Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Can someone explain the importance of scanning a product's bar code?

I wish my favorite HR columnist could have been with me the other day when I stopped in at a local gas station to buy a newspaper.

He might have marveled at the repartee between me and the clerk who was manning the counter. Or, more accurately in this instance, womanning the counter. Perhaps personning the counter is the operative word here.

(Don’t you love the world of political correctness?)

I guess I would define Pat Perry’s work as being in the area of Human Resources. At least, that seems to be what he is writing about every other Sunday in these pages.

I may be defining HR rather loosely, but I tend to do that when I am wandering outside my area of expertise.

And that is a rather large area – about the size of the Oregon Territory before Jimmy Polk was finished working on it.

I say that with all due respect to a president of the United States whom I admire greatly for the huge land acquisition he engineered before retiring after a single term – an act of decency that others who have succeeded him might have considered as being in the best interest of the country.

I was once criticized for calling President Garfield “Jimmy,” but they called Carter that, didn’t they, and as a matter of fact that’s what my mother often called me, so I guess I can call President Polk that if I want to.

But I digress.

The paper I was buying at a gas station was not The News-Herald, obviously, because I have The N-H home-delivered seven days a week – a major convenience, if you think about it, because you don’t have to go someplace else to get it.

But the other paper somehow feels it is doing its job by delivering the paper only four days a week, so I have to go to a gas station, a drug store, a grocery store or somewhere else outside my ordinary loop, a major inconvenience when you consider my all-too-busy lifestyle.

Monday, I went to a gas station. I wish Pat Perry had been with me to observe the clerk’s reaction when I attempted to drop a dollar on the counter to pay for the paper.

I started to leave. It seems I am always in a hurry and was under the false impression I had done all I needed to do to pay for the paper.

The clerk called me back. “I have to scan it,” she said.

I knew what she was talking about. There is a little box of black stripes on the bottom of the page which, when scanned by a scanner (what else?) causes a chain reaction in the electronic system that lets “the system” know someone has paid for the paper.

“There’s my dollar,” I said.

“I have to scan it,” she repeated.

“What for?” I asked. “There’s my dollar.”

“I have to scan it,” she said again.

“Why do you have to scan it?” I asked.

“I have to scan it,” she said once again.

“What happens if you don’t scan it?” I asked.

“I have to scan it,” she said again.

“But what will happen if you don’t scan it?” I said. “Will something bad happen?”

“I have to scan it,” she said again.

“You haven’t answered my question,” I said.

“I have to scan it,” she said once again.

“I can’t understand why you have to scan it when I have already paid my dollar,” I said.

“I have to scan it,” she said again.

So I went back to the counter, where other customers were patiently waiting to buy lottery tickers, and held out the bottom corner of the paper so she could scan it.

We were both satisfied that I had indeed made a legitimate purchase, everything about the procedure was legal and above board, and I could go my way knowing that she had done her job as she was trained to do it.

We would both sleep better. Or, at least, she would. She had done what she was orchestrated to do.

But I got to thinking about the level of her training. Is her degree of persistence what the gas station owners expect of her?

And will the world, as we know it, come to an end if somebody buys a paper and offers to pay for it but, for one reason or another, doesn’t get the paper scanned?

What could possibly go wrong?

My question for Pat Perry is this: Is this a matter that concerns the HR department at the gas station, or does it have more important things to worry about?

Interestingly, (at least it’s interesting to me) Pat Perry’s wife is also named Pat Perry.

How many couples do you know who have the same first and last name? I know Pat (the female Pat) very well and have talked with her many times at Mentor Area Chamber of Commerce meetings.

And I have heard Pat (the male Pat) speak on several occasions. He is very entertaining, humorous, and singles out his wife in the audience in the kindest possible of ways that demonstrate how much he cares for her.

But that doesn’t answer my question.

Do the HR folks train people who work in gas stations? Or do they just let them figure out for themselves what to do next.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have time to write a pointless story but not enough time to be a patient customer. Congrats on exposing their inventory system.

November 12, 2014 at 2:10 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sorry sir, our scanner is down. You will have to come back tomorrow for today's news." said the clerk.

"But won't that make today's news, yesterday's news, if I wait until tomorrow?" I asked.

"I am not sure. Want me Google that for you on the register sir?" she replied.

November 13, 2014 at 10:08 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe I wasted time reading this drivel.

November 13, 2014 at 10:49 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course we all know that scanning is used for inventory control purposes however give me a break, scanning a paper is silly. They know how many are delivered in the morning minus how many are left at night equals how many sold. Maybe no days they need a computer to figure that.

This brings to mind our Annual Kirtland Kiwanis Strawberry Festival. I wonder if we should start scanning our Shortcakes and Sundaes so that we know how many we sold? Or better yet we could scan each strawberry etc.

November 14, 2014 at 8:04 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the telephone call, I made to HJack's Plumbing Co, Wickliffe, Ohio:

I talked to their secretary and said, Around the first of October, we had our sewer cleaned out, by Hjack's of Wickliffe, Ohio. Less then a week later, it clogged up again. (Oct 8) Hjack returned and did another (so-called clean out) and said everything was cleared of roots. Nov 13 - Sewer plugged again. (A little over one month)

I called a different Sewer company and they clean out my sewer. He said he found roots at 25 feet and roots and the end of the sewer. He said who ever did it before, only ran a small auger, just to get the water to flow. I feel I been duped and I want my 226 dollars returned!

I am a senior citizen and I cannot afford being a victim of a scam.

November 16, 2014 at 3:15 PM 

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