Thursday, December 18, 2008

Doing lines

I have a difficult time dealing with large groups of people in public. I don't dislike people, but crowds make me uneasy. I think it has something to do with freedom of movement. I am not a very patient person by nature and crowds just really add time to anything you're doing anywhere.

That said, I don't have a problem waiting for something when I've made the decision that it's something I need to do. If I need to buy some stuff at Wallyworld, I know I have to wait in line. It's just something we all have to put up with. But what gets me is when someone in the line treats the experience as though they are the only person who matters or if the person responsible for moving the line along (cashier, postal clerk, etc.) is inefficient.

For example:
* The person at Walmart who not only has a shopping cart full of stuff, but has to break down the items into three or four different groups and pay for each separately. What the hell is up with that? This person also seems to have to use three or four different methods of payment. You see them dragging out cash, chage, food stamps, checks and credit cards. It's hard enough to deal with this during the non-holiday season, but there should be some kind of rule against this behavior close to Christmas.

Do you remember being taught about citizen's arrest in Civics class? Perhaps we could have something similar in supermarket checkout lines. Citizen's oversight. We could wear berets like Curtis Sliwa's Guardian Angels. "How do you plan on paying for that stuff, ma'am?" "You are just using one method of payment, correct?"

* Worse than supermarkets is the post office. It takes some time to process someone who's mailing a package. That's a given. During the holiday season, there's a rush to get your stuff mailed. What is irksome is the fact that no one seems to be ready to ship their stuff when they get to the counter.

It always seems like someone waits in that 20-to-30-minute line to ask what they need to mail this package. The postal clerk then spends several minutes going through all the different delivery options and the associated rate. Then the clerk provides the person with the needed items to send their package and has them step aside to finish putting their packages together. The clerk handles other customers, but when the person finishes readying their package, the clerk allows them to come back to the counter.

Now, I've been on that side the post office issue. I've had packages to send and have had to get some advice. I understand that sometimes you need to do that. The problem is that during the holiday season, the post office workload goes up by an order of 5 to 10. It's cool if you need help, we all do sometimes, but acting as though you're the only person in that line when there's 20 more people there than normal is just wrong.

What has added to this anti-crowd feeling is the internet. Now that so many things can be done online, it makes trips to the store even more bothersome. Yesterday I waited in line to buy some forever stamps (our post office here on base does not have a stamp machine) and kept having to remind myself that it was too late to order them online.

I'm sure this whining sounds petulant to folks of my parent's generation or older. I think those from my generation or younger just have different customer service expectations and experiences than did our parents. I'm sure that my kids will too.

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