This morning sucked. It sucked because of Montana's labor shortage. It sucked because I was put in an awkward position as a customer, but it wasn't anyone's fault.

To be VERY clear: my words and frustration stated here are not at all directed to the nice young man who was working (alone) the entire front register area today. He was assisting several people at once who were using the self check-out island, which I'm sure is no easy task.

I went grocery shopping at 10am on a Tuesday, thinking it was an ideal time. Seriously, these days we have to think about when and how we shop for things. Is the store likely to be staffed? Am I avoiding peak hours? Well, apparently I was wrong about it being an ideal time.

(Not that it matters, but I shop at various stores depending on where in town I am, how much stuff I need and who has decent sales. I try to plan my shopping trips to save time AND money because frankly, I despise grocery shopping and always have.)

I had a list, felt organized and didn't need to do a "search and destroy" but I DID need a full small cart of groceries. By the time I was ready to check out, that small cart was packed and it ended up being about $200 worth of stuff and my receipt says I purchased 41 items.

Grocery Cart - Michelle Wolfe
Grocery Cart - Michelle Wolfe

So I'm ready to check out with my 41 items, some of which are "Manager's Special" meat packages that have a special coupon on them and I know they require a checker to scan the discount. There are no actual check-out lines open. ONLY the small self check-out islands.

  • Me: "Hi there, I need to get checked out with a cart full."
  • Guy: "We don't have anybody right now."
  • Me: (glancing at cart full of items) "So.....what am I supposed to do? I have a bunch of stuff..."
  • Guy: "Just use one of the self check-outs."
  • Me: (awkwardly smiling) "Are you joking?"
  • Guy: "No, sorry. It's just me here until 11."
  • Me: (awkwardly still smiling and silently getting super pissed off that I have to deal with an entire cartload of groceries by myself) "Okee dokie."

In this day and age of staffing shortages everywhere, I do NOT mind being super patient. I don't mind waiting in line. I don't mind things being out of stock. I don't mind self-service for that long as I'm prepared for it. Had I known they didn't have any check-out staff, I wouldn't have bought so many items obviously. I'm not a complete idiot...I know how to use the self check-out kiosks, but I didn't expect to be FORCED into using one with a stupid number of items.

phot - Michelle Wolfe
phot - Michelle Wolfe

Did I get it done? Yes. Was the young guy super helpful when I needed him to scan a few special discounted items? Yes. Did I make a disaster area out of my check-out space? Yes. Did the machine beep and chirp at me incessantly about where I put my loaded bags? Yes. Did I feel like kind of an a-hole? Yes.

But I assure you, by the time I was done there were far more bags on the floor waiting for me to load them back into my cart. Somehow I felt like the problem. That sucks as a customer and I can only imagine how that must feel for a manager of a store desperately trying to hire minimal staff to keep the doors open.

We all wish we had a magic wand to help ease the staffing shortages that are affecting SO many businesses. I don't have a solution to offer, but I do offer my sympathy to the young guy busting his ass at the grocery store today.  He did his best, as did I. First world problem? Perhaps. But it was weird, awkward and inconvenient for all parties involved.

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