Keebler elves really do exist. Pretty sure they do.

No, I mostly don’t like grocery shopping because I pretty much find doing anything else more fun and exciting. So as you can imagine I try to get in and out as fast as possible and as we all know, check-out line selection is key to getting out of the store in a hurry. And what are the prime lane selections? The 12 items or less lanes of course.

Thus the 12 items or less lanes are the most desirable yet the most exclusive of lanes. You must have 12 items or less. But what’s the expectation of how strict we should be with this “12 items or less” designation?

For example, by doing some creative counting and going with a very vague yet correct definition of “items”, I’ve gone through one of these 12 items or less lanes with what some people may see as 30 plus items. However I only saw 11.


12 is such a loose term. And what about that old saying that less is more?
Confusing isn’t it?

Pat, what’s your take on the strictness of 12 items or less? Do you ever “take advantage”?

Pat:  Well, before I start on this one, let me throw a question your way. If you buy twelve beers, does that count as one item or twelve? Does it matter if they’re all sealed in a box?  

By the way, the person at the grocery store seemed to think it did.

Christian: You beat me to my next point. Yes that is what I consider part of my “creative” counting. If you buy a 24 pack of beer in a box you would expect that to count as one item right? Definitely not 24. And I would also say the same holds true for a 6 pack of beer. You have (1) six pack of beer.

Now let’s say I have three separate bottles of beer. We all know that the important thing with rules is that the rules stay consistent. So along the same lines I have (1) set of three bottles of beer. Thus one item. Same goes when I’m buying six Butterfinger candy bars. Those six Butterfingers are one item in my book. One delicious peanut-buttery item.

Are you telling me you’ve had checkers that disagree with this logic?

Pat:  I haven’t played checkers in a long time. Do you often play that in the grocery store? Where, might I ask? Oh! Probably the feminine products aisle. There’s always lots of room there, ‘cause it’s only got women and creepers.

As a former grocery store employee I just wanted to mess with you, as we far preferred the moniker, “Checkout Aisle Attendant”. Keep that in mind the next time you call the person in lane 4 a “checker”!

And yes, I have had such people make a stink. But they only do that if you’re a stinker and they don’t like you. Otherwise, do you really think they care? Is THEIR day getting delayed because you have more than the allotted items? Play it cool and you could probably get through those lanes with, like, FIFTY items!

Christian:  They don’t care? Are you sure? I would assume the checkers...uh I mean the Checkout Aisle Attendants that are manning the regular checkout aisles wouldn’t care. Especially those poor saps that are manning the Family Friendly aisles. Those people seem like they’re gonna snap at any moment.

But I always assumed that the stores put their top notch most dedicated checkout aisle attendants in the 12 items or less lanes since these are the lanes specifically designed for speed and efficiency. Basically the Navy Seals of Checkout Aisle Attendants.  

I don’t have any science to back this theory up nor do I know anything about the training these checkers go through but I imagine the 12 items or less checkers go through some kind of military grade training. With that kind of dedication I would assume they would care if you grossly violated the 12 items or less rule. And that they might physically or at least emotionally harm you if you did.

Have you been emotionally harmed? Why didn’t they like you?

Pat?

Pat: Hmm...you’ve got me thinking on this one. I never thought about the idea that only the best employees would be granted access to the quicker checkout aisles. I always kinda’ assumed those aisles were for the...slower employees. Y’know, the kind who can’t really deal with more than 10, 12 or 15 things at one time. They also can’t do that pat-your-head and rub-your-tummy thing. And if that’s the case, do you think they’re really going to be counting your items? Accurately?

Here’s a thought. What’s the one family of grocery items that makes appearances least often in the quick checkout lanes?

Christian: Rifles?

Pat: I’d be willing to bet it’s produce. And you know why? ‘Cause all that produce gets rung up with CODES (psst! It’s CODES that run the world, man!). Attendants have to remember all of the individual codes for every piece of produce that comes through their lane. Think the store manager is going to entrust that task to someone who can barely handle more than 12 things at once? I don’t think so. Myth busted!  

