In Our Own Backyard...Save time, lose faceI’ve always considered myself to be a patient woman. I am generally willing to sit back and take things as they come, wait my turn and accept delays as an inevitable fact of life. Self-checkout lanes have changed all that.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
I’ve always considered myself to be a patient woman. I am generally willing to sit back and take things as they come, wait my turn and accept delays as an inevitable fact of life.
Self-checkout lanes have changed all that.
Now, I find myself in a frenzy of impatience if there’s the least bit of a waiting line, or – heaven forbid – if whatever store I’m in doesn’t offer self-checkout at all. I’ve become addicted to the freedom of being able to stroll right up to one of the self-service lanes, scan my own merchandise, bag it, insert my cash or credit card and boom – I’m headed for the parking lot in no time at all.
Well, almost. I admit that at times, the handy dandy time-saving machines, aimed at streamlining your shopping experience, can become a bit cranky. One day I had a bag of apples, and no matter which angle I scanned the bar code on the sack, the machine refused to scan it. The clerk at the nearby help desk must have sensed my frustration and she courteously suggested that I manually enter the number code on the bag. I smiled my appreciation and thanked her for her help – but then I realized I didn’t have my glasses with me and I couldn’t make out the numbers of the code!
I’ve also had issues with committing various types of faux pas with the cantankerous machines. You see, most self-checkout lanes have an automated voice that issues commands about what buttons to push and how to go about checking your things out. If you don’t do what is asked, everyone within a distance of 15 or 20 feet of you can hear you getting chewed out. If you put an ungainly item such as a 25-pound of clumping kitty litter straight in your cart after scanning it, for example, the machine will bark out, “Please put item in the bagging area!” and refuse to go on until you do.
And while there’s an option to push a “Skip bagging” button in such cases, it doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to. One day I scanned a birthday card and tossed it into a bag, but it didn’t weigh enough to register on the scale and I got the “Please put item in the bagging area!” alert. And even though I had already bagged it, I pushed “Skip bagging” just to keep the machine quiet!
After learning the idiosyncrasies of the self-checkout lane following several weeks of trial and error, I was feeling pretty confident that I had it licked, and since there are a lot of people who are still intimidated by it, I didn’t often find myself having to wait in line.
And so it was that when my husband and I stopped by the grocery store after church a couple of Sundays ago, and I smugly suggested we use the self-checkout lane for our cartload of groceries. My husband, a virtual novice at the things, deferred to me to do the scanning while he bagged. At first things went well, but that particular self-checkout lane must have been programmed for the fast track, because Ken couldn’t seem to bag things fast enough to avoid the “Please place item in the bagging area!” alert, and he started getting it on every item I scanned.
“Hurry up!” I cried, glancing around nervously as though security was going to pounce on us at any minute.
Once, he moved an item from one bag to another and the machine alerted, “Unexplained item in the bagging area! Please remove item!”
He guiltily tossed it back where it belonged and looked for all the world like he wished he had just stayed in the car.
He filled up two bags and I still had several items to go, so I suggested he transfer them to the shopping cart to make room for more.
“I’m not sure that I should do that,” he said. “I’m liable to get yelled at.”
I gave him one of those, “Oh, baby, you ain’t heard nothing yet!” looks, and he cautiously removed the grocery bags and put them in the cart.
Fortunately, no warnings sounded and when we were finished, I began to check out. As I scanned my credit card and picked up the pen to write on the signature screen, the machine gave me its parting shot – “Please don’t rest your hand on the pedestal!”
I jumped away as though I had been bitten, and though I may be mistaken, I think I saw the slightest gleam of satisfaction in my husband’s eye....