Senior Citizens Lane in Groceries

I hold senior citizens in high regard. Okay, honestly, not the obnoxious ones. But in general, I do.

Last Saturday, I dropped by WSR (a grocery) to grab a few stuff for my husband who was nursing a cold and fever. It was about 5:30pm and the queues at the cashiers were long — probably because not all cashier stations were open.

Having just a few items in my cart, I tried to queue at the Senior Citizens Lane. I actually gave way to another customer who had just a bottle of shampoo. BUT, the cashier, MR, was adamant and told us she can’t process our purchases because we are not senior citizens. The customer with the shampoo pleaded that we will give way for senior citizens in case they show up. But MR said NO — and put a hard face on (i.e. that is, you can’t make me process your transaction).

Being in such a good mood, I returned to the queue where I was at when another woman (definitely not a senior citizen) swooped in and confidently unloaded her purchases at the senior citizens’ counter as I was backing my cart out of the lane. I didn’t hear a squeak from MR and when our gazes met, she just looked at me blankly. Wow. Then, the not-so-senior-citizen woman produced a booklet — and MR went … “may authorization po sya”.

Suddenly, my halo vanished. GGGgrrr…I looked around for the manager and when I found her I started my grievance…the manager told me that it was indeed a senior citizens lane and the not-so-senior-citizen woman has authorization… I pointed out to her the long queues and that if they can’t open cashier stations, then the senior citizens lane should also accommodate other customers especially since it can do so without jeopardizing senior citizens. It was after this that they opened another cashier station.

Section 6 of RA No 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens of 2010, states and I quote:

“Special Lane. Retailers shall provide a special express lane for senior citizens, in the absence thereof, priority shall be given to them.”

I laud WSR for not just giving priority but having a dedicated senior citizens lane. As I’ve said, there is no question, I hold senior citizens in high regard. However, in my opinion, its policy on just entertaining senior citizens should be balanced with reality.

The reality last Saturday was: There was no queue at the Senior Citizens Lane. If MR processed my purchases and the other customer with the shampoo, it would have not taken more than 5 minutes and just in time when the next VALID senior citizen got in the queue.

Additionally, they should also have a clear purpose for having the Senior Citizens Lane: Should it be for facilitating transactions OF senior citizens AND/OR transactions FOR senior citizens?

In my opinion, the lane should be meant for senior citizens who ARE physically transacting. Because it offends customers like me to see able-bodied individuals to be using the lane — and skipping the long queues and the horrible wait — because of an authorization. I don’t think it will cost lives of senior citizens if they can’t get hold of pork, chicken, bread or soft drinks, right away. I’ll understand, if we’re talking about medicines. But WSR is a grocery not a drug store.

I have had pleasant experiences with bigger groceries such as Shopwise with its Elite and Senior Citizens lanes, for instance. I am no holder of a Wise Card Elite nor I am a senior citizen but cashiers there are flexible. For as long as “unqualified” customers like me do not defeat the purposes for which the lanes are created for, they process transactions. And for that, I show my gratitude.

So now what? Since I can’t change WSR and I can’t teach their marketing or their management a few points on marketing, I’d try to shop at groceries with more realistic and reasonable policies like Shopwise.

It is just disappointing that implementors carry out policies as if they were carved in stone and in the process “protect” some customers while insult others.

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