New Castle News

October 29, 2013

Kali Davies-Anderson: Oh, the horror of self-scan checkout lines

Kali Davies-Anderson
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — I hate to sound like somebody’s great-great-great-grandmother, but it seems like nowadays (now I really do sound like someone’s grandma) the whole world is becoming automated.

Banking, car washing, customer service, hand-washing and even toilet flushing are done without the need for human effort.

I have had many good experiences in today’s automated society, except for in one area, one newly developed automated system that has induced homicidal tendencies in me on more than one occasion.

The system of which I am speaking is — cue the “Jaws” theme song — the self-scan grocery store checkout line.

I will admit that I feel a gravitation toward self-scan lines because I, for one, am usually very, very ugly when I grocery shop and the fewer people I see, the better. In addition to not wanting to interact with a cashier that I may or may not know, that may or may not smash my fresh loaf of oatmeal bread, the lines at the automated checkout are ALWAYS shorter.

I have discovered it’s a trap.

Let’s hypothesize for a moment that you have gone to the grocery store for six items. Let us also assume that every checkout line in said store has a wait of at least 10 people deep. Glancing across the store at the “self-checkout” lanes you notice much shorter lines and in a split-second decision, swerve your buggy and head for the shortest line possible.

After waiting for a few minutes (paling in comparison to the prospective 30-minute wait in the regular lanes) you step up to the machine and are greeted by a pleasant voice asking you to present your shopping card for the store.

As you fumble through your wallet, unable to find the card, the once pleasant automated voice has now become quite threatening and one might almost say, hostile, demanding that you present your shopping card.

Filled with fear, you remove every card from your wallet and hurriedly scan all of them, luckily snagging the bar code of your shopping card as well.

The automated voice returns back to her normal, friendly self and requests that you begin to scan your items.

You scan the first five items and place them in the designated bagging area without incident, but then when you scan your last item, a birthday card, things go downhill quickly.

At first, the not so kind voice asks that you please “bag your item.”

“But, I HAVE bagged my item!”

Apparently due to the light-weight nature of the card, the automated system now has pinpointed you as a thief and calls for back-up.

The light above the register begins to flash. The computer freezes on a red screen, a blaring reminder of the horrible crime that you have committed.

In this moment you imagine that in some dark corridor of the store there is a little room where a cast of self-scan police officers are waiting to arrest indigent shoppers like you and whisk you away to a prison where you are forced to learn the proper etiquette of scanning one’s own groceries. 

Your palms become sweaty. Your eyes wander around the room. And then you see a person with a heavy badge of keys approaching you.

He stares you up and down, peeks into your bags, all the while you’re mumbling something about how busy the store is, or how beautiful his leather oxfords are.

And then, with the turn of a key, your ordeal is over. Your total comes up on the screen. You are free to go.

Yes, it is a harrowing experience to scan your own groceries, but when you have babies waiting on you at home, or a hungry husband wanting dinner, sometimes you just gotta take one for the team.