I know that cashiers in supermarkets across Europe have a lot to think about and are dealing with customers who are usually wishing they were somewhere else. However, in my view this does not excuse them from being able to understand how the ‘Next Customer’ divider batons should work.
Firstly, in some supermarket chains it is quite common to find only one – perhaps two if you are lucky – dividers assigned to a till. This means that the customers further down the queue are denied the use of a divider just when they need it, so are reluctant to put their shopping on the belt in case it gets mixed up with the person in front. Before they know it they are half way down the checkout belt with basket still in hand and people behind them in the queue blocking their route back to the empty basket stack. Confusion ensues. To address this some decide instead to hang back, leaving a big gap on the belt to the shopping in front and causing the queue to extend back further into the aisles.
Finally the one divider – by now the focus of all in the queue – reaches the front of the belt as the first customer’s shopping is scanned through. Does the cashier immediately pick up the baton and sloosh it down the runner so a waiting customer can use it? No, they wait until they have taken the first customer’s money and are ready to start scanning the goods for the next one. Only then will they pick up the divider. However, further disappointment for the expectant queuers awaits as the cashier then either places it right at the beginning of the track, or makes a half-hearted attempt to push it along a little bit, which results in it moving approx 5 inches. The onus is now on you as the next customer, with the eyes of the queue behind boring into you, to retrieve the baton. This can only be achieved by awkwardly stretching over someone else’s food purchases, leaning across with coat sleeves brushing into their chicken thighs, and triumphantly grabbing it. Note that the customer in front of you, despite having just gone through the same procedure, rarely feels any obligation to help out at this point despite being closer to the baton than you are.
You now have your goods on the belt and safely segregated from the person in front. You can relax. The problem is now handed – much like a baton in a relay race, ironically – to the person behind you.
Even though the cashier must have noticed customers having to perform this manoeuvre over and over again, they seem unable to deduce that there is an issue, let alone that they could easily sort it out themselves. So it causes tension and frustration at exactly the point where supermarkets should be wanting customers to leave their stores with a good impression. It is a small yet easily remedied problem, is it not?