My ongoing battle with the self-serve check out

| February 2, 2019

Humans enjoy feeling smart. We also like to attend fancy restaurants, classy motels and shmick events just to feel that little bit better about ourselves.

It is, in my opinion, an innate part of the human psyche and something that we all possess regardless of class, status or wealth. Pride is our hubris.

Sadly, mine has been dented beyond repair by my local Coles supermarket and today I write these words as a shattered fool, lost and forlorn, half the man I once was.

My local store implemented self-serve checkouts a few years back and I was determined not to be caught in the mire of robotic machinery designed to replace the honest work of Australian employees.

I bucked the system like a brazen bronco and refused to even make eye contact with the poor soul given the task of hovering in the self-serve area and tempting skeptical shoppers.

The elderly were lured in, as were young mums with kids in tow and middle aged men were susceptible to the beautiful smiles and manners of the cunning young girls weaving their magic and powers of persuasion.

I was resilient, waiting patiently in the normal queue, refusing to budge. I told the regular check out staff each time I went through, that I really wanted them to keep their jobs and would never turn to the dark side.

Eventually, I crumbled. Not due to a weakening of spirit mind you, more the fact that I needed to get out of the store. Eventually, the number of actual checkout lines diminished to the point where there was really no other option.

Lamentably, I proceeded to the self-serve area. The young girl overseeing proceedings threw me a smile that said, “We got you, you blighter” and swipe away I did.

With only a handful of items, it should have been a brisk event, however, when a rather insulting and saucy voice informed me that I needed to replace an item in the bagging area, I was dumbfounded.

I stood like a Kangaroo in the headlights, pivoting my head back and forth desperate for attention. A sixteen year old hero saved my bacon with the swipe of a card and the toss of her hair and things were back on track.

My memories of ‘my first time’ are vivid. Feeling more confident in subsequent attempts however, did nothing at all to aid in my supermarket up-skilling.

The next time I hit a hurdle and waited for assistance, the young girl informed me that I had failed to notice the yellow dot clearly indicating that the item was on sale. I calmly asked her, “How the heck am I supposed to know that?”

She knew the rules back the front and I knew nothing, I am a fool and should really learn the system more thoroughly to ensure that she doesn’t have a job in the future.

My kids and I have now developed a running gag. It seems no matter which store we enter and use the whizzbang automated facilities, we never get out without a hitch.

Whether it be a coat hanger causing an issue with the weight of items, some bizarre message about the ‘bagging area’ or a need for the replacement of the paper roll that prints the receipts, it has become a rather sad yet tragic joke.

All the while people are putting expensive fresh food items through as ‘loose carrots’ and paying a buck fifty for a fourteen dollar pomegranate.

I proved the point to my daughter one day, swiping one Turkish delight – the best chocolate in town in my opinion – and hurling two into the bag.

“Dad, you didn’t pay for that,” she said.

I nodded and explained how silly the system was and how few actual humans were now working in the store. I took her straight over to customer service, repaid the money and donated to the Red Kite initiative they were supporting.

At last count it stood 40-30 in the supermarkets favour, to use tennis parlance. I won’t give up though and have a few ideas on how to get back in front in my endless cage fight with the mind numbingly insulting self-serve check-out.

With a few allies, I might just have a chance.