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Monday, April 26, 2010

Today At The Gas Station ...

After filling up my gas tank, I went inside to pay and hopefully grab one of the new Mountain Dews ... "White Out," if I can find it. There are a few people ahead of me in line, but I'm not in any real hurry. I wait my turn, move up when the line advances, and start swearing to myself when I see that the lady in front of me is clutching a slightly-rumpled envelope with numbers written on it. She's buying lottery tickets.

Now, I enjoy the lotto ... the thrill of the gamble, the dream sequences running crazily through your mind about how you'd spend $10 million ... but I know a line stopper when I see one. And sure enough, this lady wants a few auto selections (chosen by a computer), three picks based on her children's birthdays, five sets from an office pool, and about four other picks based on God knows what. And she wants some instant tickets, but she needs to know the background history on every one of the maybe 20 rolls on the instant lottery display. "The one with the clovers," she asks, "had any winners on that roll recently?" "And to the left, is that a fresh roll or are there a few purchased already?"

What happened to manners or common courtesy? This lady has every right to make her lottery ticket purchases, but I was raised to try to not hold people up or get in their way. I allow a driver or two to sneak in in front of me when lanes are merging ... it's not like I have to get to the next phone booth before the kidnapper calls. I often let people ahead of me at the supermarket if I only have a few items and they're pushing around a heaping cart or riding herd over some rambunctious children. I still hold doors and let people who seem to be in a true hurry take the cab we're both wanting.

There's a truck stop I pass on my way to and from the office. I get gas and snacks there occasionally. It's really kind of run-down and a bit on the grimy side, but it has one of the best innovations I've witnessed of late ... a dedicated lottery window. There isn't always a cashier manning this station, so lottery gamblers sometimes have to wait a bit to be helped (oh, is that a tear I'm shedding? No, it most certainly is not.). The lottery window is fronted by a shelf with all the forms and little sawed-off pencils (like at the golf course) you need to gamble away a good amount of pocket change. And you can't buy gum or pay for your gas at the lottery window ... that's a distraction. Likewise, none of the other three registers deal with lottery ticket sales, so don't even ask. It's a total win-win ... the ticket buyers can consider their options at a leisurely pace while poor schleps like me can get in and get out. Nirvana!!
And even more heaven like are the newer lottery "vending machines" that offer the game-themed tickets without the need for any human interaction. If they could just fit more of life's general needs into vending machines and keep the prices reasonable, then I could become a happy hermit.

This idea of "retail dedication" isn't new. The express lanes at supermarkets have been helping us quickie shoppers for years, and the self-service checkouts are even better ... except for the tiny area they expect you to balance your merchandise on while trying to complete the transaction. Drive-up windows at pharmacies have also been a great timesaver ... for some reason, the inner bowels of pharmacies can be littered with people waiting for help, playing with the blood pressure machines, and generally contaminating the general public with the biological h-bombs of their coughs and sniffles.

And I think one of the coolest things to come along are those "predictive 'bots" on the Internet ... you know, the boxes and lists that say "People who selected this product also enjoyed blah-blah-blah." Damned if they aren't usually right on the money. Again, win-win ... I see a few selections I would have otherwise overlooked and the online store gets more of my money.

POINT OF RANT: Golden rule, folks ... golden rule!

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