Can people really be this dumb? July 2, 2002 at 6:03 pm

Another repost… this time from July 2nd, 2002

The following occurred a few months ago while I was purchasing a few movies and some software at Fry’s Electronics:

First warning sign

After waiting in line for a few short minutes, I moved to a cashier and placed my pending purchases on the counter. The helpful clerk scanned in the items and told me the total. She then ran my debit card, and then had a puzzled look on her face. She asked the clerk next to her for help, who told her that her computer had frozen. He suggested she reboot it… which she didn’t know how to do. After rebooting, it allowed her to scan the items in again…. and again froze when trying to process the card. After another 2 trys, it wouldn’t even reboot, and all of the cashiers were reporting the same problem. At this point, I probably should’ve just left.

She’s got a calulator and sample sheet… this should be easy, right?

Now that the floor manager realizes the worst has happened and that the computers are down (God NO!) everyone goes into what we’ll call Manual mode. In manual, every cashier is given a small pouch which contains a carboned ledger, photocopied sample sheet, and a tiny calculator.

Thinking this can’t be hard, as she’s got instructions, I decide to wait it out and get my merchandise. I know I’m in trouble when she can’t even start filling out the ledger, nevermind it has nice labels and she’s got that little “cheat sheet” to go along with it. I actually started showing her what to do… which went ok for a few minutes, but she kept writing the prices and amounts on the wrong lines (i.e. she wrote three lines of the items, then the prices all shifted down a row… so they didn’t line up).

Uh oh! Math’s involved now!

Next came time to add up the prices. The items I’d bought were priced (IIRC) $24.99, $16,99, $14.99 and $9.99. I quickly added up in my head (25+17+15+10 is 67, minus 4 cents is $66.96) a total… granted, I’m probably a little better at math then the average person, but this isn’t rocket science here. She proceeds to add up the totals on a scratch piece of paper (yes… she ignored the calculator in her hand) and came up with something like $66.82. I corrected her, and had to explain about 5 times what the proper price was… which she finally agreed on. She actually corrected it once… and was still wrong.

Now it was time to add on tax! Woah.. we were in real trouble now. She had absolutely no idea how to start this. I told her, “just multiply the total by .0775 to get the tax..” and she looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights. The helpful clerk next to her (who’d already completed a full transaction during this time) explained it to her as well… it was at that moment that the computers suddenly came back up. Even though we were about 95% of the way through the transaction… she did it all over from scratch in the computer (although I’m willing to bet it was faster that way).

Conclusion… or whatever.

My question is this: How can someone with such a complete lack of basic math/money skills function in today’s society? Even worse, why the hell was she hired on as a cashier? What really scared me was that maybe 3 clerks were able to complete a transaction in the 15 or so minutes the computers were down (yeah… I should’ve left… or just filled out the damn ledger myself).

I’ll admit I’m biased… I used to work at the SD Zoo way back when.. and ran snack carts several times. We’re talking no register: only a crappy calculator with sticky keys and a bag of money. I used to be able to do $1200 of business in a day have less then a dollar discrepency… which I guess was unheard of as I was immediately labeled the “cart dude” after the first time I did it. Man, if I’d only known… 😉

Leave a Reply