Thursday, July 26, 2012

821. Self-Check-Out and Self-Loathing

I am not good at electronical things.  When my alarm clock dies, I have to ask The Husband to put the new battery in for me.  When it’s time to TiVo the debut of a show I’ve heard about, I call Tall into the room to program it.  When my dad gives me an expensive camera for Christmas, I stare very hard at the packaging, willing it to open and explain itself to me. 

So it should come as no surprise that I do not like grocery stores with self-check-out. 
Self-check-out is a test, a test we are all set up to fail.  I know people who have gotten (paying) jobs at the grocery store and guess what:  they go through a week of training!  Yes!  A whole week, and one of the most important things they learn is “register.” 

I myself have not had any formal training.  I have not learned “register.”  How can I be expected to expertly scan my items and ring myself up with no training? 
The answer is:  I can’t. 

For this reason, the grocery store I normally choose to go to has no self-check-out.  It is a further drive and is more expensive than that other grocery store, but worth it.  However, my favorite grocery store does not open until 9 AM, and it was 6 AM when I realized that we were out of toothpaste* (*that is a lie.  I realized three days ago, but kept using the kids’ bubblegum flavor toothpaste and could not take it for one more day.  Yuck.).  I hopped in the car and drove to FoodFun. 
The second I walked in, I was spying for checkers.  There were none.  I knew I was going to have to scan my own stuff.  I broke into a cold sweat, and briefly considered calling The Husband at home for moral support and advice, if only his number was programmed into my phone and I knew how to use it. 

I quickly located the toothpaste, then suddenly remembered we were also out of People magazine with Katie Holmes on the cover, so I grabbed one of those, too. 
As I walked up to the check-out lane, I gave one last attempt at finding a (paid) worker who could help me.

“Hello?” I called out, my voice echoing in the cavernous expansiveness that is FoodFun.  “Hello?” 
Thank God, just at this precise moment, a clerk walked up to me. 

“Did you need some help, ma’am?”
“Yes, please.  I would like to buy these two essentials.” 

The checker glanced at my items and smiled, most likely because she knew that the toothpaste was not actually an essential. 
“Ma’am, you will have to use self-check-out.  No checkers are scheduled on until 8 AM.”  She shrugged, as if she had just said We are out of mint chocolate chip ice-cream so you will have to try chocolate chip mint instead.  Same thing, no big deal. 

Obviously, she does not know me, because self-check-out is a big deal. 
“Miss,” I implored, as she began to walk away, “I cannot do self-check-out.  I can do checker check out where I stand here and make small talk with you about the weather and about whether Daryl Hannah had plastic surgery (she has).  I am highly trained as a customer.  I have money, credit cards, and checks, and can pay for what I want to buy.  However, I have zero training on register and how to check people out, or how to check myself out.  And I am not familiar with how to approve a check if I decide to write a check.” 

She sighed.  I could tell this was not the first time she had heard this, even though it might be the first time today. 
“Honestly, ma’am, it is not that hard.  Here, I have a video that you can watch that explains it.”  She turned to go find the video. 

“Excuse me, miss!  I do not have time for a video!”
“Fine.  Just read the sign above the check-out and it will walk you through the steps.” 

“Miss,” I tried hard to bite my tongue but failed, “I am only buying two things.  By the time you argued with me so much about me checking myself out, you could have done it already.” 
She rolled her eyes, utterly exasperated at 6:10 AM .  “I am not allowed to do check out until 8.  I am supposed to be unloading those boxes.”  She pointed to a pile of boxes that looked slightly smaller than the Pyramids of Giza.  Then, without so much as a halfhearted Good luck, she walked away. 

I stood there with my toothpaste and magazine, staring at the screen.  Focus, MOV, focus.  How hard could it be?  I located the bar code on the toothpaste and swiped it against the glass counter.  I could see the red laser light blinking up at me. 
“Before swiping first item, please enter and verify your FoodFun bonus rewards card number.  If you do not have a FoodFun card, press the purple key,” announced the self-check-out tape recording voice at maximum volume so anyone around could verify that I was, in fact, an idiot. 

