Since February 1, this location has become a hub of human suffering. In these divided times, our differences can often seem insurmountable. We function as a fractured society, pitted against each other over the most trivial of distinctions – red vs. blue, woman vs. man, west of I-270 vs. those who prefer to live near “culture” and “civilization.”

But every now and then, a unifying force emerges with a pull so strong that it brings us together. Like two magnets of opposite polarity joining as one, we unite – and we are stronger for it. This past week, the St. Louis area experienced one such moment, as citizens of all backgrounds set aside their differences and embraced their shared disdain for Schnucks’ new self-checkout policy.

On Thursday, February 1, St. Louis’ largest homegrown grocery chain implemented its new policy (now known as The Calamity) without warning. The fine print of The Calamity limits self-checkout purchases to just 10 items or less – half of the previous limit – and is now strictly enforced.

Union leadership praised the change as a win-win for both employees and customers. “A more full-service operation benefits our hard-working union partners and helps Schnucks conduct business more efficiently,” said UFCW Local 655 President David Cook in a statement on February 2. “Our partners in these stores enjoy interacting with customers and making connections, and it gives those shoppers a better overall experience.”

A more full-service operation does sound appealing! Some of us can even recall the days when we didn’t have to deal with self-checkout at all, when a team of employees would scan and bag our items for us. A return to even a fraction of that experience would surely be welcomed by both customers and employees.

However, the reality on the ground has not lived up to the promise of its implementation. Since The Calamity was introduced, Schnucks shoppers across the St. Louis region have united in a way not seen since we collectively ran Stan Kroenke out of town. Social media has been abuzz with dissatisfied customers, with neighborhood groups filled with complaints from those forced to wait in overcrowded full-service lines. As I write this, the top post on St. Louis Reddit is titled “Schnucks lines,” with 284 upvotes and 279 comments. “This new policy is a total disaster,” reads the post by Reddit user burritofan41. “There is still no one checking people out and the self-checkout sits empty. I just waited half an hour to check out. Looks like I’ll be shopping at Dierbergs or Fresh Thyme from now on until Schnucks revises their policy.”