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  #1  
Old 07-25-2017, 11:21 AM
johnspartan johnspartan is offline
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What's the economic model for supermarket checkout divider thingies?

I spend entirely too much time thinking this through. I'm talking specifically about the little plastic dividers most grocery stores/supermarkets offer to separate your purchases on a checkout conveyor belt from the next customer's.

Yes, one would cost almost nothing to make. And yes, you can put advertising in it, which means presumably the creator could certainly negate the minimal production and distribution costs and be almost all profit.

BUT, you're making a product that (from the looks of things) sells for perhaps $2.50, pretty much lasts forever and never even wears out. When a new supermarket opens you MIGHT sell, what, 25? And it would presumably have to be a completely new location, if it's just a change of brand then it's conceivable they could "inherit" the previous store's divider thingies.

I'd think there's extremely little shoplifting of these, so an inventory is pretty much a one-time purchase.

There aren't many other retailers who would be in the market for these things... chain hardware stores sometimes have conveyor belt checkouts, but it's a pretty short list of potential clients.

You do have "first copy costs" as the manufacturer... design, materials, etc.

Why does anyone make these, and do they make any money doing it? If so, how?
  #2  
Old 07-25-2017, 11:26 AM
sevenwood sevenwood is offline
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I'd guess that they are a special order item, where a plastics extrusion company that makes its living making other things squirts out a few on demand. And the profit margin on orders like this is higher than the profit margin on mainstream products.
  #3  
Old 07-25-2017, 11:33 AM
Leaffan Leaffan is offline
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All I know is that Steven Wright tried to buy one. It turned out to be impossible.
  #4  
Old 07-25-2017, 11:41 AM
chrisk chrisk is online now
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Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if the prices was much higher for the store than it seems. Customers have come to expect them. If you're opening a store and can't "inherit" older ones, then you need them.

Also, the first copy costs would be offset by being able to sell to a lot of stores at once, even when you're just designing an incremental improvement like a model where the store can insert its own advertising tags.
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  #5  
Old 07-25-2017, 11:42 AM
silenus silenus is online now
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sevenwood hit it in one. They are cranked out on demand by local companies using standard dies. The ones with advertising that I've encountered have been paid for and provided by the person/company doing the advertising (in this case a local realtor who is a former student). She provided the market with the dividers and they used them for a contracted period of time, for a negotiated fee.
  #6  
Old 07-25-2017, 11:44 AM
romansperson romansperson is offline
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All I know is that when our Super WalMart opened, they had them. Now they don't, so apparently over time they were all either stolen, broken or lost, and the store decided they weren't going to replace them.
  #7  
Old 07-25-2017, 11:50 AM
FairyChatMom FairyChatMom is online now
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I've seen many a broken one in a variety of stores. And they seem to migrate from lane to lane - I've seen adjacent checkouts - one has none, the other has 3. Who knows - maybe the night shift moves them around to screw with us!

There's a small local chain (only 3 stores) and their dividers actually look like plastic sticks that they cut to length. Guess they were too cheap to procure real ones.
  #8  
Old 07-25-2017, 01:29 PM
Jophiel Jophiel is online now
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The ones I've seen lately don't have any branding or advertising. Just a black or cream-colored plastic rectangle about 14" in length.

Looking at Alibaba, you could get them as cheaply as 10˘ for plain ones or 25˘ for fancy ones* if you're willing to buy a 3,000 piece lot. I suppose a grocery chain just buys them in bulk ($750 for 3,000) and they get ordered from the main office as needed. Independents might wind up paying a couple bucks each but it's probably not worse than buying staplers or boxes of paperclips when you're opening a new store.

The US source I found is curiously unhelpful.


(*) "Spill Lotto her!"

Last edited by Jophiel; 07-25-2017 at 01:31 PM.
  #9  
Old 07-25-2017, 02:32 PM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is online now
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The US source I found is curiously unhelpful.

The Family Vision signs should be printed in a fuzzy or very small font.
  #10  
Old 07-25-2017, 03:26 PM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is online now
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They are cranked out on demand by local companies using standard dies.
This just pushes the question back one step, though. How does someone make money making those dies?

