This post was motivated by a recent experience at a local grocery store, although the experience can be had at just about any large store. Every store I have been to has either numbered or lettered checkout lanes. Some stores also have a set of lanes dedicated to self-checkout. If you visit a store frequently, you probably already know which checkout clerks to avoid, but wouldn’t it be great if problem customers could be avoided also? In order achieve this I propose that stores replace the simple number/letter labels on their checkout lanes with descriptive labels. Here is my list …

“Ultra Express Lane” for the Self-Important Terminal Type-A Personalities: This lane is for people who are obviously more important than you or I and who do not deserve to wait in line with common folk. This lane exists but is never open. Its sole purpose is to attract these customers to the store in the hope that the lane might be open. If it were open, it would only allow one customer at a time – no line allowed. The light at the register indicating whether the lane is open or not would be turned on until one of THEM approached the register. The light would then be turned out until the transaction was completed and the customer has left.

“I Do Not Begin to Write a Check Until I See the Total” Lane: At least this is the abbreviated title which has a subtitle “and then balance my checkbook before I hand the check to the clerk”. These folks often add to the misery of those behind them because they do not get their personal identification out of the bottom of their purse/wallet until asked to do so. For whatever reason, they will not fill out anything on the check beforehand – the store name, date, or signature. I can spot these types pretty accurately, I’ve developed a stereotype that generates some false positives, but never traps me behind a false negative. The mere existence of the personalities gives rise to the following lane.

“I Frequently Jump to Between Checkouts Hoping the New One Will Move Faster” Lane: These folks are never happy, but are not as full of themselves as those in the Ultra Express lane. They will jump from lane to lane on a whim. They also tend not to actually enter the physical lane between the magazines, candy, and junk-toy displays that leads to the register in the hopes that a new register might open that they could pounce on. They also tend not to put their items on the conveyor belt until they begin checking out.

Lane for the “Technically Challenged”: These folks always seem to have trouble making payment. They never use cash and pay with credit or debit cards which never seem to work. They know all of the tricks, rubbing the stripe on the back with their finger or piece of clothing, wrapping the card in a plastic shopping bag, changing the speed of the swipe, etc. If they make it past the swipe stage, they probably need to find a piece of paper in their purse/wallet that has their pin number on it which they either can’t quickly find or invariably mis-key the first try at the keypad.

The “I Always Question the Price of at Least One Item” Lane: There is just something about these folks that cause scanners to misread the bar-code or the store product price databases to become corrupt. If those failures don’t occur, they seem to bring along out of date store ads or expired coupons – just in case. These folks usually cause the entire lane of customers behind them to become, at least temporarily, one of the other types of customer.

The “People on Cell Phones” Lane: They start out in line talking, for all to hear, about things that should be kept private. At the register, the clerk must guide them through every step of making payment via hand signals or semaphore flags. It is as though they have never bought anything before – the part of their brain still functioning in our reality probably hasn’t the capacity to remember how transactions work.

“I’m Actually Making Multiple Separate Purchases” Lane: I get burned by this one too often. At first it looks like they are going to by 10 items, but you soon find out that will be achieved through at least 3 separate transactions: one for themselves, one for mom, and one for some other relative or neighbor. They  do mean well, but they need their own lane.

The “I Can’t Count” Express Lane: These lanes always have an item limit of 10, 20, or sometimes 30. Some folks simply can’t count, have inventive ways to group several items into one abstract (I was going to say logical but …) item, or they are really Type-A’s who’ve found the Ultra Express lane closed again. Quite simply, these folks should be spanked – HARD.

I’ve probably missed a few, but this should be a good start.