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Grey Matter


Big Brother Grocery Store

I dashed into the grocery store the other day to pick up some cat food. This grocery store has an area called “the lobby,” it is a counter that they keep cigarettes behind and other things people might steal and there is a cashier there. Most people don’t seem to realize that if you are only picking up a few items you can pay for them there rather than waiting in line. So after looking at the express line with at least 6 people in it and only seeing 1 in the lobby line, I chose the lobby.

As fate would have it this actually took much longer than if I had waited in the express line. The guy in front of me, who was probably in his early 20’s, was cashing a payroll check. First the very sweet girl who works there informed him that she would have to call his employer to verify that the he worked there and the check was from them. She did call his employer and gave them the name on his ID and check and they confirmed that he did indeed work there and the check was from them. You would think that would be enough, wouldn’t you? No, it was not nearly enough. After that she typed all the information from his drivers license into the computer. I thought she would be done then, but things were just getting started. After that she pulled out a web cam and took his picture. Again, I think surely that is enough, but I am wrong again. She then makes him put his left index finger on a scanner. Still not done. She makes him put his right index finger on a scanner. She saves the photo and the scans to the computer. Then she has to call a manager to unlock her drawer.

All this seemed to take about 20 minutes. I could have moved to the express lane, but I was totally fascinated by all they were making this poor guy do. Honestly, if I had not seen it myself I don’t think I would have believed it.

While we are waiting for the manager to come open the drawer, the poor guy turns to me a apologizes for taking so long. I tell him it is OK and that really I am just amazed at what he has to go through just to cash a check. Truly I felt really sorry for him. He rolls his eyes and says “Yeah, they like to get everyone in the system and keep track of them.” That was pretty much exactly what I had thinking, but I was surprised that he was thinking the same thing and yet apparently needing his money right away was willingly to put up with it.

This was a far cry from what I had to do as a young person to get my check cashed after bank hours. I would take my check and many times as many as 3 other coworkers (who had signed their check to me so I could cash them for them) to the same grocery store, I would show my ID and they would cash all of them for me. They didn’t type anything into a computer or even write anything on the checks. How things have changed!

I suppose back then, since I always needed my money right away, least I run out of gas on the way home, I would have probably put up with the same things the guy in front of me in line did. Still, I can’t imagine being subjected to that. Being treated as a criminal for wanting to cash a check? It just doesn’t seem right.

Katherine Albrecht can continue to worry about RFID chips, but my local grocery store apparently has an entire database of people’s vital information including photo and fingerprints. Amazing! Somehow that makes RFID chips seem not very sinister or even needed.

I hate to sound terribly liberal, but I can’t help it. This is probably only the lower segment of society who is being treated this way. People with enough money to hold them over until they can get to a bank are not cashing their checks at the grocery store. To be fair, I am sure grocery stores have been ripped off by people with phony checks in the past, but really isn’t calling their employer to confirm the check enough? Isn’t copying down their license info enough? Just having my license info is enough to write a check to their store no matter how much food I buy, they don’t ask to take a photo and fingerprints. Why?

I keep thinking back to his words about “the system.” Sure, right now it may only be young people and poor people (kind of interchangeable) who are being forced into “the system,” but how much longer before I have to do something similar to start a bank account or write a check? What is the next thing they will decide they need, a DNA sample? I still can’t believe they put that guy through all of that for a measly $200 and some change. Maybe this was common knowledge for other people, but I had no clue things like that went on. Unbelievable to me!

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