Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Self-Checkouts and the “Pig”


I do not care for self-checkouts. I never wanted to be a cashier at Dollar General. When I go to a store I expect to be waited on. I stop at the Piggly Wiggly in town. The “Pig” was the first self-service grocery store in the country. It started in 1916 in Tennessee, and no one knows why the name. But down here everyone loves them and refers to them as the “Pig”. Originally no one shopped for groceries. You gave your list to the clerk, who filled your order. The Piggly Wiggly changed all that.

There are always a couple smiling faces from the clerks standing at the checkout lines. They are genuinely friendly and talkative. Southern kids seem more respective and courteous. They check the egg carton for cracked eggs. The other night the young girl went to ring up my groceries and she noticed a rip in the brown sugar bag. I never saw it, but she ran off to get another one off the shelf before finishing up my purchase. They have carry-out kids as well. They put the bags in the cart and start for the door. You just walk behind them and point them to your vehicle. They ask about your day, talk about the weather, inquire about your plans for the weekend. It is refreshing to have a pleasant visit. I usually have my old black lab in the back seat of my pickup and they say hello to my dog and tell me about their pet, while stacking the bags in the front seat. I don’t ever expect Piggly Wiggly will have self-checkouts.

One evening I had to drive to Clarkesville to get dog food. I feed NutriSource dog food. It is a high-quality food and that was the closest store that sells it. It’s a forty-five minute drive to J-M Petland. I take State Hwy 79 into Clarkesville and turn on Charlemagne which intersects Fort Cambell Boulevard. Charlemagne Blvd is where the tornado hit Clarkesville in December of 2023. Over ninety homes were destroyed along that road.

I don’t go up Fort Campbell Blvd very far. It will take you right into the Army base. I tried going to Fort Campbell one time to get an item my wife bought off marketplace. I had to stop at the guard shack to get permission to enter the base. They asked for driver’s license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration. There was a very grumpy guard on duty. My insurance card had my name, address, vehicle information and VIN. He asked where my vehicle registration was and I said the info was on my insurance card. He wouldn’t even look at it. He just looked at me and barked back that shouldn’t even show up without the proper documentation, I was told to leave immediately and “Next”. I left feeling fortunate I wasn’t shot over this infraction.

On my way back from the pet store I stopped at the Dollar General outside of Woodlawn. I recall a red Mustang convertible leaving as I pulled in. I went in to get some plastic flowers for a window box on our house. We don’t plant real flowers so we don’t have to water them. I selected my red, blue and yellow flowers and looked for a clerk. No one was to be found. I went to the self-check out and rang up my order, paid with my card and looked around before leaving. It was after 9pm and no one in the store. I walked out to my pick-up and then noticed there wasn’t another vehicle in the parking lot. I had just shopped at a non-staffed store. Maybe the girl in the red Mustang was the employee and just decided to go home early for the night.

As I drove home, I pondered this experience. There are big cities where people loot stores and shoplift merchandise at will. Some stores have to lock up items to keep them from walking out with light fingered shoppers. I am so happy to live in a place in Tennessee where people have integrity and be part of a community where the honor system works because the people there can be trusted. Nationwide the trend for self-checkout seems to be reversing. Todd Vasos, Dollar General CEO just announced that a number of stores opened in the last year with self-checkout only, will be converted back to conventional clerk checkout shortly. It seems that shrinkage at these un-manned stores is more than double the national average. I stopped by at the local DG the other day to buy an electric shaver. After I completed my task as a checkout clerk, I headed out. I hadn’t been trained on how to deactivate the magnetic tab on the box. That is where the alarm went off. I had tripped the theft alarm at the front door with my shaver purchase. I wasn’t paid to be part of the loss prevention team so I just walked to my car with the alarm bell ringing in my ear.