Friday, August 30, 2013

The Self-Checkout Phenomenon

     This is quite possibly the most random post I have ever imagined writing, but I wanted to share what the Lord taught me last week through a self-checkout machine.

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   The automatic doors at Target could not open fast enough. I was in a hurry to make my purchase and go home. I got what I needed and, as usual, power-walked straight for the self-checkout machines.

     The line was longer than usual. A man and his wife not-so-stealthily skipped in front of me. Then, I noticed that they, along with everyone else in my line, were looking at the other checkout stations that were manned by cashiers. Those lines were clearly shorter (1-2 people), yet no one moved away from the now enormous self-checkout line. Within a minute the cashiers had no customers. Everyone in my line looked away, pretending not to notice that those cashier stations were open (which was incredibly comical). Intrigued, I remained in the line for the sole purpose of waiting to see who caved. And NO ONE did! Cashiers watched as 20 people slowly went through self-checkout.
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     I have seen this self-checkout phenomenon several times since then (in Kroger, Walmart, etc), and it got me thinking...

   Why do we use self-checkout stations?
   1) We want to get in and out quickly.
        Sometimes it is quicker to do this, especially when you only have one 
        item or when Walmart only has 2 register stations open.

   2) It is fun and makes you feel in control.
        Don't lie, you love scanning your own stuff and using that touch screen.

   3) We want to avoid human interaction. 
        This is usually my reason. It is all about me. Getting what I need, doing it myself, and getting out on my time with as few interruptions as possible. Human interaction takes effort on my part. Last week, I went into Kroger three times, got what I needed, used the self-checkout, and left. I made 3 transactions without speaking to anyone.We don't just do this in stores. Today it would be totally possible to go to college and, if you played your cards right, avoid talking to anyone for a whole month (made even easier if the class is lecture-based). We tend to stay in our bubbles and get annoyed if anyone interrupts what goes on in that bubble.

     What do I need to do?
     If people have dignity because they are made in God's image, I need to go out of my way to show them that dignity. People need to know that they have value. None of this is new information. All I am proposing is that there are very practical, daily ways to share the love of Christ and show respect to people. It's about reevaluating how and why I interact with the people.

     1) Avoid the self-checkout.
        Sometimes this is the only option, but I want to stop isolating myself and interact with people who may need their day brightened by a warm smile and kind customer. When you choose self-checkout over a cashier, you tell that person that they are not valuable and you do not appreciate their work. Also, avoiding self-check promotes jobs.

     2) Slow down and embrace interruptions.
        I need to keep my world from being all about me. I need to slow down and make time for people because they deserve it. I need to ask sincerely "How are you today?" and to be prepared to stay for 5-10 minutes if the answer is more honest than "Fine." I need to put my phone down whenever possible so that people know that they are worth my complete attention.

     3) Be a friendly regular.
        I need to seek interaction with people instead of avoiding it and staying in my natural bubble of introversion. Being a "regular" at Starbucks and a local ice cream place has allowed me and MJ to get to know the people who work there. They are serving us, and they deserve to know that we are interested in them, not just our order. We have met some really cool people that way and enjoy going even more now that we know a friendly face will always greet us. Simply calling someone by their name can show them that you care. Being a regular who cares is one easy way to show people that they are valuable. 
Get involved in people's lives. Learn their names. Have meaningful conversations. Love them.