Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Supermarket Shopper Nomenclature Part II: At The Register

Okay, so you've finally succeeded in crossing off everything from your shopping list and, more importantly, you've managed not to bludgeon any of your fellow shoppers with a loaf of stale Italian bread as a form of mercy killing to put an end to their stupidity.  Where do you go now?  There's only one choice, and that's where we meet our second batch of shoppers...

*~At The Register~*

# 1 The SWG (Single White Guy):  I figured that we should start off with something positive given all of the negativity that we've endured in the aisles.  The SWG is the ideal person to step behind at the register.  He can be anywhere from his mid-twenties up into his late forties or early fifties; anything earlier constitutes a teenager, which you would want to avoid simply because of their awkwardness and general inexperience with life.  You wouldn't want to encourage them with any unnecessary banter; they need tough love and your attention will only enable them into thinking that, yes, indeed, they are already adults.

Anyway, on to the explanation for why you want to seek out the SWG's at the register.  Most of the time they have less than twelve items (even at a regular register!), many of which are meals-for-one or common bachelor staples like chips and beer nuts (oddly enough you don't often see a SWG purchasing beer at the supermarket).  The SWG will almost always have his money or credit card out in advance, will make little to no eye contact and conversation with the register person (none if it is a male, little if it is an attractive young woman, none again if it is a woman with muttonchops), and, best of all, he will have no coupons.  He will be in an out of there in under a minute (much like his sporadic sexual encounters with someone not named "Left Hand" or "Right Hand") thus freeing you to get the hell out of there as soon as possible.

Helpful hint with identifying the SWG: He will have a mostly empty shopping cart filled with a hodgepodge of seemingly unrelated items.  Check the left hand for a ring on the finger to the right of the pinky.  Nothing there?  He's likely unmarried!  Good job--you've found one!  Remember--the SWG is his own express lane.  Congratulations.  You've saved yourself an hour of your life you would otherwise have never gotten back.

# 2 The Coupon Queen:  Getting stuck behind the Coupon Queen at a register is like reading a "Choose Your Own Ending!!!" book and getting eaten by zombies with your first choice...four pages in.  The problem with the Coupon Queen is that she's often difficult to identify until it's too late; she hides her overflowing coupon purse like a midget with a two-foot both cases, once it's whipped out, it's already too late.  Generally, the Coupon Queen will hint at her identity by frowning at the price that appears on the register as each item is scanned.  She might grunt, do that "tsk-tsk" teeth-sucking noise only the elderly can muster, or tug at her ear while swinging her head in an obtuse-angled arc.  Okay...maybe not the third one...if you see that shit you'd be best just to walk backwards veerrryyy slowly until you're in the clear and then make like hell for the exit.

Anywho, the Coupon Queen is often confrontational with the cashier, bickering exclusively about the price of certain items...but not until they have already been rung up.  Many thrifty or cost-conscious consumers will balk if something rings up at a price that differs either from the display they removed the item from or from the fantasy price they assigned to said item.  They will complain vociferously (it said, Filet Mignon--$0.39 per pound!) and whine until a manager is called over or the cashier makes a call to the respective department to prove the customer wrong.  The Coupon Queen, however, will wait until everything is bagged and rung up and she is asked the most dreaded question in the supermarket world: "Do you have any coupons?"  THIS is when she springs her trap, removing a wallet or purse of Costanzaesque proportions...filled entirely with coupons.  Now this is where the two variants of the Coupon Queen come into play.  The "Crazy Cat Lady Coupon Queen" is the one whose coupons are crumpled into an enormous single entity of crinkled paper (and in some cases cardboard).  You're pretty much screwed at this point because she'll usually have a coupon for every single thing she bought...she'll just have to find it...just give her a second...yep...that's  That one's expired?  Are you sure?  Are you sure you're sure?  Okay...give me a second...I know there's another one in here.

I'm getting aggravated just thinking about that one.

