Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Stepford Cashier

As I stood in line at Key Foods waiting for my turn at the check out, the girl in front of me put her groceries on the conveyor belt. Then I watched in horror as the cashier double bagged them:  two frozen dinners (double bag), a 12-pack of ginger ale – with an easy-carry handle (double bag), and the bounty to end all bounties, paper towels (double bag!!).

Most of the time when I'm shopping, I watch this process in utter amazement and annoyance.  But double bagging paper towels threw me over the edge.  I found myself wishing the Brawny guy would stick his big hand out and slap the cashier.

The girl left and it was my turn.  I tried to remain calm.  All of a sudden, the words came rushing out of my mouth.  “Do you think this store will ever ban the plastic bag?”

He chuckled…nervously…and replied, “That’s not in our power. That has to come from the Federal government.”

This poor kid had no idea how things worked.  How many people thought this?  Or thought about it at all?

“Well, that’s not true," I said.  "The city has the power to ban the bag and I’m working to help that process.” I said trying not to be preachy, when I really just wanted to grab the stand holding the bags and run out the door.

“The Surfrider Foundation where I volunteer is working hard to get the plastic bag banned in New York.  Hawaii, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland have already banned them!”

“Really?  Wow,” he said as he started to put my items in a plastic bag.  I waved my reusable one at him.  “Oh!  Sorry.  Right.”  He started putting my items in a plastic bag again, then caught himself.

I realized that these poor cashiers are programmed like Stepford wives to automatically reach for plastic.

“I think our store would never be able to do it," he said.  “People would get mad.”

“Doesn’t it matter if the people who don't want plastic get mad?”

He pondered the thought, agreed and then pointed out that the store sold reusable bags for 99 cents and showed them to me.  He said that when someone says they forgot their bag, they offer those.

I thanked him, took my reusable bag, and headed out the door past all the people grabbing their plastic bags.  And as I approached the final cashier station, I saw someone’s Brawny paper towels sitting there waiting to be bagged.  And I swear the Brawny guy gave me a wink of approval.