I really dislike the self-service machines in supermarkets. Yes, they’re sometimes quicker, yes, the lines are often shorter, but the truth is, for the most part, they just don’t bloody work.
Shopping is not my favourite task. I become side-tracked, I always forget the damn toilet paper and I somehow manage to come home with broken eggs, after carefully checking the case. In the city, it is worse, people are harried and rushed. As soon as I think I know where things are, management move the shelving. And then there’s the checkout.
Half the time I join that line of resigned, exhausted people, fervently hoping I don’t have to speak to anyone, only to be harassed by an accusing machine, “please put the item in the bagging area, and please remove the item from the bagging area”. The other thing I loathe about self-service is the bagging. Sometimes I will pull out my bag from home only to have the thing shriek out again “please remove the item from the bagging area.”
I then signal the very individual I don’t want to talk too – a customer-service assistant – and point helplessly while they stuff around with keys. Lightning-fast fingers tapping keys and overriding functions, then, satisfied; they walk off to the next exasperated consumer of goods.
Only to have my frustrated hand rise quivering again, then turn to gesturing wildly, as my concerns over the machine demanding the weight of asparagus priced by the bunch, are ignored. Meanwhile, the line of cashier service is flowing faster, and I’m having more of an interaction with the customer-service assistant than I would if I were in front of a cashier.
The one good thing about these self-service machines is that people rarely have the opportunity to do the quick dash to grab something they are missing, unlike cashier service, where the malevolent eyes of the whole line-up behind them glare at the customer and the gormless cashier. The bad thing is that I can’t myself run off, for something I’ve missed.
It’s not all bad, I could potentially put my heritage tomatoes through as regular tomatoes, but somehow when faced with all the choices I feel as if the machine, with its loud, insistent squawk is watching me, and so I stay safely within the frustrating bounds of the law. The self-service machines are sometimes faster, but faced with all the problems I’m now unwilling to take the risk. It’s the cashier line up for me.