Surly Thursdays: grocery store edition

Dear Loblaws:

Just wanted to thank you for another thrill-filled adventure at the self check-out station today. I know, I know - it's my own fault. Every time I go there I tell myself I will never, under any circumstances, use the self check-out station again because saving a few minutes is not worth the resultant blood pressure spike/rage-induced headache/visions of death and destruction. But then the next time, there are barely any cashiers on (why would there be, when you have these marvels of technology to replace them?) and long lineups of cranky people, and, well, it's kind of like childbirth or aerobics; I forget the magnitude of the pain, and I think 'maybe it won't be so bad this time'. Because I'm a fucking moron.

It tells me to put my re-usable bags on the platform, so I do. It says press DONE when I'm, you know, done, so I do. Then it tells me that the large item I'm trying to scan needs to be scanned by the cashier. Except I didn't try to scan a large item. The cashier comes over and says maybe my bags on the platform set off the scale. You know, the bags the disembodied robotic bitch just told me to put there.

Anyway. I proceed with scanning items. There's the usual bullshit with the disembodied robotic bitch telling me to remove the last item placed in the bag and scan it when I ALREADY BLOODY SCANNED IT, and the disembodied robotic bitch taking her sweet damned time scanning stuff, like she's off deciding what colour she'd paint her robotic fingernails if she had a body, and then the out-of-the-blue, Kafkaesque demand to 'see the attendant'. The attendant - who stand at the center of the bank of self-checkout stations, ostensibly to monitor things and help out as needed - is, of course, busy chatting with two other cashiers, who I have clearly been mistakenly feeling sympathy for, being replaced by those evil machines and everything, because here they still are. So I push the button that says "Call Attendant". And the Attendant immediately fixes me with a vicious stare and hollers "Don't EVER push that button! All it does it jam everything up!"


Right. Of course. I'M the asshole for pushing a button that says CALL ATTENDANT, in order to... um.... call the attendant. I make questioning noises. She says "Well I don't know! I'm not a software engineer. They make a lot more money than I do." I suggest that maybe she could make a nice low-tech sign that says 'don't use CALL ATTENDANT button to call attendant, because if they don't make a sign and the button stays there, people will probably keep pressing it when they want to call the attendant. People can be douchey like that.

I've worked a lot of retail. I've dealt with a lot of bitchy customers. Normally I'm not one of the bitchy customers. I'm nice. I'm sympathetic. I'm ready to be on your side. If she had said "I know. They're idiotic. I hate them", she and I would have been TOTALLY COOL. We could have high-fived and gone out for margaritas. But no - she's drunk disembodied robotic bitch's kool-aid. She's one of THEM now.

And yes, I do realize I started this out as a snarky letter and that device kind of fell apart halfway through. I should have just gone with this:

Dear Allison: Don't ever ever use the self-checkout station again. It's worse than childbirth. And you can't even use stories of the pain to guilt it into bringing you cupcakes later on.


Denise Nielsen said…
LOLOL I get mild anxiety whenever I am forced to use the self checkout at Home Depot. Totally understand this.
Helen Abbott said…
I am afeared of the self-checkout. I have never used one. One day I will be forced to, like when I moved from Nova Scotia in 2000, where they still had actual human beings pumping gas, to lovely Ontario, where they did not. I still remember that day when I realized "This is it. You have to get out of your car and do this yourself." Sad, sad day.
StephLove said…
When they installed these at CVS (drugstore chain-- do you have them up North?) I started stealing items instead of buying them. Not on purpose mind you but I'd look at the receipt after leaving and see I hadn't successfully paid for everything.
Lynn said…
Okay, I admit I hate the random notices to see the (always chatting) attendant, and the warnings to scan the item I just scanned, and the fact that it never, ever, EVER recognizes the code for roma tomatoes.

However, at the Superstore they changed the person-driven checkouts to remove the bagging area. Instead, when the people scan an item, instead of them putting it in an open and waiting bag, it just gets dumped in one big pile at the end of the belt. So you're frantically trying to stuff things into your own bags, which are sitting on the floor because there's no other room, before the things get squashed and flattened in the big heap, while the cashier keeps scanning things at a rate of one million items per second, and everyone else in the line is tap tap tapping their feet because you are taking so long to bag.

I find it incredibly stressful, trying to frantically stuff things in bags and get it all in the cart in a square foot of space, while also trying to pull out my wallet to pay, and deal with kids asking for gum about a thousand times. GAH.

So self-checkout it is for me, even though it takes me five times longer and I have to harass the attendant 50 times.

Guess I should write a post about this :).
Ms. G said…
Those things scare he hell out of me, which is why I stick to the geriatric staff at my store.
As for the Attendant, I would have told her she could push that button up her...; )
Anonymous said…
with your permission I am printing this and taking to hang in the employee office ;)
(anonymously of course!)

Anonymous said…
... oh, I just outed myself as being on the WRONG SIDE!
Please re-assure your friends that I am NOT one of those douchey ineffective employees ;)

Ladies, I hear your pain!!! When off shift, I am in your shoes shopping with the kids, seething at the lazy louts behind the register or kicking that DAMN machine that talks!!!

