The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

WRITING CHECKS AND THE DECLINE OF SUPERMARKETS
Why, in the year 2004, does anyone still write out a check for their groceries? Are they unfamiliar with the concept of plastic--either a checkcard (which directly takes the place of a the written version) or a credit card? Or do they actually like writing out a check, thereby taking several minutes' more time than necessary?

As you might surmise, I've just been the victim (yes, victim) of yet another of these morons, the second time in two days. I was unfortunate enough to be stuck in the checkout line behind her as she, predictably, spoke apologetically to the cashier while the check didn't want to be read by the scanner, and her driver's license number didn't want to be accepted by the verifier machine. It's the same damn thing every time. I hate to stereotype, but it's always the same person: A woman, middle-aged old, with about a thousand useless items in her purse so as to make it that much more time-consuming when it comes time to whip the checkbook out. And of course, it never occurs to them to start writing out the known parts of the check--the name of the supermarket, the date, and their signature--until all the items are scanned in and the total is announced, thus making sure to waste the maximum amount of time.

You'd think these people would wise up and cough up the couple of bucks a month their bank would charge them for a checkcard, and be done with it. But no, they cling stubbornly to their checkbooks like they were solid gold.

I admit I'm biased. I'm to the point where I write out exactly one check a month, for the rent. That's it. Everything else is electronic or cash. Occasionally, I'll have to write out the odd check for something like a magazine subscription, or a graduation gift or some other special circumstance. But generally, my current check-writing pace means that my checkbook won't empty out for a couple of years, probably. It's a pure delight. I can't understand why anyone would willingly want to write a check; it's a laborious chore.

Ultimately, it's up to the supermarkets to put an end to check payment. I'm surprised they haven't made moves toward it yet. I know it's got to be a hassle for them to take them, when cash and electronic payments are such a breeze. There'll be a customer backlash, but that's to be expected. People will adjust, as they always do.

Maybe the supermarkets just need the proper motivation, like the Food Marketing Institute's report declaring that consumers are abandoning supermarkets in favor of convenience and discount stores. I'll bet those places don't tolerate time-wasting check-writers.