Congress Raises Minimum Number of Unused Checkout Lanes
Washington, DC (AP) – For the first time in two decades, the government has increased the minimum number of supermarket checkout lanes that must be closed at one time, raising it to 4 from 3. The law applies to supermarkets that have at least 6 checkout lanes.
The law, dubbed the American Supermarket Standard Hampering Of Line Expediency, aims to maintain a certain level of customer dissatisfaction. “If the American supermarket consumer experiences too much efficiency, we run the risk of greater spending, which in turn contributes to inflation,” explained the bill’s sponsor, Fred Upton (R-MI). “While we’re working so hard to rein in the deficit, it makes no sense for us to be encouraging freewheeling spending on the part of Mr. and Mrs. America, so this is a natural move.”
The bill passed by a large margin in both houses, owing to bipartisan disdain for people who actually have to visit supermarkets, the overwhelming majority of whom do not make political campaign contributions. Retail groups lobbied heavily in favor of the law, preferring to have the option of blaming restrictions imposed from the outside for unpleasant conditions in their stores.
A provision of the law also clarifies the procedures for “express” lanes. Under the previous law, passed in 1981, strict rules prevented supermarkets from calling anything greater than 15 items “express,” with exceptions for multiple units of the same item. Under the new law, an additional provision mandates at least two delays of at least three minutes each for each item fewer than the express ceiling.
For example, if the lane maximum is 10 items or fewer and a customer wished to purchase only seven items, the cashier will be required to find some problem that takes an extra nine minutes to resolve before he or she may complete the transaction and accept the next customer. The bill gives a list of such possible problems but allows for the supermarket management to add to the list at its discretion.
Included in the list are running out of receipt paper, deciding it is time to replenish one or more of the small change denominations, and difficulty with authorizing a particular purchase – or any other difficulty that would necessitate calling over an already-occupied management figure.
Macomb Waite-Moore, manager of a Safeway in Portland, Oregon, greeted the news of the law’s passage with circumspection. “Fact is, we’ve been doing this kind of thing for years in any case.”
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