  #11  
Old 07-25-2017, 03:32 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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You don't make them from scratch using standard dies. You can, for example, buy square plastic tubing from a supplier like McMaster-Carr and cut it to length.
  #12  
Old 07-25-2017, 06:10 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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I have my own personalized divider that I bring to the store when I go grocery shopping. Sometimes I have to argue with the checkout person about taking it home with my goods.
  #13  
Old 07-25-2017, 06:38 PM
burpo the wonder mutt burpo the wonder mutt is online now
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Eventually, every cash register on its stand will be pulled away from the rack-of-candies-and-jerky next to the conveyor belt and, lo and behold, the pile of +/- 1500 "lost" dividers will be revealed.
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Old 07-25-2017, 06:43 PM
snfaulkner snfaulkner is offline
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We need to page Biotop. He's up to his eyeballs in Big Grocery. He'll tell us what's what. I'm sure it will in no way be a complete waste of his time ;-)

Last edited by snfaulkner; 07-25-2017 at 06:47 PM.
  #15  
Old 07-25-2017, 06:57 PM
Dag Otto Dag Otto is offline
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Big Grocery requires big dividers.
  #16  
Old 07-25-2017, 07:50 PM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is online now
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I have my own personalized divider that I bring to the store when I go grocery shopping. Sometimes I have to argue with the checkout person about taking it home with my goods.
Doesn't it have your name on it?

Conversation sometimes borders on interrogation, but why?
  #17  
Old 07-25-2017, 07:53 PM
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I have my own personalized divider that I bring to the store when I go grocery shopping. Sometimes I have to argue with the checkout person about taking it home with my goods.
Just out of curiosity - why do you bring your own conveyor belt divider? Why not just use one the store already has?

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Old 07-25-2017, 07:54 PM
Scribble Scribble is offline
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Big Grocery requires big dividers.
The link doesn't work.

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Old 07-25-2017, 08:05 PM
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Just out of curiosity - why do you bring your own conveyor belt divider? Why not just use one the store already has?

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If I had my own conveyor belt, I'd see if airplanes could take off from it.
Oh, conveyor belt divider.
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  #20  
Old 07-25-2017, 10:47 PM
Grrr! Grrr! is online now
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This thread has me currious: Are there any manufacturing companies that make only ONE product?
  #21  
Old 07-25-2017, 11:24 PM
Biotop Biotop is online now
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There are supermarket supply item catalogs for independent stores. Chain stores have their own suppliers. And some grocers such as my employer no longer even use conveyer belts and dividers.

As you might imagine, supermarket supply items disappear either through carelessness or theft all the time. A quick Google shows an estimated 36,000+ grocery stores in the US alone. Lots of business.
  #22  
Old 07-26-2017, 01:29 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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I'd guess that they are a special order item, where a plastics extrusion company that makes its living making other things squirts out a few on demand. And the profit margin on orders like this is higher than the profit margin on mainstream products.
A true story. In 1980, a relatively small company named Minnetonka was planning on releasing a new product - liquid soap in a pre-filled dispenser. They were confident the product would be popular but were worried it might be too popular. If they introduced their product and people were buying it, bigger companies would quickly introduce copycats and knock them out of the market.

So Minnetonka called up plastic manufacturing companies all over the country and placed orders for the little dispenser pumps they used. The orders were big enough that it took months to fill them all. The other soap companies could make liquid soap but they couldn't find any companies to make the pumps they needed. By the time, the plastics companies finished all of Minnetonka's orders, Minnetonka had been able to establish its product's place in the market.
  #23  
Old 07-26-2017, 02:13 AM
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There are supermarket supply item catalogs for independent stores. Chain stores have their own suppliers. And some grocers such as my employer no longer even use conveyer belts and dividers
How does this work? Can you not unload your cart while waiting in line? Doesn't this make everything a lot slower?
  #24  
Old 07-26-2017, 02:18 AM
Biotop Biotop is online now
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How does this work? Can you not unload your cart while waiting in line? Doesn't this make everything a lot slower?
No. You roll the cart right up to the cashier. You step around and the cashier unloads the cart while at the same time scanning.
  #25  
Old 07-26-2017, 03:08 AM
Telperion Telperion is offline
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This thread has me currious: Are there any manufacturing companies that make only ONE product?
Absolutely. Crocs, Inc. and Zippo Manufacturing Co. are often cited as the most successful examples.
  #26  
Old 07-26-2017, 07:07 AM
johnspartan johnspartan is offline
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There are supermarket supply item catalogs for independent stores. Chain stores have their own suppliers. And some grocers such as my employer no longer even use conveyer belts and dividers.



