Life’s Little Irritants – No 14

As Jenny was saying the other day,  the spread of self-scan counters at the supermarkets becomes more insidious by the day.

Well it must be if it has reached the sleepy consumer hollow that is Morrisons in Bredbury where they appeared a month or two ago.

I suppose the idea is that it makes service faster and more convenient for the customer and cheaper for the supermarket by not having to employ people on the nine items or less checkouts. (Or fewer depending on your level of pedanticalness.) The idea fails on both counts, at least if my experience is anything to go by.

There used to be two express checkouts at the local Morrisons and they had a laissez-faire attitude to the nymber of items you could ‘express’ through them. Their definition of a ‘quick shop’ was whatever could be carried in one hand basket, although it never ceased to amaze me just how much some people could pack in. Still, things moved smoothly on the whole and tolerably quickly.

Those two express checkouts have been replaced by four self-scan screens and whenever I’ve used them there has been a queue and it isn’t hard to see why.

First, they make sure that you’re not going to get away with more than a basket because you only have a basket sized ledge to put your shopping on. That is unless it hasn’t been commandeered by a neighbour for their overflow. (It’s happened to me — twice) Then wrestle a carrier from the rack on the other side to be ready on an even smaller ledge.

I don’t have the experience or the dexterity of a proper checkout person to whizz items over scanner at speed, but then I don’t need to as the machine will only let you scan one bloody item at a time so that it can be weighed in the bag.

Hunt the barcode can also slow proceedings, especially those tucked under the seams of the packaging that need stretching out before the laser will go bleep. And without fail, something will go wrong and the red ‘wait for an assistant’ message will grind things to a halt. Meanwhile a jar of Ragu has rolled out of your bag and smashed on the floor.

There’s another hold-up when it comes time to pay if you happen to have a bottle of cider in your shop and an assistant has to check that you’re not under-18 (I wish). Finally the one-sided, repetitious conversation you’ve had with the machine nears an end and you can pay.

There are those who would boycott self-scan on the grounds that they might put people out of a job, but I’m not convinced. There still seems to be at least two workers on hand to wave their magic key when things go wrong, check your age and sweep up the spillages.

They have my sympathy though — when they close their eyes at night, they must have “please scan the next item” and “please put the item in the bag”. Still, I suppose it makes a change from “beep– beep.. beep”.

So I’ll keep on using self-scan, no matter how irritating it might be. That is until we’re left on our own to manage the things.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

2 comments… Add yours
  • hotmoule 3rd September 2010

    I love human beings and some things they do better then machines. Checkouts are one of ’em. I’d rather stand in a 2 mile queue with a human being at the end of it – besides I can always amuse myself by looking across at the confusing and dismay on the faces of the trendies trying to suss out the self selvice check outs.

    I’m bored of this self service world.

  • Polly 4th September 2010

    Likewise. I can’t undertand why people queue for these do-i-yourself checkouts when it is quicker and easier to let a human do it for you and get paid for doing it. Look how the banks went down the pan after ATMs.


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