2011.02.16 Lost at Kroger's

Written by David Green.


Remember when the first President George Bush was given a hard time about not knowing what a grocery store scanner was all about?

At least that’s the story that was told. He visited a grocer’s convention and was supposedly puzzled by the device that scans barcodes, as in, “What’s this new-fangled thing?”

It made an interesting story, except that it isn’t true. Still, I’ve always had some sympathy for him over that  incident. After all, everyone had the “new-fangled device” response at some time in their lives. For George, it seemed to come later than it did for most others and he was criticized for being an insulated, out-of-touch president.

I’ve had my share of those moments, and mine really are true. Check ’em out on Snopes.

A few years ago I wrote about my first experience at a Subway sandwich shop. It wasn’t a meeting of new technology; just an odd new experience because I couldn’t understand what the clerk was rapidly asking me. Since then it’s happened at Arby’s. They use that scratchy intercom system to ask something. I just say “No” and it seems to work out.

My wife loves it when I go shopping with her because my George moments are so amusing to her. I’ve mastered payment by credit card at the checkout lane and I’m still amazed that my signature can be an unreadable smush and that’s OK.

About a month ago I proceeded through my first self-checkout all alone. No problems. I consider that quite an accomplishment.

Saturday I transported my wife to the airport and drove off to a new experience. This followed a call from our daughter, Rosanna, at 6:30 a.m. She was pretty sure this was the day she would produce a child, otherwise known as a granddaughter.

Colleen had been debating whether to drive to Little Rock or take a flight. A plane left around noon and she had a chauffeur, so off we went. Colleen hoped to arrive in time for the birth. A call to Rosie made that sound possible. They were thinking maybe it was a false alarm.

I dropped Colleen off, drove back south on I-275 and missed my turn for Central Avenue when I was back in Toledo. I got off on Sylvania and noticed the big Kroger’s store. I decided to pick up some vittles to help get me through the week, and besides, I’d heard they have a great produce section.

I did my shopping and walked up to the checkout. (All the self checkout stations were in use, but I didn’t want to press my luck anyway.)

The checkout woman was talking up a storm to the person ahead of me. She was so deep in conversation that she didn’t notice the conveyor belt was still moving. I set an item on the belt and away it went. She wasn’t ready for it so I picked it back up and held my little grocery basket back from the belt. She never noticed.

Next she’s laughing and calling another clerk over to see what she’s done. The shopper is about to receive change for more than $7,000. She seemed puzzled how she could have made such an error. It was obvious to me. Keep your mind on the job, lady.

So finally it was my turn. I was already impatiently slapping my credit card against my wallet. The total showed and I raised my arm ready to swipe.

Not so fast.

“You need your Kroger card first,” the clerk said. 

I was immediately the elder George Bush. I imagined walking back through the store embarrassed, returning everything to its place.

“I can’t shop here without a Kroger card?” I asked.

The clerk explained that I wouldn’t get a discount or a bonus or something without a Kroger card.

“Don’t you want a Kroger card?” she asked.

“No, I just want to get home,” I answered.

The lady behind me whipped out her Kroger card and the clerk scanned it. And then, just to rub it in, she said, “Well, let’s see how much you saved.”

The answer was 16 gas points or frequent flier miles or something. 

“For me or for her?” I asked.

Of course it was for the wise shopper behind me. I said I was pleased to help her out.

Then I drove home, beaten down again by the new-fangled.

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