They are still out to get me you know. It’s something being harassed by a weird old lady in a wheelchair. It’s quite another thing shrivelling with embarrassment when a piece of supermarket technology starts shouting at you.
These supermarket DIY check-outs look like a piece of cake – and if you only have a basket of stuff – as I usually have as I nip to Sainsbury’s by bike – they should in theory be a lot quicker than queueing up behind a mother-of-five doing her monthly £800 spend.
I dipped my metaphorical toe into the water with a newspaper, a greetings card and pack of catfood – dead easy to swipe those nice flat bar codes – paid by card and used a store carrier, which i don’t normally do. No problem and no I didn’t need the assistance either of the Sainsbury’s ladies gossiping about a friend of theirs who’d been unfortunately arrested during a fracas the night before.
So the next time I did a bike shop – Sains have considerately provided covered bike racks so I feel duty bound to use them – I was pretty confident the self check-out (I wish they’d change the name – sounds far too much like a euthanasia clinic) – would be quick and easy.
This time I had my own bag – a rucksack which when loaded with potatoes, broccoli and a pack of four tins of Branston baked beans slows me down to 9mph on the hill. I pressed the “I am using my own bag” button.
“ATTENTION. Please wait for a member of staff to authorise the item,” a techno-voice blared out. It was quiet in Sainsbury’s at 8.35am. Five people around me checking themselves out looked over at my bag and nodded as though they were noting that I did indeed have my own bag. I could feel them thinking “Awkward cuss. Why doesn’t she just use the orange plastic ones like the rest of us?”
So I waited for one of the gossipy ladies to come and authorise my bag. She was a cheery chubby girl with a smile that reminded me of a picnic one sandwich short. Nevertheless, this girl had the patience of several saints. She was helping two women to try and find the bar code on huge sack of cat litter that they could barely lift, let alone manoeuvre across the scanner. It took three of them at least five attempts before the glorious peep of “bar code registered” was heard. Only then did Cheery Girl bring her smile over to me, jab a couple of fingers on my screen and say “There you go my love” all of which I find both patronising, hopelessly inefficient and irritating in a way that makes me ashamed of being irritated.
At least I could proceed, even though by now the whole point of being able to whizz my stuff through the check-out under my own steam had been completely undermined.
The techno-voice blared out again.
“UNEXPECTED ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA. UNEXPECTED ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA. PLEASE REMOVE THE ITEM BEFORE CONTINUING.”
I felt like saying “Yes. I know what it is. I put it there. That would be my cycling helmet, you crass piece of customer crapware. If you just give me an option to touch-screen “cycle helmet” I’ll tell you.”
Point is, it’s a new helmet and I’m not having it rolling around the floor. Neither am I carrying it while I attempt to manipulating my King Edwards so that the barcode bit of plastic is flat enough to swoop pass the scanner.
The space next to my rucksack seemed the only option.
Course, the machine wouldn’t shut up.
“UNEXPECTED ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA. PLEASE WAIT FOR ASSISTANCE.”
Oh God. It seemed twice as loud. Now people were tut-tutting under their breath and staring at the dunderhead who needs assistance. What on earth has she got in her bagging area? I ask you. Necks were craning and children were coming to get a good look at the cause of the repeated error message.
I expecteded a swat-team of Sainsbury’s de-baggers to arrive at any moment but Cheery Girl caught my eye and nodded, indicating she’d be with me shortly. She was dealing with a couple whose toddler was busy loading items straight into his own pushchair. Early training for a life of crime, no doubt. The kind of kid who needs a kindergarten cop. I’d have confiscated his teacher beaker for a start.
“It’s my helmet” I mouth silently at Cheery Girl, pointing to my bagging area. (No, not that one, although I admit having two kids has taken its toll.)
“I’ll remove it, ok?”
I slung it over my arm
The techno-Nazi machine still wasn’t having it.
“PLEASE WAIT FOR ASSISTANCE!!”
Cheery Girl waddled over and grinned “Some people take a long time to get used to all this” which was supposed to make me feel better but made me feel like inserted an unexpected item into her bagging area.
“It would be really good if the machine would just let me get on with it,” I said as nicely as I could muster through gritted teeth.
Anyway, I won’t blurble on but I’m still a Self Checkout Beginner. I can’t really manage paying with cash yet. When I needed change today I spent some minutes examining the hardware closely to try to determine where my ten pound note might have popped out. I eventually found it, protruding by one centimetre somewhere unexpected which was definitely not the bagging area.
But I also wonder why I get somewhat delayed and frustrated by the whole process when part of the price of my shopping goes to pay the wages of the staff on the checkouts?
So if I’m doing the job myself, where, I wonder, is my cut? I must ask at Customer Services. I think a tenner an hour would be fair.