Faced With Irony In The Grocery Store Checkout Lane, I Smile

While standing in the checkout lane at Kroger the shopper in front of me, a 70-something woman, told me and the cashier, a 20-something man, about how she downloaded her coupons onto her smart phone all by herself.  She was very proud of her success, and both the cashier and I congratulated her on doing so.

She was happy. And so were we.

In passing, the chatty cashier mentioned to us that Kroger was using virtual coupons because that was a way to save paper and help the environment.  The 70-something woman said: Oh yes, I’m all about saving paper.  It’s such an important thing to do.  I believe in that.

She was adamant. And we were impressed.

Then she pulled out her checkbook and wrote a [paper] check for her purchases leaving me to glance at the cashier who looked like he was going bust a gut, not saying a word about her incongruous behavior, as he finished the transaction.  Then with a friendly wave to both of us, she pushed her cart through the door and left the store.

She was clueless. And we couldn’t stop smiling.

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Ally Bean

Observant. Creative. Humorous. Adaptable. Happy enough. Looking for the crumb of truth in the cookie of life.

30 thoughts on “Faced With Irony In The Grocery Store Checkout Lane, I Smile”

  1. Funny, and so true. We all have a habit so deeply ingrained to our way of life we can’t think to do otherwise. Mine may be writing the check number and date on every invoice I have paid over the last 35 years even thuogh I have NEVER had an occasion to go back to that information. Still, it is what I do.

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    1. Zen-Den, I’m sure that you’re right. This habit was how she paid for her groceries– ALWAYS. It was ingrained, but oh so quietly funny after the conversation that we had just had.

      [And if writing the check number and date on every invoice is what makes you happy, then please continue doing so. No harm, no foul.]

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  2. Working in retail myself, I actually got the biggest laugh from the cashier passing along the touchy-feely corporate reasoning for issuing virtual coupons. Of course, I work for a company that practically wrote the book on how to cut costs while justifying the actions as being “environmentally friendly.” Eliminating the processing of those thousands of paper coupons customers spend every week is the real benefit Kroger reaped from their virtual couponing program…

    Oops, sorry, looks like Evil Cynical Squirrel got out today! 😉

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    1. evilsquirrel13, you have a [delightfully cynical] point, of course. I have no doubt that Kroger benefits from eliminating the processing of those paper coupons which, unlike this cute little old lady, I still use! Be that as it may, there was a bit of a disconnect between what this lady was saying and doing. And you know, I likes me a bit of irony. 😉
      REPLY

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  3. I always cringe when someone writes a check. I mean REALLY? In this day and age? First they don’t have anything filled out — not the name of the store or the date. Then they don’t start writing it until the entire order is put through so they have the amount. I mean you wouldn’t want to write the date ahead of time, would you? I have pleaded with my grocery store to make cashing checks harder….much, much harder to do.

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    1. kate, I never write checks in stores anymore. I like the convenience and the accumulated points that come with my credit card. But I suspect that for this little old lady, plastic was taking things just too far. At least, she was fast with the check writing. I’ll give her that.

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  4. I can’t help but ask– what type of grocery bags was she using? If they were cloth, I’d be fine with sticking with good ole checks, but I suspect they were plastic or paper, as was most the packaging on whatever she happened to be buying. Alas, count me in the cynical ranks this morning!

    Also, I agree that if people are going to write checks, I would greatly appreciate it if they could fill out as much of the information as possible *before* waiting to hear the total purchase amount.

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    1. Maria, she had a combo of bags, both cloth and plastic. She was shopping for a big family picnic at her house over the weekend* so she had a long list with lots of items to buy.

      As for the check, she knew what she was doing with that part of the transaction, although it did slowdown everyone in the lane. Not a problem for me on that day, but sometimes…

      * I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating here: everyone talks to me about everything. Apparently I have one of those sympathetic auras that just brings out the dither in all of humanity. Thus, I learned a great deal about this cute little old lady while standing in line.

