Nathan Bigman

Volunteering at Shufersal

Standing in line for self-checkout at the Shufersal supermarket, I suddenly realized that I was working for them, for free. Not a brilliant epiphany, seeing as I’ve done self-checkout many times before.

The self-checkout seems like a great idea, at first. You’ve got 3 items (having ordered most of your stuff online), the staffed lines at the supermarket are crazy long, and you’re in a hurry. You get in line for one of the 6 or 8 registers, and you’re out of there in 3 minutes, tops. Amazing!

Here’s the reality:

  • Registers 3 and 8 are out of order.
  • At Register 1 stands a woman who is talking on the phone. Her cart is full to the top. As she talks to her friend, she carefully takes out one item at a time, examines it, scans it, and then puts it aside.
  • At Register 2, a retired man has scanned his first item — a bottle of wine. He has to wait for the supervisor to verify that he is over 18 years old, whereupon she swipes her magic card and he can continue. However, he has to wait a long time for her because…
  • …at Register 4, a man has completed scanning and weighing his groceries, and has packed all of the items into 4 huge eco-friendly bags, when the register tells him he’s won the self-checkout lottery – he’s been randomly selected to have his cashier work confirmed. The supervisor will have to come over and unpack all of the bags, scanning or weighing each item. She’ll get there as soon as she handles the problem at…
  • …Register 5, where the customer is unable to find the code for pink grapefruit, and signals the supervisor that they need help, but has to wait because…
  • …at Register 6, the price marked on the item is not the one that appears when it is scanned. If only the supervisor could come help, but she’s…
  • …at Register 7, trying to convince the customer that they need a Shufersal credit card (no one does).

Meanwhile, while I work as a volunteer cashier, some manager at Shufersal is firing cashiers, and passing the savings on to… the owners of Shufersal.

In the words of Sam Cooke, “That’s it, I quit, I’m moving on.” If I shop at Shufersal, I will stand in the regular checkout line, spend, on average, the same amount of time, and create jobs, albeit crappy ones. Join me.

About the Author
Nathan Bigman is the author of the book Shut Up and Eat (How to quietly become a triplitarian) .
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