It took 22 minutes. Twenty-two minutes from the time of standing in front of the cashier to completion of the sale.  I was the only one in the store.  I tried not to fume. These were, after all, a team of three hospital auxiliary volunteers trying to help me. I had wandered in off the street. I was not the normal customer to their gift shop—someone paying a visit to a sick person or a new mother up on other floors in this hospital.  I had simply found the perfect birthday presents for my two daughters in this charming little shop. But, I wanted one of them in pink. The two clerks searched high and low for the inventory. Mary, the manager, was out of the shop at the moment. Perhaps she would know. Mary returned. Mary didn’t know. They looked in their hand-written inventory book (basically a 3-ring binder).  They fumbled with the hand-written price tags (“Is this a ‘C’ or a ‘G’, can you tell, Mavis?”) Finally, the inventory book alleged that, somewhere in that store, there should have been seven more of these items, one of them in pink. Another search ensued.  Five minutes. It turned up nothing.

“Never mind,” I offered. “I’ll just take that second purple one.”

Then came the “ringing up” of all of my purchases. Two of this; two of that. Plus, two packs of gum and a tiny piece of chocolate Easter candy, heavily discounted on this post-Easter day.  Two birthday cards.  Each.One.Was.Tallied.By.Hand. Into that ledger book. Only THEN did the ringing up begin.  The cashier punched in the number, consulted her book; punched in the number, consulted her book, etc. etc. etc.

It was clear the volunteers had not received adequate training for this job, and that communication among them was lacking.  But more importantly, this gift shop in a hospital was not equipped with anything remotely resembling modern technology in terms of cash register, pricing, bar codes, inventory, etc.

After I recovered from the shock of it all, do you know what my first thought was?

“I wonder how their technology is in the surgical unit and emergency room.”

First impressions.  They matter.