I frantically searched for the purple key while the recording kept reprimanding me:  “Press the purple key NOW.  Press the purple key NOW.” 
Then the recording told me to swipe my first item, the toothpaste.  I swiped it, and the recording instructed me to “Put item in the bag.”  Since it was only toothpaste and a magazine, I was not really going to need a bag.  So, I made the mistake of merely holding the toothpaste. 

“Put item in the bag NOW,” demanded the recording, who was making my friend Christine’s bossy car GPS seem infinitely warm and fuzzy by comparison.  “NOW.  NOW.” 
I really did not want a bag.  I gawked at the self-check-out keyboard, seeking a “no bag” option. 

Right then, the clerk returned.  “Is there a problem?  The self-check-out wants you to put your item in the bag.”  She put her hands on her hips, like a third grade teacher.  I had seen this look before, mostly from my own third-grader. 
“I don’t need a bag,” I responded, trying to hide my frustration, “I just need the toothpaste.” 

“The computer senses if the item is in the bag or not,” the checker explained to me slowly, as if she were repeating some well-known universal truth like The sun comes up in the day, then the moon comes up in the night, dummy.  “If you do not put the item in the bag, it will wait for you.  If you really do not want a bag, you can trick the self-check-out by taking the items out of the bag at the end.” 
I was not up for tricking the computer, I just wanted to buy my damn toothpaste.  At this point, my kids’ bubblegum flavor toothpaste at home was not looking so bad after all.  Besides, minty fresh breath is seriously overrated. 

As the clerk walked away yet again, I put the toothpaste in the bag, then tried to swipe the bar code of the magazine.  It read the code twice by accident.  Beep!  Beep! 
Now I was really distraught.  I did not want to pay for two magazines.  But there was no key that said “Remove last item.”  Maybe that was the first thing they went over in the video:  how to fix mistakes when you do self-check-out.  I desperately did not want to call the store employee over again to further embarrass myself and ask for her help, yet I did not want to pay for something twice.  I was having an internal moral angsty dilemma, and I had not even brushed my teeth yet.      

I did the only thing I could:  I found another magazine for the same price and put it in the bag.  It was about tattoo artists, but at least it was the same price. 
I swiped my credit card. 

“Credit or debit?” bellowed the self-check-out recording. 
I pressed the credit button, and the machine ignored me.

“Cash?  Cash?  CASH?” 

I swiped my card again.
“Card not recognized.  Please remove card and try again.  Please.  Try.  Again.  Por favor prima el numéro dos si habla español.     
This machine was giving me an inferiority complex in multiple languages.  I tried swiping my card yet again, then waited patiently while it finally spit out my receipt (which I expected to jam the machine, but thankfully did not).  I looked at my watch and realized that the whole toothpaste-buying extravaganza had taken 22 minutes. 
As I walked to the door with my (unwanted) bag with my three items, the same clerk reappeared, blocking my exit.
“Ma’am, I need to double-check your receipt to make sure you did it right and did not steal anything.” 
I handed her the receipt while she looked in my bag, making me feel like a criminal.  Then she had to go and say one more thing: 
“Can you please fill out this survey online when you get home and give our service here at FoodFun a 10, which is the highest rating?” 

I told her I did not have time for any surveys.  I was going to spend my valuable time doing important things, like getting tattoos. 



  1. It's ridiculous, isn't it? They put a self-check lane in at one our local stores. I think we beat it. It stands unused and alone. Such a waste of space!

  2. MOV, The self-checkout concept is one of the most customer unfriendly things EVER invented. (the other being the check-in kiosks at airports and doctors offices)

    I am a wiz at electronics. I'm not sure where you live but I could come over and set up universal remotes to do everything in your house. By this evening I could have you vaccuming your house by remote...BUT those damn self-checkers suck.

    If I buy a couple of things that are standard issue with a nice bar code...sometimes..not always..I can get out of the store before the cussing starts. (me cussing at a machine)

    However, most times, it doesn't like my produce,(Really can 3 bananas weigh 8 pounds) or the Diet coke on sale for 3 12 pks for $10.00 just rang up at $14.50.

    Then the real person comes over and acts like I "didn't do something right". Eye rolling isn't how good customer service works. (in my opinion)

  3. As I only learned to shop in the last few years there is no way I am up for snotty machines and snippy clerks to tell me I am not register material. I already know that.

