Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I originally meant to post this yesterday

Ballpoint pens sticking out into the aisle at the perfect position and height to have a customer stabbed in the side or arm or, at worst, a child taking one in the face as they bop along with a parent. A fine example of what I have come to call The Culture of Half-Assedness.

Just duct tape a steak knife to the counter while you're at it.

In many industries, people often seem not to care and fail to think forwards for many reasons. In all cases the origin of that ethic is laziness. Doing things half-assed is a conscious decision. People feel they are too busy, perceive it doesn't matter because hard work doesn't pay off, doing the extra work or taking precautions are not appreciated or met with hostility by co-workers or managers.

Mostly this kind of work ethic does no harm and elicits only amusement. Poorly written signs and odd pricing are typically the result. Sometimes it is more serious and can be a work hazard.

Absurdly, I had to argue with people about the wisdom of placing the pens where they did. I mean ARGUE. I actually had to present a convincing case to people to reposition the pens. Overwhelmingly the response was 'What's the big deal?" from most everyone. Sure, say that later when your performance bonus is cut by a big percentage due to failing the workplace safety audits and increased injury reports being filed. Also, the big deal is people can be hurt. Duh.

Then I had to do so twice more when the pens were repositioned so that anyone moving groceries on the belt or attempting to pay for their goods would risk being stabbed. So I had the pens moved again and this time they were placed so they stuck out into the cashier's work area. Scrapes, minor stabbings and ink stained work shirts ensued as the cashiers moved their arms through a space now occupied by something pointy.

Pro tip: Don't have sharp things point against the flow of traffic. Turn the pens around so the blunt end is facing people. Finally realizing that if I want something done right I'd have to do it myself, I placed the pens under under the counter so they are out of the way while the lanyard is long enough to allow the customer to use the pen.

These pens were a stupid idea anyways. They are cheap, constantly in the way and cause problems for the workers. Even placed under the counter the plastic lanyard, while long enough to reach the counter for use are too short not to get caught on product moving down the belt. The lanyard pulls taut and then launches the pen haphazardly into the air like a ballpointed whip. The ideal length of the pen lanyard would be a foot and a half of chain of the kind used in banks but when we install those type of pens the customers tear them off and take them with them.


  1. You tilted that windmill all to hell!!!

  2. Okay, you have a fan for life in me. This is just the kind of the ordinary insanity of daily life that makes me crazy and I rant about. The world would be so much easier to take if we could just change the things we CAN change. I can't fix Japan but I can save that little kids eye by moving a pen. We can share the same floor at the nut house. You just keep tilting at your wildmills.

  3. It's also incredibly un-ergonomic. The pens should be attached in the middle, if attached at all. so both right-handed AND left-handed can use them.

  4. It was certainly one of the more entertaining articles I have read about the placement of pens.

  5. I wish well placed pens had taken both of your eyes during childhood. And therefore prevented you from writing this. Next time I put a pen down I'll try to remember 'safety audits'. Or hey, don't walk into pens. Duh. We can't bubble wrap the entire fucking world for you.

  6. Nice.

    Or...maybe giving a damn can prevent injury and a lawsuit.


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