Posts Tagged With: grocery store

Bar codes: The beginning or the end?

Veiss1. Flickr. June 6, 2009.

Americans value their independence as much as their time.  Self-service check-out at grocery stores attempts to rival the efficiencies of fast food restaurants.  For those who dread the new or the chatty cashier, the parent shopping for a family of ten, or the customer with a pile of coupons, salvation has arrived.  Not only is check-out expedited, but the process is under the shopper’s control.  There’s no negotiating paper or plastic money or bags.  Any worries about missing items are mitigated by the stern, automated voice emanating from somewhere near the coin return.

Bar codes, of course, are key to the success of the customer/cashier.  Without them, shoppers couldn’t qualify for this role.  If only all packages, packaging, and bar code locations were similar.  The 40-pound bag of dog food, the colorful box of raisins, and the plastic bag of carrots each constitute unique challenges to the dignity and efficiency of the self-checker.  The annoyed sighs of waiting shoppers, the strident orders of the automated supervisor, and the absent beeps of the scanner require a focus on bar codes.

Now that there’s an “app” for mobile bank deposits, can an “app” for grocery check-out be far behind?  Imagine that invisible robotic cashier simply demanding payment upon your arrival at the self-check-out lane.  Perhaps, grocers will provide human baggers to further expedite check-out.  Certainly, jobs for human cashiers will be needed.  Already, their work has become more physical and technical due to bar codes.  There’s no more entering the numbers of prices into a cash register or calculating change.  Perhaps, their future is as technicians.  People will be needed to maintain and repair all those self-check-out computers.

How do you prefer to pay for your groceries?  Would you miss your friendly human cashier if grocery check-out became fully automated?

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2011

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Artificial flavors: Taste confronts style

Valerie Zinger. Flickr. April 29, 2012.

Grape soda, orange ice pops, lemon drops, nondairy coffee creamer, and artificial sugar substitutes are well-established treats for many Americans.  Children who relish their morning orange juice may still clamor for artificially flavored grape soda and orange ice pops.  Grandparents who grow backyard vegetables may still dispense artificially flavored lemon drops to neighborhood little ones.  Parents who hand cut beef and vegetables for crock pot stew may still sprinkle their coffee with nondairy coffee creamer and sugar substitute at the office.  All of these items are available in the same place.  How is it that cherry-flavored Jell-O and chocolate-flavored cold cereal are available in the same grocery stores that sell whole coffee beans and freshly baked breads?

The pluralism of which Americans are so proud doesn’t just include ethnic foods.  It straddles generations and social class.  Gourmet cooks shop for olive oil and specialty cheeses as Lean Cuisine devotees head for the frozen dinners’ aisle.  Football fans pile their carts with chips and cases of soda pop.  Grandmothers scrutinize the fresh greens and meats as college students speed toward the checkout line with boxes of instant oatmeal, packages of Ramen noodles, and jars of peanut butter.  Young mothers with toddlers ensconced in their carts choose steaks, baking potatoes, soda crackers, and instant chocolate pudding.

American tastes call for hot dogs, hamburgers, and French fries at public sports events where plumbers, office managers, and bus drivers sit side by side with accountants, professors, and engineers.  It wouldn’t be fashionable to eat quiche or drink champagne at a baseball game.  Holiday office parties attended by the boss, managers, and staff can include wine, cheese, submarine sandwiches, and brownies.  Holiday dinners may include grandmother’s handmade ravioli and auntie’s Jell-O mold.  No one can claim to be the sole arbiter of American taste or style.  There is too much variety to permit it.  What is artificial about that?

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2011

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