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  5. Oh! Humiliation! Someday I’m going to have to catch up with your little old lady and get a smart phone. Not that anyone around here probably does virtual coupons but I’d be ready when they do. It is, however, really rare that I ever see anyone write a check. And I do love the irony. I’m impressed that she was using some cloth bags, though. It’s pretty wonderful to me that some of our older folks are embracing these ideas.

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    1. Zazzy, I don’t have a smart phone so there’s no way I could do virtual coupons. I was happy for her and what she’d accomplished by downloading them, but then to pull out her checkbook made me smile. You’re right about these older folks embracing new ways of doing things: “it’s pretty wonderful.”

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  6. As a not-practicing CPA, it’s taken me a very long time to let go of the paper checks and handwritten records and do things electronically. You should ask my husband how long it took me to throw away receipts or to even utter, “No. I don’t need a receipt.”

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    1. Andra, I’m married to a lawyer with latent CPA tendencies so I get what you’re saying. Z-D destroys receipts only after careful scrutiny + decades in storage. [You think I’m kidding, don’t you?] I’m sympathetic to what your husband has to go through.

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  7. Hahaha! Glad you shared a moment in time with her and a smile with the cashier. A couple thoughts that popped into my head:

    * One check per check-out isn’t a big deal, given all the packaging of the products purchased, the gas to get to and from the store, the electricity to keep food cold, etc.

    * The biggest savings to the environment isn’t from not printing the coupons actually used at the store ~ it’s from NOT printing booklets of unused coupons.

    * Kroger is going digital to save printing costs, distribution costs, processing costs, AND (most likely) to track consumer purchases.

    This sounds like me:

    “I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating here: everyone talks to me about everything. Apparently I have one of those sympathetic auras that just brings out the dither in all of humanity. Thus, I learned a great deal about this cute little old lady while standing in line.”

    You are a REALITY-BASED connection in an increasingly VIRTUAL world. Keep it up!

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    1. nrhatch, good observations about the use of paper in groceries. Funny how when I wrote this post I was smiling about how harmless and sweet it was to run into an irony-impaired little old lady. But now that I think more about it, there’s a story here about environmental issues and big box retail.

      Fascinating take on why people talk to me [us] so often. You’re onto something with your reality-based connection idea. Never thought of it like that before. Thanks for the insight.

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      1. Many folks miss the days of front porch swings and lemonade, when people sat to chat (without having to check their digital devices every 22.5 seconds). I talk to people wherever I am. Most (not all) seem to enjoy feeling connected on a one-on-one basis.

        Some, of course, scowl at the perceived intrusion as they rush to check their hand held virtual reality devices. 😎

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        1. I don’t get the desire to always be connected via virtual reality devices [great term] to people who are not in front of you. Where’s the fun in that?

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          1. I’m with you, Ally Bean. The only time I’m connected to a virtual reality device is when I’m sitting in front of my computer. I don’t even receive texts on my cell phone ~ they’re blocked. I’m never inclined to “sneak a quick peek” when real life is happening around me.

            That said, I do enjoy my internet time . . . during real life “down time.”

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  8. I don’t have a smart phone or use coupons(too much hassle), but I do occasionally write a check because I want a paper record of what transpired. (not that electronics ever malfunction, or is that just for ME?) 😉

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    1. Margaret, if there’s one thing this post has confirmed for me it is that I’m not alone in my non-smart phone world! I write checks for bills at home, but never use them anymore when I’m in stores. Too much hassle + I want my credit card points. Plus, like you said, there’s that electronic malfunction aspect of being too dependent on virtual records.

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  9. It’s a constant irritation to me that my favourite grocery store requires that I use either cash, Discover card, or a paper check. I won’t carry that much cash, and I hate using my card for groceries, despite its cashback bonus. I’m left with the use of a check. Sigh. My son, who used to work retail, tells me that Discover is one of the most costly cards for merchants to process, oddly enough. Oh well.

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    1. nance, those are three peculiar ways to pay for groceries in today’s world. I worked in retail and learned the same thing that your son did about Discover. Well, at least in your grocery store transactions the hold up about writing a check would be expected. Still, odd.

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