Tel Aviv, August 17 – For the first time in more than two decades, the agency that oversees the retail industry has increased the minimum number of supermarket checkout lanes that must be closed at one time, raising it to 4 from 3. The law applies to supermarkets that have at least 6 checkout lanes.
The policy, dubbed the Arbitrary Supermarket Standard Hampering Of Line Expediency (ASSHOLE), aims to maintain a certain level of customer dissatisfaction, and thus ensure Israel’s place among poor economic indicators among OECD countries. “If the supermarket consumer experiences too much efficiency, we run the risk of greater spending, which in turn contributes to inflation,” explained the policy’s originator, Roshka Tann. “While we’re working so hard to rein in the deficit, it makes no sense for us to be encouraging freewheeling spending on the part of Mr. and Mrs. Israeli, so this is a natural move.”
The measure siailed through regulatory approval, owing to widespread official disdain for people who actually have to visit supermarkets, the overwhelming majority of whom do not have connections with regulators. Retail groups pushed heavily for the change, preferring to have the option of blaming restrictions imposed from the outside for unpleasant conditions in their stores.
A provision of the new policy also clarifies the procedures for “express” lanes. Under the previous rules, instituted in 1981, strict guidelines prevented supermarkets from calling anything greater than 15 items “express,” with exceptions for multiple units of the same item. Under the new restrictions, an additional provision mandates at least two delays of at least three minutes each for each item fewer than the express ceiling.
For example, if the lane maximum is 10 items or fewer and a customer wished to purchase only seven items, the cashier will be required to find some problem that takes an extra nine minutes to resolve before he or she may complete the transaction and accept the next customer. The policy gives a list of such possible problems but allows for the supermarket management to add to the list at its discretion.
Included in the list are running out of receipt paper, deciding it is time to replenish one or more of the small change denominations, and difficulty with authorizing a particular purchase – or any other difficulty that would necessitate calling over an already-occupied management figure.
Kupah Segurah, manager of a Co-op Shop inJerusalem, greeted the news with circumspection. “Fact is, we’ve been doing this kind of thing for years in any case,” she observed.
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