Nine Items or Fewer home > backlash

I love to count, ah, ah, ah!

Part of my series on fun with Safeway staff.

The nine items checkout. It must have been designed for the pedants. There are two things to check when you're at these checkouts.

  1. Does it say "Nine items or less" or "Nine items or fewer" - if the former, than you should get them to change it, since "less" refers to a quantity that is measurable, but not divided into discrete units, where "fewer" refers to collections of units - items are units etc.
  2. Does anyone in front of you have more than nine items - COUNT THEM! - if they do, then make some sort of comment about it. Increase the reaction in proportion to the number of items they have above the limit.
  3. Do you have nine items or fewer in your basket - this is not the primary consideration, but worth checking. If you have extra ones, try to hide them underneath something, so that you're not rumbled out until the last minute. 

It's a sad world when you feel outraged if someone breaks a pointless arbitrary rule in the checkout queue, however, I felt suitably aroused when the old dear in front of us in the queue was unloading her trolley full of goods. Sure, it was one of those half depth trolleys - more of a crate on wheels, but she could have achieved the nine item quota with it several times over. Having got as far as "Excuse me" in the sentence "Excuse me, did you know that this was the nine-items or fewer checkout" before being stopped from making a scene by my shopping partner, I resorted to looking aghast.

The checkout assistant saw my puppy-dog sad eyes and took pity on me. She intervened and spoke to the lady in question, who had unloaded about nine items, and was about to proceed with unloading the other thirty nine. The lady repacked her trolley and feigned ignorance that she'd hit the nine items checkout. I chuckled, partly out of relief at not having to wait an extra MINUTE to be served, and partly because the miscreant till-usurper could hardly complain that this was anyone's mistake but her own, since the huge sign above our heads, and the conveyor belt, populated almost as much by "next customer please" dividers as by shopping, was a dead giveaway!

So, thumbs up to Slightly Spotty Checkout Girl!

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19 April 2001
Ashley Frieze