Christian: I hadn’t thought about that. Maybe you’re right. Maybe grocery stores do put their idiots at the 12 items or less lanes. That would explain how I got through that lane last night with buying  4 boxes of cereal, 2 packs of salami, beef stick, 3 Butterfingers, 3 boxes of Triscuits, a deli sandwich, beef stick, milk, beef stick, 17 cans of beer and 5 bottles of wine, which of course was just 2 items: food and alcohol.

53 comments:

  1. You make some excellent points about the potential strategies used in allocating employees to the various checkout lanes.

    These days it seems that self-checkout kiosks are becoming more popular, in which case you can have like 8 people checking out with only one employee to watch over them, who doesn't need to be able to count or calculate - just zoom in to blindly swipe their card every time a kiosk goes into warning mode about unauthorized bag use or purchase of restricted items such as alcohol or rifles.

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    1. Typically in my case that one employee is never there and the self-checkout kiosk goes into error mode because I accidentally breathed on the already checked items and it thinks I added another one without scanning it. Although that typically only happens once or twice per every time I use it.

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    2. As annoying as they are,I once had the very happy accident whereby I scanned a six-pack of yummy and nutritious beer and it rang it up as a single bottle. Look to the left...no one. Look to the right...no one. And as the smile slowly crawled onto my face, I realized, "Hey, technology can be our friend".

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  2. Sometimes our grocery store has a 7 or less, 10 or less, and 15 or less lane selection. This is when I start to think that they actually do care how many items I have...yet there are still no rules posted as to how to count them off!

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    1. I really wonder if there is a significant measurable amount of time saved from dropping it from 10 items to 7 items. I'm thinking 10 seconds tops.

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  3. “Checkout Aisle Attendant”? I always called them "cashier". Huh. Well, I have some apologizing to do.
    I always thought the rule was the number of items they have to scan. So 6-pack, scan once, 5 cans of garbanzo beans, scan 5 different cans, thus 5 different items. Regardless of the rule, we should all get the opportunity to take a whack at the fragile hips of any old person who attempts to write a check no matter the lane. One shot. If you break their hip, you get a 20% discount on your groceries. If things fall out of the old person like a pinata, then you have to run.

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    1. I don't know, you seem to be applying logic to the issues. And I'm talking about both the defining what an item is and dealing with old people writing checks issues.

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    2. Well, it might be a regional vernacular, Pickleope. "Cashier" might be completely appropriate in places like Des Plaines or Montpelier or Dover. Are you, by chance, in one of those fair municipalities?

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  4. Christian, Pat, oh, why why why are you people not more famous??????? It boggles the mind that you are not on, like, the talk show circuit and Oprah and late-night TV. You are friggin hilarious. And not just sometimes. Always. I also marvel at the fact that I can type a comment here and then you will (usually) type a nice little comment back to me, MOV, like we are pals because you are not yet super-duper famous! Yay, me! for still being able to get you to comment back because you are not off getting your hair styled and going to the bank to deposit multiple digit checks from all your public appearances!

    But I digress. Even though your post today was awesome, I do wonder why you did not bring up eggs? Eggs = 12. Is that one carton, so only one? What if I brought up two of those mini-cartons of six each-- would that be two or 12? Very confusing. And what about the impulse magazine that I inevitably throw on the conveyor belt at the very last second? Are they not forcing me to buy a home decor magazine or an US Weekly with the Bachelor on the cover and perhaps a pack of Twizzlers by having them RIGHT THERE at eye level even as the Checkout Aisle Attendant (CAA) is scanning the last of my 12 items? So now I have 14 items? does that mean I will be arrested by the Aisle Patrol and escorted out with only 12 things? or that the CAA will get promoted for upselling me to buy more things? it seems like the two ideas (less than 12 vs. getting me to buy more) are kinda working against each other.

