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.