Automatic Niceties

I’m behind an older gentleman in the supermarket checkout line and the boy bagging the groceries is clearly on auto-pilot, not really paying attention, just going through the motions. I don’t blame him, it’s the end of the day and this is probably the 350th bag he’s had to stuff. Gentleman is paying for his purchase, a loaf of bread, some cold cuts, and some light bulbs.

Bag boy drones his automatic response, "Paper? Plastic?" and "Would you like me to help you with your groceries out to the car?" This is California after all – the supermarket checkout folks are downright pleasant, not like the supermarket cashiers back East. But I suspect that this line about helping is written somewhere in the Safeway employee manual but still, it gets bag boy out into the sun every now and then, maybe even a tip or two. But older gentleman is not amused.

"Help me with my bags!!??" I’ve got like three things in there? If I needed help with this, I should be in a wheelchair!"

That woke us all up.

Reminds me of another incident, this one in Japan where these kinds of scripted customer interactions are a science. A slightly pudgy office worker shuffles into a Dunkin’ Donuts, pulls out a list and proceeds to order about thirty donuts. She’s clearly working down a list which she will then call out when she’s brought her delivery back to her office mates.

Yet, Dunkin’ Donuts cashier doesn’t soak this in and after ringing her up asks the automatic "o-mochi kaidi desu ka?" which roughly translates as "will you be taking this home?" the equivalent of the American "For here or to go?" Pudgy office worker takes offense and leans over to yell, which is highly unusual in Japan.

"Do you actually think I’m actually going to sit down in your fine establishment and proceed to work my way through 30 doughnuts in one sitting? Don’t be such an idiot!"

Everyone there sniggered into their coffee.

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