Showdown at the Self-Check
Friday, April 16, 2004

This is pretty trivial (okay, it’s really, really trivial.) What is it with these stupid self-check- out terminals at the grocery store? When I first heard about the concept I thought, “Wow, cool, I bet I could check-out, bag my groceries and get home to watch Firefly in record time.” Ohhh….how wrong I was!

I consider myself a fairly technologically savvy person. I can handle computers, pdas, automatic tellers and any other electronic device that rears its ugly head. The problem with these self-check-out machines is the store is so focused on preventing fraud and the slight possibility that you might walk out with a kiwi fruit or a pack of gum you didn’t pay for that the machines are impossible to use. They freeze up at the slightest provocation and if you take your freshly bagged groceries off the “bagging area” the machine has a hissy fit and screams at volumes that can be heard throughout the store, “Item removed from bagging area.” Yea, you piece of machine, I had to take my groceries out so I could open another bag to put more items in. If the machine didn’t freeze after this little proclamation, I could have lived with it.

Then there was the inevitable price argument with the grocery Overlord. The grocery Overlord’s job is to watch five self-check-out machines simultaneously and come and offer cheerful and helpful advice if you or your machine encounters a problem. So I say to the Overload, “This item scanned incorrectly, the price should be 2/$5.00.” The grocery Overlord frowned, yanked the item out of my hand, scanned it herself, consulted her master list and announced, “No that is the correct price.” “No, it isn’t,” I said, “There’s a sign the size of my torso, that says 2/$5.00$.” The Overlord rolls her eyes, gives me a pissed off look and calls one of her underling grocery trolls over. “Go see if you can find a sign by this item that says 2/$5.00$.” The troll is gone an interminable amount of time. My co-pilot and I stand around making small talk with the smarter grocery shoppers, who had actually chosen to go to a human checker. When the troll comes back, she says, “There isn’t any sign that says 2/$5.00.” I’m pissed as hell, but at this point, I’m tired, I’m hungry, it’s late and we’ve already been standing in the damn grocery store forever. “Fine.” I hiss. The Overlord gives me a gloating look. I finish paying for the groceries and as I’m walking out she says in her best condescending voice,” If you want to bring me the sign, I’ll give you the 2/$5.00 price.” “Fine.” A little smile brightens my face and I stalk down the grocery isle, rip the sign off the grocery case and charge triumphantly up to her register. It’s a real burn being right so often. She looks first visibly shocked that the sign actually exists, then she’s incredibly pissed. She hunts down the grocery troll who couldn’t find the sign and shakes both the sign and the item in her face, there by demonstrating her superb leadership and management skills. I get my money, my items and a half-assed apology from this hwoon dahn. It’s good to know customer service isn’t dead.

I would rather have dental surgery than have to deal with that machine again. I would also love to shop at another grocery store but they are the only grocery chain in town, except for Wal-Mart, who I also loathe but for different reasons.

What’s in the CD player: Ollabelle. They rock: Go here to hear them:

What’s for dinner: Heirloom lettuce salad with garlic croutons and a thyme vinaigrette. Chicken and rosemary dumplings.

I still want to go see “Hellboy,” and now I want to see “The Punisher.”

Be Well!


So we'll integrate non-progressional evolution theory with God's creation of Eden. Eleven inherent metaphoric parallels already there. Eleven. Important number. Prime number. One goes into the house of eleven eleven times, but always comes out one. Noah's ark is a problem.


Monday, April 19, 2004 5:44 AM


I like the self-checker. I haven't had many problems with them, but the Gorcery Overlord at the store I go to is a major pain in the ass. I go through the self-checkout so I can not have to deal with people if I've had a rought day. But there's this creepy guy who won't leave yo alone. If it's self-checkout, why does the guy insist on hovering? Every time I scan a fruit or vegetable he's on my ass, trying to tell me which buttons to push when I was completely capable of figuring it out myself. Plus, this one time he lied and said his check thingee was broken because he was too lazy to run my check through. So in my case, the problem with the machine is the people.

Saturday, April 17, 2004 7:49 AM


That sounds like a really intelligent idea, Britchick.

Unfortunately, neither the U.S. Corporations, nor our Government, place a really high premium on Intelligence these days.... so our system will continue under the assumption that we're all stupid.

Anyone else know which Congress-person I should write to about this?

Friday, April 16, 2004 10:25 PM


HI, We have self scanning here in the UK, but it works differntly to the way you describe, and is really good!

You register with the store the very first time. From then on, you swipe your card, get a hand held scanner, and walk round the store doing your shopping.

You put your empty grocery bags in the trolley ready, then as you pick up an item you want, you scan it and pack it.
(This means you only have to handle everything once, instead of once to put it in your trolley and then again at the chekout to pack it)

When you get to the special checkout you just plug in your scanner, it tells you what you owe, you insert your credit card to pay, and that's it.

It's really really easy, and very very quick.

To prevent fraud they do random spot checks where they ask a customer if they acan rescan all their goods. That takes extra time obviously, but I have been doing my grocery shopping this way (when I don't have it delivered) for about eight years, and I have only been rescanned twice!

Anyway,, just a different perspective from the other side of the pond :)

You scan each item as you place it in your bagfirst of sall

Friday, April 16, 2004 10:16 PM


"I know!! We'll give the customer the opportunity to do it THEMSELVES!! They'll love us for it! What a brilliant idea, Bob!"

Sometimes stupidity is a grey line, like the guy who slows down for a yellow light or people who use iTunes. But every now and again, a decision is so clearly stupid, Sueno is RIGHT, these people should be castrated.

We are NOT a culture of people who in any way are interested doing things ourselves. We want someone else to pick what's on TV, we want someone else to hand our food out to us through the WINDOW of a restaurant, and when we do go inside, we want a waiter to bring us our food. Like I don't have enough stuff to worry about in a day. Now I have to train myself to work a Grocery Store Scanner?

I'm all for a better-educated public-- I'll memorize the price of green beans, I'll learn the arcane filing system so I never have to find a random box of cereal in the Paper Towel aisle.

But c'mon, man. Don't fire the checkout people. Cuz if you do, I'm pretty sure I can Take the Grocery Overlord, and then I don't have to pay for my groceries at all.

Hmm, I seem to have argued myself in a circle. Anyway, I agree with Sueno. G'day.


Friday, April 16, 2004 2:16 PM


Greetings! Remember that your grocery costs pay for someone's salary, so don't give the store a discount by doing the check out work yourself.

self-check lines sometimes work, often don't, but when I heard this argument I completely ceased trying to use them. I am happier now, too!

insight spinner (recent firefly convert)


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