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Jan 3, 2024

QUIBBLES & BITS: Of Checking Out and Settling In

Do you prefer your Sam Bankman-Fried or Scrambled?

By Ed Goldman

SHELF-SUFFICIENT—A grocery chain in London is ending its self- checkout lanes, according to the New York Times. “Delighting customers with our warm northern welcome is part of our DNA,” said a statement from Booths, which has 28 stores and 3,000 employees.

I’m not sure how a “warm northern welcome” would be different from a warm southern welcome in England. I also hasten to point out that London itself, where the Booths chain is based, is in southern England. Maybe GPS works differently across the Atlantic. (I imagine that south of the Equator, where water allegedly goes down the drain counter-clockwise, GPS would give you only return routes.)

But I certainly applaud the spirit of returning service to a service industry—though technically, grocery stores are part of the retail trade sector.

For years I, and many others, have been carping about the fact that when we check our own groceries and pump our own petrol, no savings are passed along to us by the supermarket or gas station, respectively. I figured the businesses were saving money by not having to hire cashiers to handle our transactions. But show me a single store where they don’t post at least one employee by the self-checkout aisle to help you through the process. 

Home Depot, which has a self-checkout aisle, doesn’t count. In the outlet near my home, employees outnumber the customers about three to one on any given day. And yet none of them knows which aisle has toggle bolts.

CELL-SUFFICIENT. This column has been slipped a transcript of a jailhouse visit between crypto convict Sam Bankman-Fried and his parents, Stanford law professors and extremely well-educated enablers, Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried. 

BARBARA: Good morning, Sammelah. Are you getting enough to eat?

SAM: Yeah, Ma. I’m okay. Sheesh. Don’t mother me.

BARBARA: I’m your mother. This is what we do. Would you rather I uncle you?

Edgy Cartoon

Sam the Scam and the Zeroes

JOESPH: Son, knowing your preferred vegan diet, which I told you would lead to no good, your mother nevertheless baked you a plant-based cake last night.

SAM: Really?

BARBARA: Oh, it’s nothing really.

JOSEPH: Man, that’s the truth. No flour, no shortening, no sugar, no gluten, no—

BARBARA: Stop, Joe!

JOSEPH: I took it into the shower with me. I thought it was a loofah.

BARBARA: Oh, really!

JOSEPH: Loofahs taste better, though.

SAM: Look, folks, the only thing that can help me now would be if that cake had a file in it, like in the old prison movies.

BARBARA: A file?

JOSEPH: You mean, like a dossier? The cake’d be a spongy mess. In fact, it already is.

BARBARA: Joseph!

SAM: No, a file file. One I could use to sorta rasp my way through these cell bars and, like, you know, escape.

JOSEPH: But that’d take years, son. (They exchange stares) Oh, of course. You have plenty of time. 

BARBARA (Looking in her purse): I may have a file in my makeup kit.

SAM: Not a fingernail file, Ma. It’s got to be bigger!

BARBARA: But if I’d put that in the cake, you’d have choked on it.

JOSEPH: He will anyway.

BARBARA (Cheerily changing the subject, as moms will): So! Sammelah! Your lawyers: any encouraging news?

SAM (Sarcastic): Yeah. They think with some plea bargaining and time off for good behavior they can get my sentences reduced to under 100 years.

BARBARA: Well, that is good news! Did they suggest a number?

JOSEPH: Barbara! What’s the matter with you? So let’s say he gets his sentences reduced to 95 years, even to 80 years. He’s still not coming to Passover seder.

BARBARA: What about Hannukah? That’s not ’til December.

JOSEPH: Of 2173. Well, just call if you’re going to be late, son.

SAM: I will. You guys are the best. 

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).