Faith in Humanity Restored!

And faith in the intelligence of supermarket employees lost.

Not that my opinion differed all that much on either issue previously, but it’s nice to have your views confirmed every once in a while.

Tonight after work I decided to go to the supermarket so I could avoid eating yet another frozen meal.  The fact that I always buy the exact same frozen meal (Milano Doria) probably doesn’t help the situation; but, if anything, saving myself from monotony is a pretty good motivation to go shopping.  I’m lucky in that the local Valor supermarket is within 5 minutes of my apartment, so I headed straight there from the station before going home.  I had a few things in mind that I wanted to pick up: bananas, mandarins, ham, bread… but I was also just casually wandering around, seeing what might take my fancy.  When I spotted the wine with Christmas hats it was impossible to resist.  When I saw there was one from Australia it made it even more so.  I grabbed a bottle of Sparkling Rose Moscato and headed to the register.  That’s where my problems began.

I suddenly realised that I was almost out of cash, having been planning on heading to the ATM tomorrow – my day off.  ‘Have no fear’, my wallet said to me, ‘there’s your emergency bank card, useful for just such an occasion!’  The fact that my wallet was talking to me had little impact on a brain already focussed on whether or not the card would be accepted.

It was not.

Therein lay my second problem of the evening.  The register proceeded to make several disheartening beeping noises, before my card was handed back to me a second (or possibly third) time and a look was given by the check-out woman that plainly said, what’s the plan, Stan?  Here’s where the restoring of faith in humanity comes in.  Are you ready for it? It’s definitely up there with all the best Christmas miracles.

This guy walks up behind me – he had obviously sensed a fellow foreigner in some distress – and goes, what’s the problem?  I told him my card had been declined, however the look on my face, as well as my open wallet, clearly said that I was in slightly more dire straits than that.  He then goes, how much are you short?  I said it’s ok, I’ll just say goodbye to the Christmas wine (and its cute little hat).  He said nah really. I said like a thousand.  He said here you go, it’s Christmas.  Oh my goodness I could not thank him enough!  He saved my wine, put an end to my embarrassment (or so I thought) and made me appreciate just how awesome humans can be sometimes.

You thought the story was over, right?  Not so.  After ensuring I had enough cash for all my fruit and wine and things, I handed it all over, and waited for this trying time to be over and done with.  Cue another series of disheartening beeps from the cash register.  Apparently once you press the ‘pay with card’ button, it isn’t so easy to then switch to cash.  Especially taking into consideration the extra difficulty of removing one lonely apple from my purchases (turns out I had slightly underestimated how much I was short by.  Oh well).  A supervisor was promptly called; more beeps sounded; and the random check-out girl who was just standing around watching the situation unfold was sent away to help the customers who were now starting to get banked up behind me.

Now, having worked at a supermarket for some months before coming to Japan (I had to save somehow) I could understand the frustration of all involved.  But my prior experience also told me that it should not have been this difficult to fix the problem.  Absolute worst case scenario: they put my groceries through another check-out and restart the annoying register.  Although why they weren’t simply able to either return to the item screen or cancel and restart the purchase was beyond me.  Eventually, after much pointing and encouragement from me, they finally took my groceries (sans apple) to a self-serve check-out, and the original check-out woman began scanning and bagging my items.

The final snag on an otherwise, well, half miserable and half miraculous evening shop, was that the SCO didn’t like the wine.  Anyone who has worked at a supermarket with SCO knows that they can be fickle beasts at the best of times; and this certainly wasn’t the best of times.  I think that maybe the hat was affecting the registered weight of the item, in which case a simple removal ought to have fixed it.  Unfortunately my oh-so-helpful server wasn’t on the same wave-length; fortunately, after the fifth or sixth time she lifted it up and put it back down again, the SCO realised that resistance was futile and let her continue the scanning and bagging process.

There endeth my evening shop.  In future I will be more careful.  I will also need to find an opportunity to pay it forward at some point in the near future.  I also really need to learn to be more observant.  Upon my return home I ran into a neighbour, and after relaying the story to her, she informed me that when faced with a similar cashless situation she had simply ‘chotto matte’d the check-out chick, and dashed to the (apparently invisible to me) in-store ATM.

Woe is me.



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