My survival tip:
glance down the lanes and find the most pleasant, efficient cashier you can find then read your Kobo while waiting in their line... it's worth it!
Bibliomama said…
Helen - you are a brave and strong woman. You should write a book.

StephLove - I don't think we have CVS here, but I have left with a case of pop on the bottom of the cart that I forgot to scan once or twice. I consider it a richly deserved reward for not going postal on the self-checkout machines.

Lynn - let's have a stupid-checkout-practices blog carnival!

Everyone - Lynette is NOT one of those douchey ineffective employees. In fact, we high-five and go for margaritas ALL THE TIME - she is just that awesome.
alison said…
I hate the self-serve checkouts, probably to the same degree that my kids LOVE the self-serve checkouts and beg/whine/bargain to use them. I get them back though. They have to stand beside their freak of a mother who insists on talking back to the checkout: 'I *already scanned* the waffles.' I've actually screamed in frustration (quietly, but still screamed) when I removed the item and scanned it again, so that it rang up twice. Why do they do that? Or the 'please put the item in the bag' I. Already. Put. The. Item. In. The. Bag. One day I'm going to have an aneurism at the self-checkout. And my kids will press the 'call attendant' button.
clara said…
Superstore (Loblaws out west) has the crankiest stupidest self checkouts around. Totally. "Oh that item doesn't weigh the right amount you THIEFY MCTHIEFERSON." Once, after waiting fifteen minutes in line, my 4 y/o breathed on the bag platform and I got to the "call attendant" stage and I just walked away muttering.

I hate Safeway prices, but I love their self-checkout. It is my BFF. I am faster than the cashiers on that thing, which is mostly because I live two blocks from a Safeway and have spent many an idle morning there scanning pretzels while shouting at my children to put. the. gum. back. dammit.
Mary Lynn said…
I tried a handful of times to use the self-checkout and it was never worth the mounds of anxiety it caused me. Apparently I just can't do it right. I always end up having to call an attendant and I end up feeling so inadequate. Never use them anymore.
Rosemary said…
Last time I used one of those was THE LAST TIME I used one of those machines. I had the bag issues every time I was ready to kick the scale. So the last time I sucessfully scanned all my groceries AND bagged them without issue and when I went to swipe my card to pay I knocked the machine right off the stand unplugging it internally. The girl comes over with her 'What did you DOOO look?' I HAD TO DO THE WHOLE THING OVER.
So far, the grocery stores that I shop at don't have self-checkout. From the sounds of it I should be happy because after reading your post, I'm feeling all ragey and teeth-grindy. If this was me, I'd probably have to be hauled out of there screaming about robot cashiers and the conspiracy of the Call Attendant button.
Kim said…
I swear, it's the company who supplied Loblaws' self-checkouts that screwed up. Every single thing you mentioned here also goes wrong at my Independent's self-checkouts. It is MADDENING.

But you know what? I used to use a store (this was in New Mexico) that had my very first SCOs before I moved here. And they were GLORIOUS. The scale gave me no problems, the speaker didn't shout at me, and I almost never had to deal with a human. Some days, this human-avoidance thing saved my life. And possibly the lives of countless others. It's just not fair that I walk away from the one here ready to pummel someone.
Nicole said…
Wow, that is one TENSE checkout attendant. The ones in my Co-Op are usually super patient, since they have been worn down by all the old people. But the reusable bag thing kills me. I never fall for that trick. I keep my bags until the very end and then I use the bags when I've finished paying. HAHAHA. The only thing is then the person behind me probably thinks I'm an asshole for not bagging things on the go. But usually there is no one behind me because all the old people are in the lineup for the regular cashier and are confused.
Wrath Of Mom said…
HAHAHAHAHAHA! This entire post was funny. But the last two lines are the best.

I have only used a self-checkout ONE TIME. It was at a Walmart and I was buying feminine hygiene products and there were no ladies working the tills. I am sexist. And a luddite. A sexist luddite. And I'm okay with that.

I opened up a new tab and confirmed what I suspected: Loblaws is the same as Superstore in BC. I hate Superstore b/c they make me bag my own groceries. So I always do it very, verrrrrrrrrrry slowly and theatrically so that everyone understands my passive-aggressive protest against bagging my purchases because Galen Weston is too cheap to hire high school kids to it for me.

Does this comment make me sound like a sexist luddite with class issues?

Because I do. I really, REALLY do.
I don't like those machines - but at least ours are generally staffed by helpful people! :)
Julie said…
i so want you to read this post at bolo!!
Sasha said…
LOL! And snickering, and snorting, and making other assorted noises that will wake the children. So next I'll be writing a blog post about how Allison is messing up my kids' sleeping schedules.

It won't be nearly as funny, though.
Amber Strocel said…
I'm with Marilyn - I have never used self checkout at a grocery store. In fact, I deliberately go to the store where they (1) bag my groceries for me and (2) don't require me to have a coin to use the cart, because I am a grocery shopping diva. Honestly, after having attempted to use the self check-out at IKEA, I just can't hack doing things for myself. And I actually am a software engineer, like, for real.
I am so, so glad I'm not alone in my rage. Way to stick it to the man... er, machine.

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