[Workday Writings] Three Retail Stories

I “went into civilization” my-today to get my COVID booster, which are free even if you don’t have insurance so companies that charge you for them are just pocketing the difference, and while I was out, I made three stops: the pharmacy, a dollar[-twenty-five] store, and a supermarket. I wanted to share these stories because I feel it captures how late 2023 is so full of people “fed up” with how things are going within America.

The craziest of the three was the pharmacy.

It took me over one hour to get my vaccine. Fault goes to me for driving to the wrong location. This business has two businesses within ten minutes of each other on the same road with no distinguishing characteristics between the two, so, as the backup cashier, the pharmacist told me twice, it’s a common mistake. There’s the major craziness of this business. They were unable to afford being fully staffed. It wasn’t just my-today either.

My-Today wasn’t busy for them.

It is ethically immoral for a pharmacy to suppress customer service in favor of profit, but I understand that is how businesses must legally operate. While I waited, I saw someone have their – neutral pronouns to protect the identity of the innocent, here – purchase rejected. I’m not sure why this individual, along with two other people, picked to purchase items from the pharmacy instead of the cash registers at the front of the store, but that’s probably part of that whole cost-savings optimization that allows shareholders to sleep easier at night. As I walked out of the store, I forget if there was even a cashier at the cash register. Maybe the cashier was busy being… the pharmacist?

That’s something I’ll never be able to understand.

OK, so, you have a business set up to serve patients with medication and other things. If the person that is going to inject me with a proven-safe and effective vaccine for what would otherwise cause genocide to large populations of vulnerable individuals, and that person is delayed because there aren’t enough cashiers to sell products to, so, yeah, just cover the cash register, and you don’t know how to bill this? Because you’re a pharmacist? No big deal, just do this and that. What the hell is wrong with this company? It’s Walgreens. What the hell is wrong with Walgreens? Why does Stefano Pessina, who is 16.88% shareholder of Walgreens, apparently, allegedly accepting of actions like this? Pessina doesn’t directly know this story, but maybe hearing about how disorganized and understaffed Walgreens have been for weeks, maybe, just maybe, more resources could go toward staffing?

I have one more bit about that person whose purchase was rejected.

That person did not speak English and could not understand what was going on. I mean, I don’t, either. The purchase was with either some form of assistance and it was rejected. The person made a phone call to a translator who helped explain the situation, including telling the person that without money, the cashier could not sell the products, which is a basic function under capitalism, but, I just don’t understand how things like this can happen. The more we give people like Stefano Pessina and other billionaires divinity, where we worship them more than the gods of religions, the less we have the ability to empathize with others. Were it not for my, as of this writing but hopefully not as of this publication, lack of financial stability, I might have just said, “you know what, I’ve been waiting in this line for 15 minutes, I’ll just buy this stuff for this person to hurry up this line.”

Which brings us to story two, the dollar store.

Dollar stores are built on exploitation of people of lower economic status. Sometimes, things are cheaper at $1.25 than $1.50 or $1.75, but only if you check the unit prices, weights, and overall quality of the product like I do, because it’s an interesting sport when one company has the lowest prices of frozen pizza then increases their prices to significantly more than the average. I’ve made spreadsheets of this data on occasion over the years, but it’s not that interesting to me. So, I know what to expect when I go to dollar stores. I know that the kids are running wild, not out of any kind of disrespect to the kids or parents, but because the parents literally are economically incapable of providing some of the discipline that happens from private studies, extra-curricular activities, daycares, babysitting, or other things. It’s a systemic problem that has next to no solution at a personal level, it must be solved at a more systemic level, between business and governments accepting their responsibilities, but once that happens, a new business model of harnessing pigs will be required because they will fly so far away that there will be no alternative than focusing all efforts on that.

I saw someone’s EBT card rejected today.

Or maybe this person went over the monthly limit? As it was a dollar store, if we think less emotionally about how truly fucked it is that so many people live on the poverty line that wish to be like Elon Musk simply to not be starving or economically desolate, and more logically, yes, you can buy items at dollar stores that don’t count toward EBT. Non-Food items. I’m sure this happens a lot, but, by this point, I was finely-tuned with waiting in lines for customers or a shortage of cashiers that I was just hanging out, soaking in the environment, and noticing how few people were wearing masks despite how many people were coughing. I don’t wear my mask strictly to avoid COVID.

I wear masks so when you cough in front of me, I don’t get your sickness, sorry.

The other part of this dollar story involves a cashier that just couldn’t take it anymore and was yelling at the manager and whoever could listen about everything that was going on. This was the classic “you can’t fire me because I quit” scene in 90s movies, transplanted into 2020s reality, where it wasn’t because of something silly or an arbitrary plot beat to show personal development, but an understaffed – huh, I wonder if that’s a theme? – business raking in profits while being unable to sell the products they apparently sell. This, I should comment for those reading but not yet seeing the time stamp, was written in mid-November, where, from mid-November until mid-January, American retail establishments are a hellscape. Customers don’t want to be there, retail workers are working their hardest to avoid being fired by trying to help customers without reacting, and it was too much for this worker.

Is this the American dream?

It certainly is for The Vanguard Group, who own 10.42% of Dollar Tree stocks and 9.766% in Walgreens. [To spoil the bit, our third story is about Walmart, and guess who owns the largest percentage of Walmart stocks at 4.89%?] A cashier’s emotional outburst is that cashier’s problem to The Vanguard Group, rather than a symptom of a larger problem that could lead to better customer satisfaction. If I, a hermit that anthropologically explores reality by literally talking about this all as “civilization,” did not feel this pressure at such a systemic level to where I get groceries at some of the statistically least-busy rates of customer shopping, here, a Tuesday morning to afternoon where the most amount of people have returned to the office as an insecurity of management under the guise of “culture building,” what would happen if… stores were more fully staffed? What if I just went out whenever I wanted to buy whatever I wanted in a casual, low-friction environment? Maybe that would be the antidote to Amazon’s monopolization of the online economy, where going to stores is kinda more fun because you see all sorts of neat stuff you wouldn’t have thought of buying online, but you don’t, because it’s easier to click some buttons, and receive your stuff later.

Walmart was uneventful.

The people in front of me paid in coins instead of dollars. That’s literally the extent of how eventful Walmart, typically touted as the “freakshow” of American retail, got. Those “freaks,” by the way, are the people most disadvantaged by companies like The Vanguard Group, who, we won’t even get into politics here, because that gets into subjective arguments over value, and, you can just look up what politicians this company donates to for yourself. I present all of this because at the end of the day, all of the stories above paint a picture where all of the economic wealth funnels into fewer and fewer channels, and I have to ask you, are you OK with that? If so, why? If not, what can be done? A select few people and a select few companies own basically all of the American economy, American political system, and therefore, own the world.

It makes buying a new TV from them less appealing for me, to say the least.

Quotes or Sources: None
Inspirations: My personal experiences. I have “worked retail,” but I haven’t worked the cash registers during the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas, so, I objectively haven’t worked retail. I would be there with that person quitting. I thanked both the cashier and the pharmacist for their time, and normally when you fill out paperwork, you can just cut in line to drop off the paperwork, but when it takes over 5 minutes for a pharmacist to break away to do pharmacy work, well, I’ll wait in line. I suggest you do the same. And if anyone’s acting rude to a cashier, be a cashier’s hero by telling the customer to calm down.
Related: Other Workday Writings essays.
Picture: Template
Written On: 2023 November 21 [11:15pm to 11:58pm]
Last Edited: 2023 November 21 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]


My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.