We've all been told throughout our lives that volunteer work is extremely rewarding. A lot of people I know volunteer for small non-profits, local hospitals, nursing homes, and environmental agencies—and if I wasn't already spending numerous hours every month doing my other volunteer work, maybe I could pursue one of those opportunities too… but honestly, who has time for that?

No, instead it seems that I've chosen to volunteer for large ultra-profit, soul-sucking corporations and businesses almost exclusively, and thus I just don't have time anymore for the sick, the elderly, or the environment.  I am an active volunteer at almost every major store I go to these days because I feel strongly that I can offer much more to the needy customer (in this case, me) by doing everything myself, thereby leaving the staff to do more important things like texting their friends or chatting on the cell phone to loved ones.

I am, of course, referring to my volunteer work in the "self-checkout" line.

The self-checkout line is a volunteer program now being implemented by most grocery stores and a growing number of other large retail stores through which the customer is provided the unique opportunity to give back to the mega soul-sucking superstore by happily volunteering their time doing various activities that used to occupy the valuable time of their employees. These superstores have, in a stroke of pure genius, gotten the entire community involved in a way that even the Spotted Owl campaign has failed to do. By deliberately hiring complete and total half wits that take 45 minutes to ring up and bag your groceries, they have mobilized the community to pitch in like no other volunteer organization has done to date.

That's right, today you can relieve the grocery store employees of the exhaustive and heavy burden of scanning items into a computer, and do it yourself for a change. Oh, and feel free to bag your own groceries while you're at it, ‘cause there's no one there to help you with that either. And why should there be? It's been a long time coming, my friends (and co-workers, if you're checking out at the same time as me)! 

If you are one of those extra generous Americans who decided to enroll in the "produce ripening" volunteer program at your local grocery store, then you get bonus volunteer recognition! Yes, it's hard to believe that such huge corporations can provide this much to the community in the way of volunteer work, but it's true.  If you have a mere week's worth of extra time on your hands, you can buy green tomatoes, green bananas, and even petrified pears to ripen yourself. This not only gives back to the soul-sucking superstore in many ways, but also cuts the transportation costs and reduces traffic on the roads.

Think about it people…..by selfishly buying a red tomato that arrived at the store that day, you have callously demanded that there be a truck on the road with your ripe tomato in it earlier that night. However, if you buy a rock hard green tomato that got shipped weeks before it was ripe, then they can ship an entire crop of un-ripened tomatoes using just one truck every so often when the tomatoes are big enough, thereby reducing traffic in your community. Your sacrifice also allows those drivers to spend more time standing on the side of the road with cardboard signs desperately encouraging other community members to give, instead of driving on those roads every day for your selfish produce needs!  It's called "buying green" people…ever heard of it?!?

They even made it super convenient for you to purchase your produce at the self-checkout line. For instance you only have to spend an extra 25 minutes scrolling through every kind of lettuce on the planet to find the one you have decided to make a salad with that week. You also get that feeling of accomplishment when you finally find out that it is called "leaf lettuce" as opposed to all those other kinds of non-leaf lettuces. 

Recently, our friendly mega corporation grocery store has taken their community based volunteer program to that extra level with a new program. Upon entering the store you are instantly able to volunteer your time by picking up your very own scanner and set of bags. As you shop you can scan the items and place them into the bag on the move, thereby also helping with the mega store's inventory tracking process. To make it exciting for the whole family, the scanner's digital screen randomly displays one of ten coupons for other products—and that's on top of your bonus card savings. The display of these items you weren't going to purchase and still aren't, are accompanied by an exciting "CHA CHING!!!!" proudly announcing your volunteer work up and down every aisle. 

Personally, I'm not entirely sure about this new feature because it seems to take away from the community based personal interactions. For instance, every item you purchase is no longer announced at the self-checkout by a super-amplified, computerized voice for every one else in the store to hear and discuss. I kind of appreciated the fact that everyone in the store knew whenever I was buying hemorrhoid cream; it saved me the trouble of running around and telling them in person.

The new program does however help you avoid having to create that huge tower of groceries on the 1×1 foot tiny scale at the end of the self-checkout line though. You know, the one where if you bump an item or breathe heavily on it, that one remaining working employee must come over and clear the locked screen. At last, a grocery store with no employees!

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