LUV - Self-service checkouts are brilliant. I don’t know if you remember what supermarkets used to be like before they existed, when you had to run everything by a checkout assistant, but it was rubbish.
Look, supermarkets have always hated you. Supermarkets are basically vast warehouses strewn with signs that say ‘THIS TOWN USED TO HAVE A FISHMONGER UNTIL WE CAME ALONG’ and ‘NONE OF OUR CHICKENS HAVE EVER SEEN SUNLIGHT AND MOST OF THEM DON’T EVEN HAVE BEAKS’. That’s fine. That’s the ethical trade-off you have to make in order to buy a lasagne-flavoured sandwich at 11pm on a Tuesday night.
But checkout assistants? They were gold-plated, stone-cold proof that supermarkets absolutely fucking hated you. Checkout assistants were trained to greet you at the till with a surly “Spose you want BAGS” that suggested you were entirely responsible for all the dead polar bears in history. If that wasn’t enough, they’d then judge you for everything you’d bought.
Oh, the judging. Buy a readymeal and you’d see them thinking “Single are we? I can’t say I’m surprised, not with that haircut.” Buy a bottle of wine and they’d think “ALCOHOL? But it’s TWO-THIRTY IN THE AFTERNOON, you MONSTER.” And, let’s be honest, anyone who says that they ever bought condoms without being directly vomited on is either particularly good at vomit-dodging or a liar.
Luckily, technology has killed the checkout assistant, just like it killed other useless professions like tube drivers and journalists. Now, instead of having to go through all the poxy rigmarole of human interaction, there’s a machine that can handle the transaction all by itself. It is the self-service checkout, and it is wonderful.
Forget pleading for a bag, because the self-service checkout practically flings them at you. “Take a bag”, it chimes. “Take 12. Fuck the polar bears. I don’t give a shit. I’m a robot”.
And there’s no judging with a self-service checkout. It’s a machine. It can’t judge you. You can buy whatever you like - condoms, Anusol, guidebooks called How To Murder Your Bitch Of A Wife - and the machine just lets them pass without so much as blinking. I mean, obviously all the wires from the machine lead directly to the supermarket HQ, where a fat man in a top hat sees what you’ve bought and barks “CRANBERRY JUICE? I bet your vagina’s ALL FUCKED UP!”, but it’s fine. He can’t look you in the eye while he does it. It’s fine.
So congratulations to you, self-service checkout manufacturers, for making the world a better place. Yes, admittedly you’ve probably just invented the earliest stage of Skynet, but at least now I can buy doughnuts without worrying that the woman on the till thinks I’m a fat wanker. It’s totally worth it.
- Stuart Heritage
HAT - It’s 2012, you know. Twenty-twelve. The sort of date that should flash across your screen in a silvery font and go KAPOW. It’s the future, and as a child of the future I should rejoice in the self-service checkout.
But I don’t.
In fact I’d rather malinger in a 100-person supermarket cashier queue than follow the employee trying to usher me over to the self-service machine. Because I know his game. He’s not really asking me to expedite my twelve Wispa Golds and one low-fat sandwich, is he? What he’s really asking is “Would you like to FAIL today?”
Because everyone fails at the self-service checkout - you, me, Feliks Zemdegs the 2011 Rubik’s Cube record holder, everybody. It doesn’t matter how urbane or technologically adept we are. I’ll bet even the inventor of the self-service checkout starts speed-beeping his groceries through with blithe confidence but ends the process in panicky tears, desperately swiping a lemon across the barcode reader before ED209 stomps out to gun him down if he can’t find his Nectar card in 20 seconds.
The bastard machine dooms me from the outset. As soon as I rock up it’ll shout “START SCANNING YOUR ITEMS NOW” before I can put down my bag. Then it’ll bark diktats as I fling my groceries across the FUCKING SUDDENLY DEAFBLIND barcode scanner while trying to liberate a carrier bag with my teeth.
Then I’ll come across an item - like the aforementioned lemon - which doesn’t have a bar code, so I’ll have to key it in manually. This involves selecting “Menu” on the screen, then clicking “Product” then “Plantae” then “Magnoliophyta” then “Magnoliopsida” then “Rosidae” then “Sapindales” then “Rutaceae” then “Aurantioideae” then “Citreae” then “Citrus” then finally “Lemon”.
At this point the self-service checkout will decide that lemons don’t in fact exist, and also that there is something unexpected in the bagging area. Often this is nothing, or air, or the previous shopper’s aura. Regardless, the self-service checkout will sulk until I call for assistance.
But, as I said, everyone fails at the self-checkout. Even the terminally bored girl employed to fix the self-checkout. She’ll resignedly turn a key in a thing and press another thing, then jab ineffectually at the screen as the self-service checkout machine commands her to “ENTER your pi- PLEASE ask for assista- RESCAN the ite- PLEASE take your shoppi-”, and the only silver lining to the whole horrid affair is that it allows me to tiptoe to the exit with not-technically-my shopping.
Anyone need any lemons?
- Robyn Wilder
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