My head is about to explode from all of the contradictory statements coming from various segments of the Trump administration. The reduction in the tax rate that supports Medicare and Social Security that was under serious consideration, but, according to the Donald, is now off of the table. Trump’s zeal for universal background checks of firearms purchasers now seems to have ebbed since his recent meeting with the NRA honchos. His pronouncements that the economy is booming, while his economic advisers and other more independent sources openly disagree, stating that a recession is quite likely in the offing. What is a reasonably intelligent person, taking all of this information into account, to believe. (Boom!)

But there is something else that puzzles me. It’s in the retail grocery sector. There is a growing trend that I simply don’t understand.


Initially, the stores decided to reduce the number of cashiers by installing a few “self check-out” lanes. Now you are lucky if you can find one or two cashiers to ring up your purchases. Those may be fine if one is simply picking up a loaf of bread, or a jug of milk, or a ready made meal, but for someone’s large family shopping excursion, unless there is a discount for using said lanes, I can’t see where they save time or money. Most of the time those lanes take longer to navigate since there is almost always some item that doesn’t scan properly, or the machine refuses your method of payment, or some other problem arises and you have to wait for the staff member assigned to the task to come and do whatever was necessary to rectify the situation.

The newest questionable “advancement” is the advent of online shopping. More and more of the national and regional grocery chains are wholeheartedly embracing this concept. Unfortunately for those of us who prefer to see the produce and meats that we’re purchasing, as well as easily comparing shelf prices, we’re being ignored. I was talking with a friend who regularly shops at several stores in the Eldersburg area, and she related to me a situation that simply is poor customer service.

At the deli counter recently, she observed several employees behind the counter. She took her number slip and patiently waited for her number to be called. There were several other customers ahead of and behind her, all waiting to be served. One of the deli clerks was busy cutting meats for the display case, but the others were focused on their computers, and all were ignoring the growing line of customers.

At long last, a clerk called a number, however that person wasn’t nearby and did not respond. Instead of going on the the next number and serving that customer, the clerk returned to his computer to write down orders from people who were not even in the store. Eventually the person with the last number called returned to the deli counter and was waited on before those who were standing in the still growing line. After nearly 45 minutes, my friend finally got waited on. She asked about the lack of customer service and was told that those computer orders were the priority and they came in before she took her number.

That goes against everything that I was taught when I worked in retail. Our rule was that the most important customer was the one who looked you in the eye. Customers on the telephone or online could wait.

The larger chains are moving quite quickly to the point where they will turn their brick and mortar stores into warehouses and only do business via the computer or phone app. I’ve observed, in several stores, roving bands of employees pushing carts full of labeled bags cruising the aisles with lists of items in hand. I suppose these are the surrogate shoppers for those who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t want to take the time to get their own groceries and are willing to pay for the service.

Now I can see the need for that service for those who, due to injury, or illness, or infirmity, simply are unable to drive or have no access to transportation to the store. It’s true that I don’t know everyone’s situation, but when I was working 40 hours a week, helping raise two kids with all of their activities both in and outside of school, I could find time to do the family grocery run every week, usually on a Friday evening or Saturday morning.

Is the population simply growing too lazy to do things for themselves? Are those in the younger generations simply too enamored with technology that they can’t perceive the satisfaction, and yes, sometimes even joy, in doing even mundane things for one’s self?

Bill Kennedy writes every other week from Taneytown. You may contact him via e-mail at