Stores could Save Money and Parking Spaces by Providing more Service As the checkout clerk fades, the service clerk should be brought back.

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Aug 15, 2019 No Comments ›› admin

By Lynn Woolley

The days of the checker at big stores like HEB, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target, and Albertson’s are almost gone. The days of having someone following you to your car pushing the grocery cart, and helping you load your purchases into your car have been gone for a long time. That’s where the stores are making a big mistake.

A cart repository bin extending into adjacent parking space. (All photographs by Lynn Woolley)

The checkout clerk is endangered because of technology.

At the HEB store in my neighborhood, most items have the Universal Product Code, also known as the bar code. These codes are ugly, especially on books and magazines, but they’ve stood the test of time. They make it easy for stores to set and change prices. The problem with grocery stores has always been produce (stuff like squash and broccoli) that must be weighed in order to be priced. Now, some stores allow you to weigh the product, enter a short code, and print a sticker with a bar code. When all stores have this feature, the checkout clerk is doomed.

As the checkout clerk fades, the service clerk should be brought back.

In order to cut costs, stores long ago went to a practice of making you unload your own groceries onto the checkout counter, sack them yourself for the most part, and push your own cart to your car. When they did that, service died.

An overflowing bin.

If you’re elderly or physically impaired, they will help if you‘re lucky. Otherwise, you’re on your own. It’s part of the price we all pay to keep prices lower and help giant stores make more profit.

But there are problems associated with this practice, and you have to wonder if the stores really save anything by forcing us to provide our own service. My thought is that providing a modicum of service – after you’ve already functioned as your own checkout clerk – might benefit the stores as well as the customers.

Here’s how:

Customers would feel more appreciated.

This is a simple thought, but hear me out. Let’s say there are two grocery stores nearby and the prices are about the same. One of them offers someone to push a loaded cart to the car and help unload it. I would choose the store with service. I think elderly people would, and certainly disabled veterans and others with a physical problem of some sort would.

Stolen and abandoned carts.

(Yes, I know that stores now offer delivery services. Two things here. This may or may not be a fad. But even if it is the new norm, some people like me prefer to choose my own lead of lettuce, and peruse the brands of canned food, and so on. Stores may also lose money on delivery due to the fact that “impulse” buying does not come into play.

Stores would not have to purchase as many carts.

This is just me, but it seems that it takes more carts in order to have enough because so many of them are out in those little parking bins all the time. Inside the store, someone notices that cart availability is low, and so someone has to go gather up all the carts and bring them back in.

If a service clerk was in play, then each cart would come right back into the store as soon as groceries were unloaded.

Cart left in a parking space.

Stores would not have as many carts stolen.

Grocery carts often function as rolling storage compartments for the homeless. Of course, it would be cruel to take them back. But if the carts were not left out on the parking lots for long period of time, it would be harder to steal them, saving the stores money.

What is the cost to the store of a cart? About $165 according to a quick internet search. Using that figure, you could multiply it by the number of times you see abandoned carts all over town, or people walking down the street with one loaded up with personal possessions. This costs stores money, and they probably pass the cost on to consumers.

Parking lot storage bins could be eliminated.

Sometimes, in a crowded parking lot, you see what appears to be an open spot, but it turns out to be a cart repository bin. And it’s usually not just one spot that’s lost. These things often take up two or three spaces that might be used for cars. Sometimes, the bins get so full that the carts stick out into the driving lanes.

Abandoned cart.

The city I live in – Temple, Texas, has two HEB stores, two Walmart Supercenters, and a few smaller choices. The big supermarkets are jammed with people all hours of the day. Parking is sometimes hard to come by. Losing ten or so spaces to the cart bins is a waste of needed space.

The little engines that workers use to drive the carts back into the stores could be eliminated.

There is no telling what these things cost. I’ve always thought it somewhat humorous to watch a clerk guiding a long train of grocery carts back to the store with a little engine pushing on the other end.

Wear and tear on cars and carts could be lessened.

White most people deposit their carts in a bin, some don’t. Sometimes, those carts roll and hit a car, damaging the paint, or even denting the side of the car. Sometimes, the storage bins are so close to the parking place that a driver has to hug the side of the rail, making it hard for passengers to get out without banging the door.

Also note how many times you see someone hammer a cart into the back of a row in one of those bins. The carts are sturdy, but they are not impervious to damage. Many of the carts at my neighborhood Walmart need repair.

These problems all go away with the simple act of providing service.

Sometimes, a little service could go a long way.

The checkout clerk is pretty much gone – and with the bar codes in play, that was bound to happen. Most people don’t mind checking their own groceries so long as it’s easy to do. I’m in the category of “let me check out on my own, but a store clerk should push my cart to the car.”

With that plan, stores would need fewer carts, we’d reclaim lots of parking spaces, carts would not be stolen and discarded to rust all over town, the ugly repository bins and the little return engines would be no longer needed, and the clerks might even get tipped for their service.

Besides, it wouldn’t hurt multi-billion-dollar stores to provide a bit of service.

lwoolley9189@gmail.com

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