As you might imagine, supermarket supply items disappear either through carelessness or theft all the time. A quick Google shows an estimated 36,000+ grocery stores in the US alone. Lots of business.


But... Carelessly losing the plastic divider bar that sits on the conveyor belt?

I suppose you could be an EXTREMELY distracted checkout clerk and accidentally bag it with the groceries... But that doesn't seem like it would be q common occurrence because it would include not noticing you're grabbing and moving a plastic bar instead of a food item.


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  #27  
Old 07-26-2017, 09:44 AM
Princhester Princhester is offline
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Why does anyone make these, and do they make any money doing it? If so, how?
You are way over thinking this. Manufacturers make them because supermarkets will buy them. They make money doing it because they charge more than it costs them. That is a complete answer to your question.

I think your confusion comes from an assumption that if one can't make much money from manufacturing something, it won't get made. This isn't a safe assumption. If there is demand for a product, and the manufacturing cost is lower than the amount that potential purchasers are prepared to pay, a manufacturer will make it.
  #28  
Old 07-26-2017, 09:49 AM
boffking boffking is online now
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This thread has me currious: Are there any manufacturing companies that make only ONE product?
Not likely, because they often have a way to monetize waste.
I worked at a factory that produced seed plugs. The scraps from cutting, or improperly shaped plugs, were ground up and sold as fertilizer.
  #29  
Old 07-26-2017, 10:08 AM
Darren Garrison Darren Garrison is offline
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So Minnetonka called up plastic manufacturing companies all over the country and placed orders for the little dispenser pumps they used. The orders were big enough that it took months to fill them all.
Looks like it was 2 manufacturers, and they ordered 100 million of 'em.
  #30  
Old 07-26-2017, 10:43 AM
Broomstick Broomstick is online now
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I've seen many a broken one in a variety of stores. And they seem to migrate from lane to lane - I've seen adjacent checkouts - one has none, the other has 3. Who knows - maybe the night shift moves them around to screw with us!
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Originally Posted by burpo the wonder mutt View Post
Eventually, every cash register on its stand will be pulled away from the rack-of-candies-and-jerky next to the conveyor belt and, lo and behold, the pile of +/- 1500 "lost" dividers will be revealed.
Yes, I can confirm those sticks fall off the belts, get kicked under candy/junk ranks and otherwise migrate around the place. A few nights again during a slow spell at work I spent 20 minutes fishing these things out from under/behind stuff at the checkout lanes and recovered about 15 of them. There were at least that many more I couldn't get without moving some large shelving units so I didn't bother.

Busy lanes will snatch them from unused lanes as necessary.

Occasionally, one gets destroyed. I expect they do occasionally walk off because there's a type of person out there that will steal anything. And kids do stuff like that sometimes, we get a lot of 5 year olds grabbing stuff and eating it/playing with it/walking out the door because they have undeveloped morals (adults who do that stuff we tend to be less forgiving of).

There is a certain amount of attrition.

My company has over 200 stores, presumably they buy these things in bulk and they can be ordered from central supply as needed. Heck, for all I know the number-crunchers have worked out on average how many disappear permanently from the average store each year and just send out that number every 12 months.

Last edited by Broomstick; 07-26-2017 at 10:43 AM.
  #31  
Old 07-26-2017, 10:51 AM
Darren Garrison Darren Garrison is offline
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You are way over thinking this. Manufacturers make them because supermarkets will buy them. They make money doing it because they charge more than it costs them. That is a complete answer to your question.

I think your confusion comes from an assumption that if one can't make much money from manufacturing something, it won't get made. This isn't a safe assumption. If there is demand for a product, and the manufacturing cost is lower than the amount that potential purchasers are prepared to pay, a manufacturer will make it.
There also seems to be an assumption that there is a factory somewhere making nothing but these dividers, which is almost certainly not true.