  4. LOL. I love self-checkouts. So many people dislike them that the actual checkouts with human cashiers are backed up and it takes forever to get through those. Plus there are usually only 2 or 3 checkout lanes open, which is stupid since the stores have ten lanes and employees wandering around aimlessly. So I whiz through the self-checkout and I'm done before anyone else at the other registers. I find the self-checkouts to be more intelligent than the human cashiers anyway. But that might be my local area, ha!

    I don't like that the self checkouts are so LOUD. I'm not deaf, but the decibel level of those darn things is enough to cause it! :)

  5. Honestly, if a store doesn't have a self-checkout, I try not to shop there. Why? Because if I wanted to tell someone about my life, I would go to a bar. I don't want to talk to someone when I am buying feminine products, some chocolate, and an avocado.

    Also, the places without the self-checks have LINES... 12 registers and one cashier is not how it's supposed to work. Now I am one of those annoying people that will do my big shopping and go through the self check... I swear, I could probably fix those machines by now.

  6. I feel so much better, I have not one time used one of those silly things that the alarm hasn't gone off for some supposed offense I have committed against it requiring at least one and sometimes two people to come and fix it.

  7. I love the self-check-out! Of course, when I was little, it was my fervent dream to become a cashier once I grew up and I spent hours with my toy register and all our canned goods pulled out of the pantry so I could ring up the groceries. Sadly, I never realized my dream, so the self-check out is my only way of feeling a bit of that long-lost joy :)

  8. Rather shameless to ask for a 10 rating after that really customer-friendly behavior. But I guess that's how one gets somewhere in life. ;)

  9. I love the self-check-out in theory. However the execution is horrific. There is a plastic bag band in my city so they have paper bags sitting out, still folded, near the self-check-out. Of course naturally you would unfold a bag first and then place your items in them after you scan them, but if you grab and put it on the item placement thing, the machine tells you to rescan the item and won't let you do anything until you move the bag. This means you have to scan your items and place them on the item place thing then pay then put the items into your bag. It makes me so mad I'm not even going to go back and proof read this comment before submitting it.

  10. I don't know what to say, except ... Oh MOV ...

    A little self promotion (if you'll allow) and the thoughts of the guy behind you in that self checkout line ...

  11. I hate self check out lines...they are great in theory, until the simplest thing throws off the whole process, requiring you to get the one employee manning the 8 checkouts to over ride whatever happened. I always cave and use it when I am in a hurry, and I am quickly reminded that it is not a time saver at all

  12. This is why I just rummage out of the dumpster behind the grocery store. No silly check out for me.

  13. I'm so sorry, but I can do self-check. I feel kind of embarrassed by this strange ability. I don't know what's wrong with me. Shame on that store clerk for not helping you. You can always shout at her, You will never earn more than 18,000 a year, you freaky little moron! Would that make you feel any better? If I were with you, I would do self-check for you.


  14. Bahahaha! Best post EVER! I hate when computers talk to me. They give me the creeps. I can do self-check-out, though. Sorry if that adds to your inferiority complex.

  15. Seriously one of your best! I already knew that any magazine with Katie Holmes on the cover was an essential...duh.

    I actually go the extra distance to keep from self-checking out, too. It is really, really difficult for those of us who are geniuses.

    1. My IQ is 132 and I can self-check. I think you're implying that I'm stupid and I'm hardly stupid at all for a stripper with bodacious ta-tas and good grammar. I can even weigh my fruit and self-check it. I think self-checking is for people with an IQ higher than 131.

      Janie L. Junebug

  16. I actually like the self-check line, but I can never get through without the attendant... they have to approve the wine purchase, you know.

  17. The self checkout rarely seems crowded, so then it is just the worker assigned to oversee the self checker-outters glaring at me...knowing full well that I do not have the donut code memorized...yet!

  18. I have pizzas delivered daily. They come to me.

  19. haha You do know that self checkout system was made by a man for a man to use when he has to by tampons for his girl. lol

  20. For good reason, it has been years since I used one of those babies. It took Xanax, a massage, and an emergency visit to my therapist for me to get through that trauma.

  21. I can self-check but I do sometimes have trouble with the bagging area recognizing that I ALREADY PUT THE STUPID THING IN THE BAGGING AREA YOU CRAZY MACHINE!!!! Sorry, got a little annoyed there.


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