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Monday, October 15, 2007

Checkout Lines

I am not a patient person in the checkout line. I have to struggle not to feel frustrated by the clerk and the people in front of me - not to mention that I have incredibly bad luck. In the checkout line I always get in the line where the checker is in training, where the person ahead of me is counting out her change one penny at a time and drops several coins in the process, where there needs to be a price check.

However, I am always also trying to cram too much into too small a bit of time. Today I had an empty hour between clients and went to buy a present for my grandson. I knew what I wanted and I was in and out of that store in 10 minutes. I was thrilled because I knew in the 20 minutes I had left before going back to the office that I could pick up something I needed at Michaels.

So I parked and ran into Michaels. I had what I needed in about five minutes. Then I went to the checkout and there was a line of six people waiting to check out and a problem with the first customer. I stood in line while two of the six people checked out. Meanwhile the line behind me had grown by three. I'm looking at my watch - I have to be in the office in 10 minutes and it's about a 7 minute drive from the store.

A checker signaled to the woman in front of me to move to a new checkout line. In essence the checker had visually divided the line in half and signaled the woman at the number 4 position in our line to move to her newly opened checkout.

I said, "Ma'am, are you opening another line?" The checker looked at me and nodded yes.

I left my line and moved to the new line, behind the woman I had been behind originally. The man behind me in the first line said loudly and with a contemptuous tone, "Actually HE was next in line," pointing to the man who was (now that the woman had moved to the new line) in front of me in the original line.

When someone makes a loud comment in public like that the usual goal is to shame the recipient of the comment. However when someone is in effect insulting you, a powerful assertive technique is to agree with the truth.

I looked the speaker in the eye and said, "You're right, he was ahead of me." I then looked and the man who was about to check out in line one and said pleasantly and with a smile on my face, "Sir, would you like to come over here, ahead of me?"

He shook his head no and smiled at me really big as he began the checkout process in the original line while I waited for my turn in the new line.

From an assertive point of view, this went well. I owned the possibility that the man ahead of me was in fact next; I offered the place to him; he and I had a nice smiling interaction and the insulter in the original line was left without the power of putting me down successfully.

Oh, and to continue my bad luck, the woman in front of me in the new line had a problem with her purchases and left in the middle of checking out to go back to the racks for something else, holding up the line yet again!

I did make it back to the office just as the clock turned to the hour.

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