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The Witching Hour at Wal-Mart

You have been there. It may not have been Wal-Mart, but it could have been any of the big box stores. It is that magical time of the day when all the cashiers disappear. Thirty-five lanes could be open, only three are. When you walk into the store and there are at least a dozen lanes open and the lines are reasonable. You shop and return to the front only to find that there are now only three open and the lines are quadruple what they were. Oh, you’ve been there.

Such was a night that my wife and I ventured to Wal-Mart. It was one of those glorious nights when the boys were away at my parent’s place. We made the trek to buy one thing. My oldest was getting a new bike for his birthday. I had taken him there several weeks earlier to test drive some to find the right size for him. That was our mission that night. Just to buy one thing. We really should know better, we are not rookies at this.

We went in the store and got the bike. I walked it to the front to discover that there were now only 3 of the 35 lanes open. The lines were about 10 people deep. I resigned myself to wait while my wife was looking at some other items. Of course I evaluated each lane. How many people were in each lane and how full their buggy was. I chose what I thought would be a “quicker” lane. Boy was I wrong.

I apparently chose “the new checker” lane. The lady was nice enough, but she was new and had to refer to her cheat sheet with each of the people in front of me. When I see this, I take a deep breath knowing that everyone has to learn, some quicker than others. That was fine. What I didn’t realize was that two carts in front of me was “the price-matcher.” Again, I like to get the best price I can as well. However, combine the new checker with the price-matcher and you have entered the Bermuda Triangle of shopping.

My wife shows up about this time. What you need to know about her is that she doesn’t have the most patience in these situations, neither do I for that matter. We are both evaluating what is happening here. We start looking at other lanes. They are long and we are only two customers away from freedom. We start giving those glances at others in line with us, the “can you believe this?” glance. We overhear what is going on.

This is how it played out:

The new checker is trying to help the price-matcher, but has to keep looking at her cheat sheet to figure it out.

The checker scans several items only for the price-matcher to give her a new store ad with a lower price.

The checker tells the price-matcher that some of these items are not the same product, so she can’t match the price.

The price-matcher then decides that she doesn’t want those products.

The manager then gets involved to help the situation out as the price-matcher dickers over 25 cents on sprite.

At this point my wife and I are starting to lose it. We are both trying very hard not to the judge the price-matcher, but didn’t completely succeed. Two things came to mind. One, if you really have to save that 25 cents on Sprite, maybe you shouldn’t really be buying it. Two, I would have been happy to give the price-matcher the $10 that she would have saved. But I think she would have taken the $10 and still price-matched everything.

My wife and I are both beyond antsy at this point. We only came in to buy one thing and then be on our merry way. Finally, the price-matcher pays and moves on. The person in front of us quickly gets through then it is our turn. I have a gift card that my oldest earned from selling popcorn for the Cub Scout pack that he was in. (If you’ve been paying attention, yes I used his gift card to pay for part of his birthday gift. He had no idea that it was even still around.) The checker has to pull out her cheat sheet to figure out the card. I take a deep breath as I am now just a few seconds away from being done.

Ironically, another checker relieves the one that just helped me as I am walking away. I also see as I am walking away, the price-matcher at the customer service desk still dickering over the price of stuff.

Lessons Learned:

Sometimes you get stuck and have no good options.

Sometimes you just have to suck it up and wait.

But the biggest lesson of all is that if you ask God to give you patience, He will give you ample opportunities to learn this.

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