My favorite Christmas gift is a quick checkout experience


By Gary Abernathy

My first go-round this week at commenting on the relationship between customers and store clerks at some of the chain stores — where you’re asked for email addresses, phone numbers or other information before paying and allowed to get on with your life — was soon greeted by a couple of Facebook comments that made it clear not all readers were taking my remarks in the way they were intended.

They thought I was being too critical of clerks. That wasn’t my intent. So, I was motivated to, as they say in Congress, revise and extend my remarks.

Shopping local has a number of advantages over the nearby malls with their chain stores, among them the ability to check out and pay for your items with minimum delay or unnecessary requests for information.

Particularly annoying at too many of the shopping mall chain stores is being asked for your email address or phone number, or whether you want to sign up for the store credit card, or any of the other checkout delays from most of the chain stores at the shopping centers. As two readers pointed out, these store policies are no fault of the clerks who follow the rules they are given. That is true. These things are annoying because of store policies that require them.

As I’ve noted before, Christmas is my favorite time of the year, and I enjoy Christmas shopping. But when those questions start coming my way, I always inform the clerk that I just want to check out as quickly and efficiently as possible. Ring me up, tell me how much I owe, and I’ll hand you my card or cash, get my receipt, and be on my way.

As usual, this probably makes me an anomaly. Many people are apparently fine with providing their email addresses, phone numbers or name, rank and serial number at checkout counters across the nation.

We’re all different, a fact that is demonstrated also by the relationship between customers and different personalities encountered via checkout clerks at, for instance, grocery stores, where a good system would be to place signs on each checkout lane telling us a little bit about the particular cashier on duty.

Want to check out quickly with no small talk? Try Lane 1. Do you enjoy some pleasant chit-chat and a more leisurely pace? We suggest Lane 2. Interested in hearing someone grumble about how little money they make and can’t wait for quitting time to roll around? Lane 3 is right for you. Want to hear the clerk’s personal political views as he rings up your items? Take a trip down Lane 4. And so on.

Critical or not, it is annoying to encounter a clerk who obviously hates his job, when a simple question like, “How are you?” is answered, “I’ll be better in another hour when I’m out of here.” You hear that one a lot. No matter the time or place, the appropriate response to, “How are you?’ is, “Fine, thanks.” Or, even more enthusiastically, “I’m great!”

The casually-asked question, “How are you?’ is always an appropriate time to respond with a lie, if necessary. The correct answer is, “Fine,” no matter the truth.

Has it seemed hard to get into the Christmas spirit this year? Maybe the warmer weather and lack of snow until this past weekend contributed to that. One thing making Christmas brighter in Hillsboro are the decorations on the Highland County Courthouse grounds. I don’t think the courthouse has ever looked better than it does this Christmas.

Contributing to the courthouse once again is the annual nativity scene on display courtesy of the Yuellig family, and the Christmas tree, a new tradition started last year and sponsored by members of the student council of Hillsboro High School, on their own time and having raised their own money.

I’ve shared before that I like Christmas in part for selfish reasons, since things connected to my favorite three subjects – old monster movies, Elvis and NBA basketball – are all well represented during the season, what with tons of Elvis Christmas songs, NBA basketball dominating Christmas Day, and Boris Karloff narrating the oft-played animated classic, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

The world seems to slow down at Christmas, and that’s not a bad thing at all in this fast-paced society of ours – something I’ll ty to keep in mind even when I’m in a hurry at checkout lanes.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.

By Gary Abernathy

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