Fredericton — As of early March, you’ll no longer be asked “Would you like to donate $2 to your local food bank?” when paying for food. The new year arrives with changes at New Brunswick grocery stores and how they raise funds to feed those in need in our communities.
“We have received a lot of complaints from both customers and employees,” said Vance Smith of the Atlantic Alliance of Grocers. “Every day we see customers with 12 or more items — sometimes a whole cart-full — using the express lane!”
With employee frustration growing and customer satisfaction ratings falling, New Brunswick grocery stores have banded together to form a solution that helps feed the hungry while trimming down waits at the 10-items-or-less lane.
“Customers will now be charged a pro-rated fee for each item that exceeds the express-lane limit,” Smith told reporters.
That fee amounts to $2 per item, with all fines being donated to local food banks and churches.
“If customers are over by one or two items, they won’t be fined,” said Smith. “But if you go into the express lane with a full cart of items, expect to pay up.”
Smith explained that express lane abuse seems to be a pervasive problem that is unique to our region. “We don’t see this behaviour in Nova Scotia or Ontario,” he said, standing in the express checkout line at the Regent Street Sobeys in Fredericton. Smith suspects that New Brunswick’s low literacy rates may be a contributing factor. “I think some customers just can’t read the signs,” he suggested, “but others are flat-out rude and self-entitled.”
Whatever the cause, customers abusing express lanes have caused hardships, making cashiers feel uncomfortable when they receive angry stares from shoppers who do follow the rules. In some cases, cashiers have been on the receiving end of verbal abuse from those express-lane offenders confronted about their ignorant behaviour.
“Several long-term employees have had to go out on stress leave due to the anxiety of dealing with customers that think 20 cans of Heinz gravy should count as a single item,” Smith said.
Grocery stores in the region are treating express-lane abuse fines as a pilot project for the next 6 months. If all goes well, grocers may implement other tactics to improve service in their stores. “We’re looking very closely at using parking lot surveillance video to track down people who don’t return their shopping carts to the cart corral.”
Other potential programs being investigated by the Atlantic Alliance of Grocers include remedial training and possible bans for customers who let their toddlers scan items at the self-service checkouts.