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OPINION: How to keep your guests in line

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File image: Krizjohn Rosales/Pexels

I have seen the single-queue system here in South Africa, and I just wish that more stores – especially the ones that get really busy – would implement the system in Kimberley, writes Lance Fredericks.

IT MAY seem as if I am going to be bragging for a while, but that is only because I absolutely am.

You see, five years ago, way back in the pre-Covid world, back in 2016 on this very day, I was privileged enough to be visiting the United States of America.

I was based in Brooklyn then and it was a strange time in the residential neighbourhood. Republican Donald Trump had just won the presidential election against Democrat Hillary Clinton whose New York office was just down the road from where I was staying at the time.

Residents in the predominantly Democrat-aligned area roamed the streets in a stunned, zombie-like state shaking their heads in disbelief at what had happened at the polls at the beginning of the month.

But then came Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of that November and Americans celebrated – I was blown away with what a big deal they make of the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s as if the entire nation comes together once a year to express and celebrate gratitude.

By the next day the mood on the streets of the city had lightened up quite a bit. I thought it had something to do with the tryptophan in the turkey meat, but I was mistaken. Although tryptophan is known to promote good sleep and a good mood, the lightness on the street was due to some other reason …

It was Black Friday in New York and New Yorkers were streaming to department stores so that they could rake in bargains by the truckload.

I actually saw someone loading three massive television sets onto a pickup truck in the parking lot next to an electronics store. Other folk were wheeling carts full of gadgets out of the store by the time I got there after 10am. I was disappointed thinking that I had left my shopping trip too late; all the bargains would have been snapped up I thought.

But I was wrong. Black Friday in a shopping Mecca like New York is an opportunity for retailers to clear their storerooms so that they can make space for new stock, so they make an attempt to sell everything they can. Shelves were being restocked all the time and tills were beeping constantly.

I imagine that my South African readers are imagining a wild chaotic scene with people tussling and shoving into queues, huffing in frustration, but that was not the case.

I just had to buy myself an American Black Friday bargain so that I could brag to my friends back home in South Africa and I was in the queue for less than 40 minutes. And if you had seen how full the store was, that was quick!

Queuing in most big US stores is not painful. It is considered rude in New York to delay someone by wasting their precious time with any type of inefficiency. So in the name of efficiency, though a store may have a number of till points there will be a single queue feeding to the cashiers.

By the way, in the stores I visited, what impressed me the most was the fact that when you walk into a store you are not referred to as a ‘shopper’ or a ‘customer’ … they call you a ‘guest’, and treat you accordingly.

I remember when I was called to the till on that Black Friday in Brooklyn. The young person at the till said invitingly, “Next guest please.” And I strutted to the paypoint with my chest puffed out and a grin on my gob.

Over there to inconvenience a guest is a no-no. It would be unheard of to have a queue for each till in the bigger department stores. I cannot imagine the store management allowing queues to snake down the aisles – as I have seen in several supermarkets here in Kimberley – to inconvenience and frustrate shoppers.

It so often happens here that one person has a problem at the till and they hold up the line for what seems like an eternity … and it always happens in my line.

However, I have seen this single queuing system here in SA too, and it works quite well. I just wish that more stores – especially the ones that get really busy – would implement the system in Kimberley. In fact, I already avoid stores if their queues pile customers down aisles during busy times. It just makes for an overall unpleasant shopping experience.

So, before I release everyone to get back to their shopping, here are a few tips for your Black Friday and even Festive shopping.

Dear ladies, please do not place your handbag in your shopping cart, especially when you’re walking in the parking areas. It makes it very easy for a bandit to snatch it and run off into the sunset never to be seen again, leaving you traumatised and out of pocket.

And dear men, you know how your wives do not give you enough meditation time on the toilet at home? And you know how you hate waiting for her while she goes into the expensive clothing store “quickly”? So why don’t you bring the two negatives together in a positive way?

Why not – when the wife steps into the store where you know she’s not going to buy anything after browsing for 45 minutes or more – catch up on some important potty time?

And if someone comes into the Men’s restroom and impatiently bangs on the door, or even worse, fetches the mall security to evict you, all you should do then is lean back in your comfortable stall and tell the security guard that the story about you hogging the bog is nothing more than fake news, and that the other guest should just wait patiently in line.

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