The other flavor of Coupon Queen is the O.C.D. one (Obsessive Coupon Dictator).  This variant is overly organized and not only has a coupon for each and every item, but knows the damn fine print on every money-saving paper.  "Ohhh no," she says, wagging her meaty finger in the cashier's face when he says she can't use two of a particular coupon.  She takes a deep breath...and she huffs...and she puffs...and, "THIS COUPON SHOULD BE DOUBLED WITH A LIMIT OF FOUR PER CUSTOMER."  (Deep Breath Number Two) "IT SAYS BUY ONE GET THREE FREE WHICH MEANS I CAN BUY FOUR AND GET TWELVE FREE BUT IT'S DOUBLED SO I CAN BUY EIGHT AND GET TWENTY FOUR FREE).  Expect to miss the 6 o'clock Sportscenter thanks to this one.  Her belligerence will wear quickly on both the register person and two or three managers who will inevitably come by to mediate.  Usually they will give up arguing and will accept any and all coupons just to get her out of their face.  This is when the Coupon Queen dons that smug, "I TOLD you so" look that is followed immediately by the turn around look and nod to you that says, "See?  They should have just listened to me from the start."

Helpful hint for avoiding the Coupon Queen: if she looks like that corpulent aunt who always plants enormous and sloppy kisses on your lips, points out that you've gained weight, asks when you're going to get married and/or have children, and tells you all about the wonderful things your shrimpy cousin has done and how they're better than all of your accomplishments, each time she sees you...she's probably a CQ.  Best to back up slowly and head to another line.

# 3 The Hands-Free Soloist:  Unlike the Soloist that we encountered in the aisles, the Hands-Free Soloist frequently makes his appearance at the register.  Always the person directly in front of you, usually two people away from the front, the HFS will suddenly make an utterance that sounds like the beginning of a conversation.  He will likely exhibit voice immodulation, using his "Outside Voice" instead of his "Inside Voice."   Talking to themselves much louder than the Soloist but they have a bluetooth device. Much better than the former as well as the one-hander. Unable to differentiate between their inside voice and their outside voice. On line behind you, make you think they are talking to you.

# 4 The Autobiographer: When you're stuck on a long line with people with lots of items and the person behind you (or possibly in front) sighs to get you to turn around, and then decides to tell you his or her life story.  Said autobiography will often start out innocently enough but will always reach a point where everything seems to focus on "MOTHER" if it's a male or "my cats" if it's an elderly woman (younger women will never engage in this type of behavior unless they're those creepy youthful cat ladies who wear burlap coats and horrendous glasses and STILL squint when they talk to you.  Usually you will find yourself trapped between at least a few people (or one person with a GIGUNDOUS quantity of items) in front of you and the autobiographer behind.

BEST ESCAPE TACTIC: Fake a cell phone call.  Or just turn around.  But do the latter at your own never want to piss off a crazy!

# 5 The Heavy Breather: The person behind you that clues you into their displeasure with you with exasperated sighs. Usually because you are using a number of coupons (possibly a Coupon Queen) with your payment, you are fumbling for your money, you are counting exact change very slowly, you are unaware of the restrictions on your food stamps, or, most often, something you did requires a manager coming over with "The Key."  Everyone dreads the moment when the key must be summoned and there seems to be no rhyme or reason for when it does happen.  The Heavy Breather will undoubtedly make his or her displeasure aware as soon as the light above the register begins flashing.

A variation on the Heavy Breather is the jerk who will sigh audibly to get you to turn around only to roll his eyes and give you a "Can you believe this, pal?!" kind of look.  I enjoy staring at these people without blinking until they refuse to make eye contact with me or just leave the line.  Seriously?  You can't believe that there are a ton of people on line at noon on a Sunday, pal?


# 6 The Sammy Sosa (or The Miguel Tejada): When someone tries to pay for something that is obviously not covered with food stamps and, when they are told by the cashier that they cannot make the purchase, they feign a lack of understanding of English (despite the fact that they were just speaking into their bluetooth in crystal clear Oxford English).  Usually a manager will be summoned and the person will either argue until they realize they won't get their way and will then leave in a huff or, if they appear to be crazy enough, the manager will put in some sort of overriding discount to get the miscreant out of the store.