    I have noticed that the CAA does *not* actually care if you have 12 things or even 1200 things. The people who care are the other customers in line *behind* me. And I notice they also don't like it when I try to pay with my expired coupons, food stamps, and checkbook and 50 forms of ID. Hmmm. Some people are so intolerant.

    best,
    MOV
    p.s. to Pickleope--what falls out of an old person? their AARP card? an 8-track tape? extra Kleenex in their pockets?

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    1. Thanks MOV! I like commenting back on the comments thus creating a pseudo conversation. And don't worry even if by some small chance we become hugely famous that will continue. Although we will have a staff that does it for us.

      And you bring up an excellent point about the impulse items that are by the check out area. They can't possibly expect us to count those are part of the 12 items. They are impulse items which means we don't know which we are going to buy and how many until we get there. If anything I think they should count as a negative item. Meaning if you buy three impulse items you can bring in 15 other items because your total number of items will now be 12.

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    2. MOV...put about six more question marks at the end of that first question, and I am right there with you!

      This might push the limits of this blog, but a police officer acquaintance of mine told me about giving a ride home to an elderly woman. Know what fell out of her, all over his cruiser's back seat? Her hemorrhoid.

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  5. I've heard that if you have, say, four things of the same yogurt it counts as one item.
    It's all about basket vs cart. If you want to get away with more than 12 items, use a basket, it is the trojan horse of the quick lane. On the flip side of that, if you roll up with a big cart, people will glare at you even if you just have some toilet paper and a couple other items :P

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    1. Exactly. Use a basket. I don't care if I have to drag that thing on the ground behind me from its weight. Look. All my shit fit in this basket. So, I'm going through the express lane.

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    2. Ah yes excellent points about basket use. Love the description that it's the Trojan horse of the quick lane.

      I often grab a basket as I go in thinking I'm not getting much only to find my arms hurting 20 mins later after putting 2 gallons of milk, a jug of orange juice, an a bag of kitty litter in it.

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    3. Since Christian brought up Trojans...wanna' know a fun little grocery store game you can play? Stand in the toiletries aisle and stare disarmingly at anyone who walks up to the condom area. Just stare. Freaks 'em out. It's really fun.

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  6. I'm just going to assume this is all in jest because "item" quite obviously means "barcode that is scanned". Now let's focus on the real problem: It's 12 items or FEWER, not 12 items or LESS. Just seeing that grammatically correct on the sign (and it is, in some places) will induce store-loyalty from me.

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    1. How about 12 items and NOT MORE? They should probably go with that if they really want people to take them seriously.

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    2. Better yet, let's figure out a way to get that math symbol on the sign, the one with an arrow-thing and a line that means I will only progress to a level of mathematical understanding equal to or lesser than 9th grade.

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  7. This is such a good blog. Why don't you have a million followers???

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    1. Don't know. It's probably because of our lame marketing department. Either that or our lack of a marketing department. If you happen to have a million friends please feel free to tell them to follow us.

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    2. Are there even that many people?

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  8. I once saw a man go through the express checkout with about 50 cans of tuna. I think he used your definition of "item".

    I usually avoid the express lane because the longest part of any grocery check out is the actual payment of the total. Express lane = multiple transactions, regular lane fewer. The regular check outs get me out of the store a lot faster.

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    1. This is an excellent use of math. I think you might be right too. Express lanes are a false prophet!

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    2. Maybe he was trying to make a point...or conduct an experiment. Like, I bet those 50 cans of tuna equaled ONE actual tuna. Just without the eyes and stuff.

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  9. I have just one word for you if you insist on buying that many items in a single shopping trip: Costco. Of course you'll probably be in line after the woman who has one overflowing cart, only to have her girlfriend arrive with another overflowing cart the minute you think it's your turn.

    That, my friends, is called pay back.

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    1. I once got lost in a Costco for 127 hours. Got my arm stuck behind a tub of mayonnaise and had to cut it off myself to get out of there. But that was some gooood mayonnaise.

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    2. I was just there the other day and ate way too many half-sticks of fried cheese being offered as samples. It wasn't even breakfast time. That place has weird powers!

