Tuesday morning arrived and I told my husband that if a phone call didn’t occur, asking me to substitute teach, I was going to go to Aldi and get the groceries purchased for the week. No phone call came, so off I went to the store, with my list made out and in one hand, and my quarter in the other, so I could retrieve a grocery cart from the outside cart corral.
It was an uneventful trip around the aisles as I made my shopping choices and placed items in the cart. Mornings are usually a good time to shop at Aldi as it’s not too crowded yet. If you are unfamiliar with what an Aldi store is, know that they are a wonderful, yet no frills grocery store that saves my family’s budget a sizable amount of money each year. ( Here is a fun article to read that explains what an Aldi store is like, how they’re linked with Trader Joe’s, and why they sell groceries for such a lower price.)
I took my purchases to the check out area and got in line behind an elderly lady who was working fast to put her items on the conveyor belt. The only other check out lane was occupied by a customer with a cart loaded with a lot of groceries, so folks who didn’t have as much as that customer were lining up behind me. Suddenly I heard a loud voice bark angrily at the cashier who’s line I was in. “That is NOT the price on this item! There was a red sign saying that these were on sale!!” The angry voice belonged to a tall, elderly man. By his speech pattern I could tell he was an educated person, probably a retired professor, was my immediate thought! (We have a university in our town.) He was angry that the computer kept ringing up the item at a much higher price. The cashier, who amazingly remained very calm and patient with this rude customer got on her walkie-talkie and asked for a price check. A lady from the manager’s office popped her head out and when asked by the cashier about the item’s price, was told that the computer was correct. Then she went right back into the office. This only incensed the customer more and he barked an order to the cashier to follow him to the area where he found the item so he could show her the sale price. At this point the man behind me sighed, and got into a new line that had just opened in a 3rd checking out lane. Soon the cashier returned and told the man that the item was on sale and she rang up the item according to the new price. The man didn’t say thank you at all and handed the next item on the conveyor to the cashier. When she scanned it, you guessed it. The computer was not showing the right price and once again the elderly man barked out, “WRONG!”, and told the cashier to follow him to another area of the store to check that item’s price! As the cashier walked off she made eye contact with me and mouthed out the words, “I am so sorry!” I smiled wanly at her and told her it wasn’t her fault. Then I joined the man who had been behind me and got into that third line. That man shook his head at me and said, “Some people!” I agreed and said that someone was a grouch today! I soon realized that the little old lady who had scurried and hurriedly put all of her items on the conveyor belt was the wife of that grouchy old man! ” That poor lady!”, I thought to myself.
As I left the store and drove home, I thought about the entire incident. The cashier should have been commended for remaining so quiet and calm in dealing with such an irate customer. I was critical of the lady in the store’s office. I think she should’ve come all the way to that cashier’s station and done the price checks and dealt with this grouchy old man. Instead of helping his wife put the groceries on the conveyor, he decided to stand there and loudly complain about prices on two products, and then demanded the cashier go with him on his price check journeys.
I wondered if in his past career(s) he was used to being in charge of people? Was he a bigshot at the work site? He certainly carried himself in such a way that it was pretty evident he felt that he was a very superior person to the cashier. Was he not feeling well this day? I wondered that too, as sometimes when one is not feeling one’s best, it’s easy to become cranky with the public.
From my observations, I wondered as to how I treat the people I meet each day? Do I treat them with respect and patience and kindness like the cashier did, even under the stressful environment of shoppers waiting to check out, and a customer angrily barking orders at her? What if she’d had said no, telling the man that the computer price is right, what would he have done then? Marched off to the manager’s office himself and banged on the door? Stated he wouldn’t leave that check-out lane until he was a satisfied customer?
I hope that I can be calm and focused and kind like the cashier, in any and all circumstances. She really was an inspiration to witness, a true picture of grace under pressure. I hope that when I shop, or eat in a restaurant, I treat the employees with respect and not condescension. I did tell my husband today that if I ever turn into a cranky senior citizen when out shopping, he has permission to haul me out of that store and pronto!
Article about Aldi, from Slate by Rebecca Schuman. December 2, 2013.