Saturday, June 12, 2010

Check out Staff--COS

***Disclaimer: Some content of this post is referred from Internet so it might be possible that you have already read few lines written below.***

Big Bazaar and other Super Stores (SupSto) have provided a new way of shopping which provide comfortable shopping to shoppers. All the items are exposed and arranged in racks/open shelves so that shopper does not have to ask for any help and they can pick whatever they want.

Notice anything the last time you went to the supermarket? An irritatingly long queue, perhaps? Or a mispriced product? But what about the woman or man - at the checkout counter, performing one of the most thankless tasks in modern society? Did you return him/her greeting or ignore him/her as you hurried to put away the debit card and pick the shopping which is made into pack by a assistant at check out counter? Few would blame you if you did. After all, how many of us bother to pay attention to the silent underclass scanning bar codes for low pay and little thanks?

They used to say “Good Morning or Thank you and have a nice day” 250 times a day (approximately); few shoppers bothered to reply.

They would scan up to 21,000 products a week, lift 800kg an hour and ask customers for Cash or card 200 times a day for payment. They have to scan 17 items per minute (IPM). 'If they don't maintain their IPM then Store Manager will find it out.

All their actions are accountable; CCTV, electronic monitoring, assessments, clocking in and out, customer and colleague feedback. With cameras in every nook and cranny, there is no escape for them. Even customers are watched through one sided mirrors as a surveillance to avoid thieving and pick pocketing.

The interesting thing in a SupSto is view of every customer's shopping cart or basket which is a privileged intrusion into their lives, and it quickly lends itself to the worst kind of cod psychology. For example:-

1. Take the single woman in her 30s buying the few carrot, 4 onions, one pack of small bread, one milk packet and single 100 grams of butter so here we can already see her night in with dinner-for-one followed by vegetable sandwich with tea or coffee or her breakfast with the same dish.

2. A totally exhausted man with the heavy bags under his eyes quietly purchasing Lactose, nappies and Juices for the new baby and mother at home.

3. The lonely middle-aged people with very few items, who gets through them in their entire day.

4. Two boys or girls with Shopping cart full of items would be bachelors residing with other room mates and who collect food items on weekend for the month or for the coming week.

For the elderly in particular, the supermarket illustrates just what a big challenge modern life is becoming to them. They struggle with the credit card pin pad and forget their numbers. Often, as they try for the second or third time, their hands tremble with nerves. (In those moments, I wish if SupSto could accept cheques).None of them comes in at the weekends because the scale of the supermarket, the overwhelming choice and the crowds make it too frightening a place for them. They hate trying to pack their goods up into bags, knowing that the people queuing behind them are cursing them for being slower.
There are a lot of health problems in this job - tendonitis, lumbago, that sort of thing. There is a lot of depression as well because you're completely ignored by everyone: by your managers and by the customers. After a while you become convinced that you're less than nothing. The worst thing happens to them when one of the parents scolds their child to complete their homework otherwise they will turn up like a check out staff.

There were the shoppers:-

  1. Who sneakily took 11 or 12 products to the ten-items-or-fewer express checkout (some times I also do that).
  2. Then there were those who left empty trolleys by the counter to book a place at the front of the queue; who tried to get out with CDs hidden in their boxes of Camembert.
  3. Then there were those who arrived ten minutes after the store had closed; or who vented their anger on COS because they thought - mistakenly - that COS was overcharging them; or who ignored them as they marched past the check out counter while talking on their mobile phones.
  4. There were also some impatient men waiting in line shouts from the back of the queue: 'I only stood here because I thought it would be quicker’ and due to his impatience he throws down his basket and storms off. (Well, I am not exactly one of them but once upon a time, I put my basket aside and stormed off when I found that there is a long queue on express counter).
  5. Then there were those who scold COS about charging over price on an item and threatening them to Sue this SupSto in Consumer Court, they do not see that some body has mistakenly entered the wrong price of that product in the centralized database and COS has authority to correct the bill.

Some people behave in a supermarket as though they were in their living room. “It's quite amazing.” some customers unashamedly, in front of every one, finished the sandwiches/chocolates that they had taken off the shelves; others downed bottles of juice and cola in a nook of the store. A few even managed to have sex in the aisles. (Only seen in the SupSto out of India).

When you come out of the SupSto it feels like winning a battle especially on weekends. We feel good that we saved some money and shopped good items at cheaper price but we overlooked the fact that how much energy we have lost, how frustrated we were inside (even in air cooled SupSto) and how confused we were in picking up items from the store which actually results in unwanted items and more Rupees out of your wallet.

Next time you go to a SupSto please greet the COS, they are human too and if they don’t greet you then please don’t be rude on them.