A few weeks ago I did something at the grocery store and I can't decide if it was heroic or moronic. Luckily I was alone (i.e. without children) so the only people likely to be judging me were in the immediate vicinity of checkout 12 at Loblaws.
I usually shop for groceries Saturday morning. I like the Saturday morning shop. I get out by 9:30 so I'm home by 11 or so, and while the stores I frequent can be busy they are normally pleasantly so. This Saturday it was a bit busier than usual but I wasn't in any particular hurry. I was unloading my cart onto the conveyor belt when I heard the clerk indicate to the customer two in front of me: "Oh. There's no label on this bread. I'm going to have to get a price check.".
Okay, I think. Whatever. It's a loaf of bread. Not the do-it-yourself, put it in the bag and give it a bin label tag kind of bread. It should have been labelled but was not. Store oversight. She'll call, the bakery person will give her a price and that will be that. I'm not in a hurry. (That's a critical point so let me note it again. I wasn't in a hurry. Was. Not.)
But the bakery person doesn't give a price over the phone, despite what I'll say was a fairly accurate description of the bread product in question by the cashier. She, the bakery person (I assumed it was a she) wants to see the bread product before wagering how much it should cost. Okay, I think. She's being thorough. Although...really? Because, again, I'm not in a hurry, but the lady trying to buy the bread is 80 if she's a day, and she's leaning on her walker at this point, and I would imagine she has just expended a whole days worth of energy coming to the grocery store. She looks tired and done-in. Just give her the bread, I'm thinking. It can't be more than 2 or 3 bucks. She just spent $50 on a tiny amount of food that she's going to struggle home with..Just give her the bread.
So bakery person (it was a she) makes her way to check-out 12. Which takes a while because it's on the opposite side of the store. Glances at the bread and says "Hmmm. I'm going to have to go back and see if I can find another loaf like that before I give you a price.".
Okay. Now I will admit to becoming a wee bit irritated. The cashier is aware that she has a growing line-up. It's officially busy, and she is apologetic to those of us lingering in lane 12 as she asks her colleague to 'please hurry'. (Yeah. I don't see that happening.) So I do something that I normally wouldn't do. I say something. Out loud. "I'll buy the bread. Just give it to her and add it to my order. Please. Don't make her wait any longer."
Here is where I feel bad, because the cashier turns to the person trying to buy the bread and says "That girl (yes, girl) said she'll buy your bread. She's in a hurry.". See - no. I'm not in a hurry. "I'm not in a hurry!" I say. "I just think that you should give her the bread. She's been waiting patiently , it's a store oversight that the bread is unlabelled..and it can't be more than a few bucks.". Now I'm babbling, and the lovely person trying to buy bread is shuffling back to where I'm standing, counting out coins, because she doesn't want me to buy her bread. "That's just not right, dear", she says. And the kicker: "I'm so sorry to make you wait.".
Long story short, the cashier gives the customer the bread. The customer leaves enough to cover the bread any way (but has left well before the bakery person gets back to lane 12 with a very accurate price for said bread). Making my plea to buy the bread seem like the childish offer of an overindulged princess having a tantrum because she couldn't get through the check-out fast enough. Which it honestly wasn't. I was in no hurry. (Did I mention that already?) It was just one of those moments that seem to happen too often in life, where the world has gotten so big that we can't offer a senior citizen a free loaf of bread....instead we make her wait (A good 10 minutes. Although me? Not in a hurry.) apologizing to everyone for something that isn't her fault. So I tried to do what I thought was a good thing but in retrospect, made me feel kind of bad. I'm not suggesting that grocery stores give away merchandise willy-nilly (although if you have to wait more than 5 minutes for a price check, it should be free) but it might be an idea to empower your people to be able to assess the situation and say "Wow. This bread doesn't have price. Looks like it's worth about a dollar, wouldn'cha say?". Surely a cashier who rings through dozens of loaves of bread in a day can gauge how much an average loaf costs and make a judgement call. I'm sure there are a dozen reasons why that's a bad idea, and cases where people 'take advantage' and it ends up hurting the retailers bottom line. And isn't that also a sad commentary on the state of things?
Moral of the story - if I ever find myself running my very own grocery empire I will give free bread to those who find themselves at the cash register with un-priced bread. Promise.