This is a reply that I posted to Fiftyodd's amusing Laws of Life Post:
Blogger, Fiftyodd, Laws of Life, 7-19-2012
The particular law to which this applies is:
"6. Variation Law- If you change lines (or traffic lanes), the one you were in will always move faster than the one you are in now (works every time)."
Corollary 1 of the #6 Variation Law states that if you get into the shortest line at the grocery store, the customer directly in front of you will have 50 payment cards with an average remaining value of $1.47 on each. Five of those cards will not work in the reader, 7 have no remaining value, 2 of them will be cards the store does not accept causing bitter complaints to the manager of the store, as though he could change the policy on the spot for a regional grocery chain that has 700 stores. The total amount of the cards successfully read will be only a fraction of the bill, which will then results in a repeat performance of the 5 cards that can't be read. After much cleaning of the magnetic strips, one card does work further reducing the bill by 49 cents and inspiring more confidence that somewhere on the four remaining cards the bill will magically be paid. More cleaning, more attempts, more griping that the amount on the two cards the store does not accept would more than adequately pay the bill, all to no avail. So now a mitful of credit cards comes out. Most are expired, five are not. One works and further reduces the bill by $13.24 cents and then is maxed out. The rest are already maxed out further inciting complaints that this card should be good, they paid the minimal balance on last month's bill. Now comes out the checkbook, they write a check for the remaining balance, the check is fed through the register and rejected. Now comes out the cash further reducing the bill by $9.13 with a litany of complaints that the cash was needed to put gas in the tank and there is doubt that the car will run out of gas and all the frozen goods will be lost. There is still a remaining balance. A floor manager is called over to remove items from the bill because a partial payment has been made and refunding items is beyond the cashier's level of authority. The floor manager does not know how to use the cash register. You look over in the long line and you see the girl with pink hair checking out with a huge cart of groceries that walked into the store when you got into the short line. Several other employees are called in to aid the floor manager, slowly the first item is successfully refunded.
The cashier apologizes to you and suggests finding another line. But you are into this, you want to see this saga unfold to the bloody end. The next item is fresh broccoli. It must be weighed, the register can not find 27 ounces of broccoli, only 26.8 ounces, it will not approve the refund. An argument ensues with floor manager that the broccoli is not wanted. Well then we have to cancel the entire order and try again. The shopper relents on the broccoli, and reduces the order with goods with fixed prices, with accompanying comments as to how difficult life will be without shampoo, laundry detergent, etc. The four 6 packs of beer and 2 cartons of soft drinks are not returned. Finally the order is reduced below the tendered amount, resulting in a $1.23 refund. Because of the lengthy transactions the register runs out of receipt paper. The cashier looks under the counter, no tape. The assistance light flashes on and the floor manager returns. He does not know where the tape is stored. The cashier goes to get the tape. Mean while the floor manager attempts to remove the empty roll and jams it in the register. The person in front of you starts complaining that they just want their change and leave. The floor manager states the drawer on the cash register will not open until the register tape is replaced and the receipt is printed. The cashier returns with the new rolls of tape. The old roll is hopeless jammed. The floor manager calls the janitor on the PA system. The janitor is outside having a cigarette and is not available. The floor manager walks out to his car and brings in a screw driver, pries out the roll but breaks the plastic door with the toothed cutter off the register. The out of tape alarm will not clear with broken door. The cashier presses the broken door into place and the receipt is printed and the register drawer opens. As soon as the cashier leaves go of the door, it falls off and the register out of tape alarm illuminates.
The money is refunded. The person leaves. The cashier notes the door laying on the floor.
"I am sorry sir. This register is broken you will have to go to another line."
OK, I will admit to putting different events into one incident, but there is nothing in the above story that hasn't happened to me. If you ever see me in a line at the grocery store, gas station, bank, or highway, immediately get into another line.
Edit 8-21-12: I had an interesting variation of this experience on Sunday. I went into the super market, and picked up 3 items. It was Sunday afternoon and all the checkouts was busy. There were two express lanes, 12 items maximum. One line (the one I should have go into) had about eight people in it. The other had only one. I did a double take, yes the light was on and there was no one else in line. Although the alarm bells were going off, I couldn't justify getting in line with 8 people in front of me. So I go to the empty line, I look and the cart is full of bagged groceries, they are ringing up the last few items and the total bill is over $217. What the hell, this is the 12 item express line! What gives? So then the cashier asks the lady by her first name if she brought those other store coupons in. Ahaaa, they know each other and they are friends. So that's how you get a big cart of groceries into the express line. Ok but they were done ringing it up, how long could it be? Ha. Ha Sextant you dumb ass, you should have listened to your alarm bells. The woman pulls out a shovelful of coupons. So her and her friend the cashier get into a protracted review of each coupon. I felt like going over to the warm food section, getting 3 chairs and 3 cups of coffee and maybe some Danish, so we could sit and discuss these coupons like a true coffee klatch. Oh each coupon had a story, some quite interesting. Meanwhile in the long line I see the person who would have been in front of me, leave. And on we go with further couponization, discussing advanced techniques for getting coupons off the internet, using other store coupons which this store will recognize if it is a full moon...on and on. I notice not one other person was stupid enough to get in this line, even though I am the only one in it. Finally we got to the bottom of the coupons, $217 reduced to $165. I was amazed. Hell it only took 15 minutes. OK, maybe it didn't take 15 minutes, but it seemed like 45. Ten minutes anyhow.