Born in a Walmart parking lot… The Urban Yoke

March 1, 2011

Ever notice how a shopping cart is almost exactly the size of a car’s trunk? Both can comfortably fit a body and/or the spoils of a Sunday morning mission to Walmart. This revelation came too late for yours truly, who recently found herself stranded in the middle of a snowy Walmart parking lot with a cart’s worth pile of loot heaped at her feet, but no car, no trunk, and no options – and stubbornness can only take a girl so far.

Behold... The Urban Yoke (and delightful shadow angel - who watches over those of us foolish enough to buy more than we can carry)Just then, a small sedan pulled up out of nowhere. The driver opened his door and leaned out. “Are you ok? Do you need a hand there?”

Now, I’m a great believer in chivalry; I take an opened door with all due grace and appreciation. But I draw the line at accepting rides – however fortuitous – from strange men in Walmart parking lots, men who quite possibly spend their Sunday mornings trolling said parking lots for bodies to fit snugly into their trunks.

“No thanks,” I said, with all due grace and appreciation, “I’m fine. It’s just a question of logistics.”


Now, I’m also a great believer in creative problem solving. I took a fresh look at all my available resources (excluding the man who gave me a weird look before driving off). Eureka! And the ‘Urban Yoke’ was born! Note toilet paper back padding. After a joyous stroll home (ok I’ll be honest here, it was still one heck of a trudge) I pulled the hubby out of bed to come take a picture of my genius. He also gave me a weird look, especially when I described my vision for an ergonomically molded, carbon fiber version for Mountain Equipment Coop. I guess some of us are just ahead of our time….and other people don’t buy more than they can carry, sigh.


Top 10 rules for the checkout line (+bonus!)

June 25, 2008

Dear customer,

This is a letter straight from the trenches, from a poor cashier who spent years chained to a register. Despite the fundamental flaw in our relationship – I want your money and you don’t want to give it to me – I propose a truce. You and I have an amazing opportunity to improve each other’s day! To guarantee smiles on both sides of the counter, just remember to take these ten rules with you the next time you go shopping.

1-Please be PATIENT. The scanner will only read one barcode at a time and the computer will only take one keystroke at a time. Remember this: the cashier hates that you have to wait even more than you do. We know what waiting does to people, and those are the nightmares that wake us up in the middle of the night!

If you do find yourself in a line:
-get your money ready
-group your items and expose their bar-codes
-do not under any circumstances make any kind of repetitive noise (tapping, clicking, gnashing of teeth, etc.)

Note: The speed of the line should in no way be taken a function of the cashier’s competence or intelligence. Even geniuses have to pay rent! Grab a magazine, grab a breath, grab a pack of gum, and deal with it.

2-When you bring me a product with no barcode and no identifying marks whatsoever, there will be an inevitable delay. No, I do not know the code for 26″ by 45″ alabaster mini blinds off the top of my head. If I did, both you and I should be very worried.

Note:Telling me the price is not a substitute for the inventory sku code, and throwing a drawer pull in my general direction while grunting something about two dollars just isn’t going to cut it. And then when you accuse me, indignantly, of not trusting you, well, now you’ve gone and made it personal!

3-If the item has no barcode it is not free. If it has a barcode, but doesn’t scan on my first try… it is not free. Second try… nope, still not free. Third… not free. Fourth….let me check…NOT FREE!

Note: I know you thought you were being clever and funny with your “must be free then”, but so did the other 10 000 people who tried to get it for free before you. And no, despite what you may have heard, I didn’t let them get away with it either.

4-I know this news will come as a shock to many of you, but in this great country we have something called tax (pronounced taks). Deep breath, let this new information sink in. Now, when you get to my cash, and before you open your mouth to ask what you’re going to ask, stop, and remember the new word you’ve just learned.

5- Yes, that is the terrifying total. I know it’s an awful shock to get up to the cash with 3 items that are $2 each and hear a total of $6 (plus that crazy tax thing). Accusing me of any number of devious ways I must have manipulated my scanning to rob you will not change the total. It will only make me want to use my apparent criminal genius to plot your untimely demise.

6- “I exist.” For the 30 seconds we are part of each other’s lives, you are my whole world. Every move I make, I do it for you. When you ignore me or, worse, spend the whole time on your cell phone, you (sniffle) break my heart.

7- Only you can decide if you want the green one or the blue one. Go on, revel in your freedom and independence. Just please make up your mind before you get to my cash.

8- When it comes to change, two heads are never better than one. When I’m half way through counting out $13.86 in change, the quarter you just found in your back pocket does not help in the slightest.

9- There is no __________ (insert random word from dictionary) special discount. No, not even on Wednesdays.

10- Being in a hurry does not make you any more important than the person you’re trying to butt ahead of. Being late does not make you special. It only makes you late. This is not communism, just plain good ol’ customer service!

Most of all, please recognize the awesome power you have as a customer to change my day for the better. It certainly doesn’t take much, a smile, a joke, a “someday you’ll get out of here” bit of encouragement. I guarantee not only I, but my next customer will thank you!

Bonus- If you insist on telling me step by step how to do my job, that’s wonderful. Come on back behind the counter and I’ll give you my apron, while I get the heck out of here!

(condensed from my “Ten (+4) Rules” article in New Writing)