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  10. I try to stay in the vague area of 12....I also park in the parking spot designated for "mothers with children" even when my children are at home.....it's every man for himself at the grocery store....

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    1. I don't think I've ever seen a "mothers with children" parking spot. Although to be fair I try not to look at the space designations because odds are I'm not supposed to be parked in it.

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    2. I don't think "mothers with children" parking spots are politically correct enough for Portland, that's my guess as to why they don't exist there (though I've also never seen them anywhere else). What about the fathers with children?! What about the grandmas or grandpas or aunties or unlcles with children?!

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  11. The post is handsomely written. I have bookmarked you for keeping abreast with your new posts.
    Rinoplasti

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    1. you obviously have a nose for great posts!!!!

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    2. Why thank you! I haven't heard the word "handsome" directed towards me in a long time. What are you doing later?

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  12. I used to hate grocery shopping too, until I realised just how much fun it was to listen to erotic audio books while doing it. There's nothing more hilarious than listening to someone go on about "throbbing manhoods" while a little old lady is feeling up the zucchinis.

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  13. Pennsylvania conveniently steps around all the beer confusion by refusing to sell alcohol in the grocery store. Asinine prohibition. But hey, at least we've got the butter sculpture.

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    1. But you can at least bring in your own alcohol, right? However I do wish we had the same caliber of butter sculpture as you guys.

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  14. I don't know if it's because I have a tendancy to be a rule follower/communist, but I never go to the 12 items or fewer lane. I just can't bare to live under the scrutiny of just what exactly entails the item count.

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  15. I have an inferiority complex, so I never use the 12 items or less/fewer lane, the self-serve lane, or that fancy lane that goes tantalizingly close to all the booze and cigarettes. Those are too special for me. I just put all my items in my coat pockets and slink quietly out a side door so I don't trouble any of their busy and navy-seal-trained employees with my transaction needs.

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    1. You, my lady, are a problem solver. Right up there with Rosa Parks and Lesley Knope.

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    2. Woops. I changed "are an american hero" to "are a problem solver" right before clicking the publish button. Thus the confusing second sentence in the above comment.

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    3. Another American hero-Estelle Getty.

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  16. I'm a pretty good rule follower, but I've also oddly found that my definition of "12" depends on how many items I have. If I truly only literally have 5 things, then the person who clearly has 13 is an evil Satan lover who needs to go back to hell, but if I have 13, then it usually is because I have multiple cans of the same thing and is thus clearly perfectly fine.

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    1. Like I said "12" is a very lose term and can mean different things to different people. Like "oreo attacks".

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    2. I kinda' thought it was a given that anyone who lives a life counter to our own, or which makes our own life even the slightest bit inconvenient, is forever and hopelessly a dickish asshole.

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  17. My husband certainly subscribes to your grocery store accounting methods, but he rarely gets away with it. Our cashiers are super strict on the limit and will count his items before he gets them on the counter. One cashier in particular does everything she can to discourage him from getting in her line. My husband is a talker so they usually spend more time debating the number of items than they would if she just rang up his stuff. Neither of them will ever learn. I like to wait in the car and wear dark glasses to the grocery store.

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  18. My mother is a checker-outer person at our local Safeway, and I often go buy groceries there since our family gets a 10% discount. However, store policy says I can't go through her line, which means if she's working at the time, I'm the asshole that has to go through the 15 items or less line, even when my cart is full. That's loads of fun when there are angry people behind you. But what's even more fun is when some jackass makes a snide remark to me like "Well, I guess HE'S special since he gets to go through here with a full cart, huh?", and I get to explain the situation to him, followed by something like, "So next time you think to speak out like you're clever, don't, because you're not" and "this didn't go the way you planned, did it?"

    That particular one happened about 3 weeks ago.

    Confession time: I'm a bit of a dick.

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    1. Next time you encounter that just insist that you pay for only 15 items at a time. That way you are still holding to the aisle rules but they will have to wait even longer for you to get through the aisle.

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