# 7 The Inappropriate Talker: Not limited to the supermarket, this is the person speaking on their cell phone about a personal or private matter and doesn't seem to mind sharing it with everyone in the store.

" she told me it's Grundle Fungus...can you believe that? I googled it when I got burns like hell.  I KNOW!  I thought the SAME thing! hahaha  When she mentioned her sores I thought she meant, you know, from like, working out and stuff.  I totally should have asked her to have the lights on. I have to take these gross-tasting pills for a month, otherwise there is a chance that it might get infected.  Can you imagine that?  If it filled with PUS?  UGH!"

# 8 The Self-Checkout Technophobe (or Luddite): The person, usually old, who is unable to get the hang of this newfangled doohicky thing (a.k.a. the scanner at a self-checkout or the credit card swiper).  The latter is usually the most common where they will swipe their card a dozen achingly slow times before the register-person gets so aggravated that he or she swipes it and tells them to enter their PIN (why do they always have PINs, these people!?)  This, in turn, can last upwards of two minutes while they read EVERYTHING that comes up on the screen. 


#9 The Reader: Much like Kate Winslet, this person is either unable to read the express lane item limitation or, more likely, just chooses to ignore it, and enters a twelve items or less line with fifty or more things.  And then seduces a young German boy.

#10 The Clog: This person goes to the self-checkout lane with an overflowing shopping cart and creates a bottlenecking at the self-checkout area. Usually occurs with an open lane with a cashier in plain sight.

#11 Socrates: The person who argues about pricing, usually with a circular in hand, demanding an explanation as to why they are not being given the quoted price, despite the fact that the circular has clearly expired or that they are failing to meet the requirements for the price ("Must by 4" or "Limit 4 per item per variety").

#12 The Miser: The person who complains or questions every price on everything.  I will just skip to another line if I see this one...utterly obnoxious.

#13 The Browser: This winner reads the tabloids and speaks aloud to no one as if they are Gospel.

"Oh-Em-Gee--I KNEW Angelina was cheating on Brad!  That WHORE!"

#14 The David Copperfield: When a person decides to get "Oooh! One more thing!" while they are being rung up or discovers that they can get an additional item on sale to make something half off. They disappear into an aisle and usually do not return before you get fed up and storm off, leaving your groceries in the discount DVD bin.  Occasionally, though, like eponymous illusionist, you will turn around, not see them, turn back in exasperation to the register and find them completing their purchase.


#15 The Inconsiderate Basterd: The person (usually a woman) with a full shopping cart ahead of you who does not acknowledge the fact that you have only one item (perhaps a loaf of bread) and refused to allow you to go ahead of her. It is a well established part of the unwritten supermarket etiquette that you cannot ask to be bumped up, much like requesting to go from coach to first class. Notgonnahappen.  Thus, common courtesy says that you allow this poor soul with only one grocery to go ahead.  Aren't they suffering enough?

#16 The Double-Checker: Having finally survived your encounter with these imbeciles, you proudly return your wallet, pocket your receipt, grab hold of your cart, and make the turn down that final walkway that is missing only the red carpet to confirm the auspicious moment of your departure from the store...only to find that there is someone blocking the entire way out, standing with an open bag or purse on their cart, double checking their receipt, that they have all of their change, that everything is in order in the cart, and that they weren't overcharged for everything.

A final note on THE KEYHOLDER: This is perhaps the most mythical person in the supermarket realm if for nothing other than the fact that this individual is not a shopper. Have you ever noticed how everyone stops and looks when the Keyholder is called for? It's like an electric pulse is discharged throughout the register lanes. People crane their necks to get a good look at this omnipotent being with the power of "THE KEY!" And isn't it amazing how the person, whoever it is that day, will come over, pop the key into the register, turn it, and with a few button presses, the crisis is averted and the problem is matter WHAT IT IS!? Could you imagine what the world would be like if we could shove global hunger, all of those nasty pathogens like AIDS and cancer, and poverty into a register somewhere? All we would need to do would be to call for the Keyholder and all of our problems would be solved! The register would become like a reverse Pandora's Box.