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Special Sobeys till slows down the checkout experience


A Sobeys in northeast Edmonton has a checkout lane that is backing up with customers on purpose.

As many grocery stores move toward self-checkout or express lanes to help people speed through the process, the Belmont Sobeys has a dedicated line to create a sense of community through conversation.

Customers don't have to rush or have a discussion, explained store owner and operator Jerry MacLachlan.

While the idea was flagged to him by a friend who saw a store in Europe implement a similar idea, MacLachlan said the inspiration came from cashier Jason Rutledge.

MacLachlan said there would be times were customers lined up to speak with the "super outgoing cashier," and some would just want to have their items scanned as quickly as possible.

"We [would] speak with the others and say, oh, there's other tills open, and they were adamant they get Jason," MacLachlan shared.

"At that moment, I said, we need to slow this down," he added. "These folks aren't just here for groceries, they're here to sort of get their soul filled as well."

"Jason is super outgoing and full of love. The coolest thing is he is so consistent."

The store posted the slow lane idea online and has had nothing but positive fanfare, MacLachlan said, with corporate sharing the idea from coast to coast.

"COVID has changed things," he said. "People are more isolated. People kind of avoid contact to some degree, and so when they come to a grocery store, maybe they are coming just for a food item, but they stay for that extra conversation."

Customer Gerald Whitten is happy to have a more personal shopping experience.

"It gives people a chance to actually communicate face to face," he told CTV News Edmonton. "There should be more of it."

Paul Sheppard, a fellow regular, appreciates the opportunity to get to know Jason, who he describes as "an absolute riot."

"The world's become so fast-paced," Sheppard said. "It's nice to just come in and relax and slow down a little bit."

"I think it's a great benefit for the single seniors that come in," he added. "They need somebody to chat to; they just need an ear sometimes."

Angela van Kooten says she wasn't surprised to see the store implement the slow lane. Often there'd be an informal one with regulars gravitating toward Jason.

"The owner, Jerry, is very in tune with what people need and how people shop," she said. "It is a great store."

"I might use [the slow checkout] if I'm feeling somewhat chatty and just want to meander through."

Registered psychologist Dr. Angela Grace says not only is the idea healthy, it can actually make a rather mundane task more meaningful.

"I call it planting seeds of goodness," Grace said. "Any time you can smile and have a connection with someone, any time you can have a chat and have that connection, it actually is an oxytocin dopamine release to the brain.

"So that person feels better," she added. "That connection is really, really important."

"It starts in small acts of kindness." Top Stories

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