Sunday, October 12, 2014

From the Annamaniacs Files - The Bar Code Files: Secrets Unveiled

We have another story here from the archives. Actually I believe this is the first published one for my humor column. Not sure on the date, but it would have been around 2000.

 The Bar Code Files - Secrets Unveiled

By Anna Maria Junus

            I must be old.  I remember chocolate bars that cost a dime. In fact you could get a bottle of pop and a chocolate bar for a quarter.  Phone calls cost a dime too.  Really cool bikes had banana seats, plastic ribbons on the handlebars, and pieces of plastic on the spokes that made that wonderful clicking noise while you rode.  Variety shows were the staple of TV and I had Marcia Brady hair and thought Peter Brady was really cute.  Playgrounds had lovely wooden swings and those merry-go-rounds that you could stand in the middle of or hang out on the end where the centrifugal force was bigger.  You could hang your head upside down while spinning on these things and get your brain convinced you were flying.   Milk came in glass bottles (and tasted better too).  And we carried our groceries home in paper bags.
            One paper bag held a lot of groceries. You could carry a years supply of Twinkies, Ding-Dongs and Pop Tarts in one.  Paper bags stood up by themselves and kept the contents inside.  You could carry paper bags in your arms and stand them neatly in your trunk.  After you were done transporting your groceries, you could decorate a paper bag and use it for wrapping paper.  Or keep it plain and use it for mailing paper.  You could wrap up fish and chips and it replaced paper towel in a pinch.  You could cut two holes in one put it over your head and make a mask, or simply put one over your head and pretend to be the unknown comic.  You could draw all over them, and cut them out, use them for dress patterns or even use them to make a dress. You could paper your kitchen, or create a model of the Taj Mahal. If you were cold, you could burn them. And they were great for really big lunches.
            Now we have plastic.
            Two items fit into a plastic bag.  Only one if it’s a jug of milk.  They don’t stand up.  They lay down in the trunk of your car while your foodstuffs have a party rolling around.
It reminds me of the days before we had seatbelts and my sisters and I would play the game of leaning with the curves in the road.  (I grew up on Vancouver Island, there were a lot of curves in the road.)  The object is to lean with the curves and squish each other hard.  My youngest sister got squished the most.  She was in the middle.  Now groceries do this.  They escape from those plastic bags and play “Squish your neighbor,” as you drive home from the store.  You have to repack your bags when you get home just to bring them into the house. 
You can’t carry plastic in your arms.  You have to carry them by their little plastic handles that hurt your fingers and break, leaving you with permanently curved fingers. You can’t use them for wrapping paper, or mailing paper.  And I can’t quite picture a schoolteacher saying “Okay everyone, lets put these plastic bags over our heads and I will draw two holes for your eyes.”  They make really lousy Taj Mahals.
            They really serve no use other than as a means of carrying a wet bathing suit. Sure a movie showed the beauty of a dancing plastic bag in the wind.  But ask anyone, are dancing plastic bags in the wind something you want to see in your neighborhood.  “Look honey, isn’t that plastic bag beautiful as it dances in the wind?”
            While I’m on the subject of groceries, how come products don’t have price tags anymore?  They have codes but no one can read those.  At the till you can’t pick something up and show the cashier by the code that a mistake has been made.
            It’s diabolical I tell you.  They put the prices on the shelves luring you into putting it into your cart, and they know there is no possible way your are going to remember what that item is supposed to cost.  Sometimes they don’t even put the prices on the shelves, causing you to search high and low for someone who works there and knows the price of things. (No such being exists).  In Wal-Mart they offer those little price checker machines, but they’re always on the opposite side of the store from where your are. 
            Then at the till, they give you a receipt that you can use to check.  Check against what? 
            I thought I would do some investigating.  This is what I found.

            At some point several years ago, the leaders in the “Grocer and Sundries Department” had a secret meeting.  Their goal was to figure out ways for the consumer to purchase cans of soup at 14.95 and bottles of shampoo for 39.97.
            The result was the bar code.  Following is an excerpt of a top-secret tape smuggled out of that meeting.

            “We’ll tell the consumer that there will be fewer mistakes at the checkout.  People make errors, computers don’t.”
            “And we’ll point out that we can lower prices, because we won’t have to hire people to individually price items.”
            “No one will notice in a shopping cart of groceries, that they’ve just paid sixty seven dollars for a roast.”
            “But what if someone does notice?”
            “We’ll just tell them it was an honest error on the part of the computer and give them the difference.  Then we keep the honest error.  Sure some people might notice, but the majority won’t.”
            “Hey we could pull in quite a few dollars that way.”
            “Especially if we post sales.  Green beans for ninety-nine cents.  Then we charge 1.99 for them.” (unintelligible response)
            “Hey, I’ve got an idea.  Why don’t we introduce plastic bags.  That way people will have more bags to carry.  They think they got a good deal spending a hundred dollars on ten bags of groceries rather than just two or three.”  (distant “yeah!”)
            “I like that.  Okay, out with the paper bags.  And what if we start charging for those plastic bags?”
            “This is getting better and better.  I’ve got it!  Let’s make the consumer pack their own bags.  We could tell them that we’re passing on the savings of not hiring packers, on to them.”
            “They can’t keep an eye on the till if they’re packing their own bags.”    (sounds of laughter).
            “Do you think the customer will pack his own bags?”
            “If you tell him he’s saving money he will.”
            “Some won’t.  Some will still want people packing their groceries and taking it out to the car.
            “Okay, so some won’t.  But it wouldn’t hurt to try.”    (rest of message garbled due to broken and fixed tape.)

            Of course, I can not and I will not reveal my sources.  Suffice it to say, they are presently residing out of the country in hiding.  After this report, I may have to join them.


Kathy Widenhouse said...

Those price checker machines are truly a godsend ... when they're near you, as you say. At our Wal-Mart, thank goodness, product prices are posted on the shelves.