While I was in college, I worked one summer in a plastics molding plant. The molding machines are hydraulic presses ranging from big to huge that use swappable steel molds and inject plastic melt from a hopper on top of each machine. The plant I worked at had two sections, with several dozen of the smaller presses in one section and a number of larger to huge ones in the back section. Different machines are fitted with different molds and inject different types of plastic as the order demands. Some items I remember making including cases for Makita drills, plastic gears for Makita drills, several styles of Tupperware-brand kitchen implements*, plastic cases for enclosing splices made to power lines, and I no longer even remember other various bits and pieces. Other items made on the large presses (that I never worked with) included large plastic storage bins (the type with the two-part hinged lids that have interlacing "fingers") and whole, single-piece dashboards for Mac trucks.

If a company wants dividers for checkout counters, they call up a plastics manufacturer, tell them what they want, a machining plant designs the proper mold and sends one or more copies of it the manufacturer, who bolts it on the number of machines they need to meet the order and loads the proper type of plastic in the hopper. When the order is met, they swap out the molds for something else a customer has ordered.

(*Different customers had different demands on what made an acceptable part, and what percentage reworked plastic could be used--"reworked" meaning that if you have a bad part, you toss it into the grinder that sits beside each machine, and the plastic chips that fill the hopper underneath are added back to the melt hopper on top--a customer may accept 20% rework plastic in the products, or more than that, or none at all. With Tupperware parts, they had to be cosmetically perfect and they didn't allow much if any reworked plastic, so the (many!) pieces that came out with some slight cosmetic blemish were literally piled into shopping carts and occasionally wheeled off to a dumpster. Of course you weren't supposed to help yourself to any of them, and of course I (and probably everyone else) did, and I ended up with a lifetime supply of Tupperware spoon/ladle/strainer-like thingys with small cosmetic blemishes.)
  #32  
Old 07-26-2017, 11:06 AM
Jophiel Jophiel is online now
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Why does anyone make these, and do they make any money doing it? If so, how?
You manufacture them in bulk. Either made to order for larger chains who might want to stock several thousand at a time to send to stores as needed or else to sell to business supply companies who sell this sort of stuff when you only need ten or twenty.
  #33  
Old 07-26-2017, 11:51 AM
burpo the wonder mutt burpo the wonder mutt is online now
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A slight side-track: I really love the "hand-phasers" the cashiers use to scan bulk/large items and have wondered (sometimes aloud, to the cashier [who usually agrees with me]) if check-out would go faster/be more accurate if we laid our items out on the belt and they were scanned lickety-split?
  #34  
Old 07-26-2017, 11:57 AM
Broomstick Broomstick is online now
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It is faster that way - I have some customers who lay things out that way and it really does go faster. The thing is, most people don't want to take the trouble to do that.
  #35  
Old 07-26-2017, 12:01 PM
Doug K. Doug K. is offline
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The link doesn't work.

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It works for me.
  #36  
Old 07-26-2017, 12:05 PM
burpo the wonder mutt burpo the wonder mutt is online now
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It is faster that way - I have some customers who lay things out that way and it really does go faster. The thing is, most people don't want to take the trouble to do that.
Understood. Plus, it's doubly "troubling" to get the UPC face up to be scanned.

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  #37  
Old 07-26-2017, 12:51 PM
Filbert Filbert is online now
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All I know is that Steven Wright tried to buy one. It turned out to be impossible.
One of my friends bought one, as part of a treasure hunt- one of the conditions was that it had to be bought, not stolen, as witnessed by an independent observer. Had to get the store manager involved, and it was listed on the receipt as something incomprehensible, but he managed it.

It helps if you go to a little store, preferably run by someone with a sense of humour.
  #38  
Old 07-26-2017, 03:20 PM
purplehearingaid purplehearingaid is offline
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Just out of curiosity - why do you bring your own conveyor belt divider? Why not just use one the store already has?

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The OP divider is a lot cleaner than the ones in the stores , I really don't like touching the store dividers they're really dirty looking . There has been a few times when there was no dividers when I was checking out and if I don't watch cashier
I could end up paying the person food behind me . I like the OP idea ,
  #39  
Old 07-26-2017, 05:03 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Just out of curiosity - why do you bring your own conveyor belt divider? Why not just use one the store already has?

