Williams: Courtesies at grocery store checkout

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 21, 2011

By Mack Williams
For the Salisbury Post
At the local Food Lion the other day, there occurred one of those “common courtesies” of the check-out cashier that I have always found to be quite strange. This was a variation on the usual theme, seen not only by me, but by everyone over the years.
In its most common form, this “check-out courtesy” appears when one has made the purchase of a 20 ounce, cold bottled drink. In many cases, when I have made such purchase, the kind cashier immediately sets the drink upon the elevated shelf where the customer oftens sets his checkbook and writes the check for his purchases. Most of the time, this shelf now serves as the convenient platform upon which the card-swipe machine is placed, the use of checks seeming to be on the wane.
When I pick up my plastic grocery bag, I have to remind myself to place that drink inside the bag with my other purchases. Perhaps I’m being too nice ( my mother taught me well), but I always wonder, upon doing this, if my act of declining the cashier’s invitation to drink does some injury to his feelings.
I have never been so hot and thirsty, even in my present diabetic state, as to unscrew the bottled drink’s cap and begin taking great gulps, much like in those old western serials, when cowboys have rescued a man in the desert and are cautioning him to drink slowly, as he ignores them and tries to gulp down the water from one of their offered canteens.
The cold state of these 20 ounce drinks, kept in the convenient refrigerator within proximity of the check-out line is probably the inspiration for the clerk’s gracious invitation, but the same courtesy is not afforded when the purchase of a cold can of beer is made, and it is probably a good thing, as this might be seen as a promotion of drinking while driving. If a traffic accident were to result, the unfortunate clerk would then find himself in the same predicament as some bartenders who have been sued for allowing their customers to drink too much before getting back out on the road ( remember that in addition to refrigerated single bottles and cans of beer, there are also refrigerated six-packs and cases as well).
Even diabetics like to make the rare purchase of a candy bar, and when I do so, the store clerk always sets it on that little elevated shelf, and I always put it in my grocery bag before leaving the store. In addition to never having been so thirsty as to take him up on his kind offer of drinking, I’ve never been so hungry either, besides it could lead to a mess ( think about the way the center of a Butterfinger crumbles into many little fragments with each bite).
Turning down his courtesy in this instance was easier, since such courtesy didn’t extend to the offering of a napkin.
In getting back to that “really strange” variation of this particular clerk’s common courtesies, to which I alluded at the beginning of this article; the other day, I had picked up a couple of those “gratis” plastic cutlery sets including a knife, fork, salt and pepper packs enclosed in a sealed cellophane wrapper. They are always located in a convenient container in the deli section.
Following the placement of my purchases into the plastic grocery bag, the clerk set both of these little packets of cutlery on the card-swipe machine shelf.
When I saw this, I felt glad that everything I had purchased was canned, for if I had bought one of those Food Lion rotisserie-baked chickens, hot and ready to eat, I’m afraid that his train of logic would have led him to place it there on that raised shelf, adjacent to those two sets of cutlery, for me to begin carving.
If this had happened, I would have done as I always do, and placed the chicken in the bag with everything else, declining his offer, but with his placing of two sets of cutlery, I would have also had to admonish him as to the bad manners involved in inviting oneself to dinner, without first having received a proper invitation.