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I was joking.

Last edited by John Mace; 07-26-2017 at 05:03 PM.
  #40  
Old 07-26-2017, 05:36 PM
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I have my own personalized divider that I bring to the store when I go grocery shopping. Sometimes I have to argue with the checkout person about taking it home with my goods.
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Originally Posted by carnivorousplant View Post
Doesn't it have your name on it?
Conversation sometimes borders on interrogation, but why?
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
I was joking.
I can't remember when I've been this disappointed... I was about to start a MPSIMS thread: "John Mace has his own supermarket checkout divider. What's a quirky thing do YOU do?"

But thanks for 'fessing up, John. I've been walking around thinking "Whaaaa? Why...?"
  #41  
Old 07-26-2017, 06:49 PM
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I was joking.
Thank goodness.
That reminded me of a physician who was a patron of the library where I was employed.
He wore rubber gloves all the time I saw him.
  #42  
Old 07-26-2017, 08:12 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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I can't remember when I've been this disappointed... I was about to start a MPSIMS thread: "John Mace has his own supermarket checkout divider. What's a quirky thing do YOU do?"

But thanks for 'fessing up, John. I've been walking around thinking "Whaaaa? Why...?"
Well, if I did have one, it would be designed so that if anyone put there crap closer than 6" from the bar, it would announce, in a voice that sounded like Rosie O'Donnell's: Back off, motherfucker!
  #43  
Old 07-26-2017, 09:05 PM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is online now
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Well, if I did have one, it would be designed so that if anyone put there crap closer than 6" from the bar, it would announce, in a voice that sounded like Rosie O'Donnell's: Back off, motherfucker!
That would have been a good design project in under graduate school.
You could sell, "Kosher! Kosher!" in Brooklyn and Long Island.

Oooh! In Jewish stores, "Flesich!" or "Milch!"
Meat! Dairy!
I apologize in advance for my Yiddish spelling.

Last edited by carnivorousplant; 07-26-2017 at 09:07 PM.
  #44  
Old 07-26-2017, 10:23 PM
burpo the wonder mutt burpo the wonder mutt is online now
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Well, if I did have one, it would be designed so that if anyone put there crap closer than 6" from the bar, it would announce, in a voice that sounded like Rosie O'Donnell's: Back off, motherfucker!
Wouldn't Samuel L. Jackson be better: Get yo' mutha. fuckin. shit. away from me! ?
  #45  
Old 07-27-2017, 01:41 AM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is offline
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I've paged our resident independent grocer. We'll see what he has to add to the story.
  #46  
Old 07-28-2017, 12:32 AM
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Some Californians want to ban them because they discriminate:

http://duhprogressive.com/index.php/...-lane-dividers

By the way, I asked the manager at Target about them and he said he can order them from the same supply company they get bags and stuff from. I assume it is a Target warehouse of sorts.

Dennis
  #47  
Old 07-28-2017, 12:50 AM
Terminus Est Terminus Est is online now
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Some Californians want to ban them because they discriminate:

http://duhprogressive.com/index.php/...-lane-dividers
This article, if you can call it that, is from 2011 on a site called "Duh Progressive" that has the slogan "Humor + Politics = Power™"
  #48  
Old 07-31-2017, 03:54 AM
Shinna Minna Ma Shinna Minna Ma is offline
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Just out of curiosity - why do you bring your own conveyor belt divider? Why not just use one the store already has?

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In Israel, the stores don't use them at all. You leave an empty spot after the previous person's stuff.
  #49  
Old 07-31-2017, 04:35 AM
buddha_david buddha_david is offline
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This article, if you can call it that, is from 2011 on a site called "Duh Progressive" that has the slogan "Humor + Politics = Power™"
Poe's Law in action. Besides, it is the kind of thing that silly state would come up with.
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Old 07-31-2017, 03:17 PM
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Location: Manchester, England
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I remember these dividers being common in the UK up to maybe 10/20 years ago but I haven't seen one now for a long time. The checkout design is the same, and yes there is often a little wait while the outgoer packs their bags before the next person's items start getting scanned. I've often stood there pondering why you never see them any more. If anyone knows I'd be interested to find out why.
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