Self Checkout? No Thank You

A utopian vision of the future whereby everything that we do, we do from the comfort of our homes. Everything is connected, everything is broadband and everything we deal in is abstract. Food and groceries are delivered to the door. Machines rule.

SELF CHECKOUT: What a palaver

But at the same time, every time we click, we are in effect clicking the self destruct button. We live in our own little world, our Ipod’s plugged in constantly our heads buried in our devices. We forget about the human touch. But with every technological enhancement the human touch becomes a commodity.

A few years ago supermarkets introduced self checkout machines. A godsend, we could now do our shopping really fast, without having to worry about an unmotivated worker going through the motions. But has it really added speed to our million miles per hour lifestyles? A few weeks ago I started to wonder about the effectiveness of these infernal machines.

On the face of it, yes it is so much more efficient, but efficient for me? The customer? I think not. I’ve come to the conclusion that these infernal machines are only efficient on the balance sheets of these big supermarkets. My thinking led me to conclude that what I was doing every time I “beep, beeped” my items through was pressing the self destruct button.

By opting for the machine we are in effect putting somebody out of a job all to save the supermarket a few bucks as they have to hire one checkout staff less. Instead they have one person there looking after between 8-16 machines. Inevitably an item will not scan properly, will need approval or the weight may need checking. Therefore slowing down the process, as that one person has to rush around all 16 machines making sure they run smoothly.

I have now decided that I no longer need the aggro of using a self checkout. Besides I’m paying money for the goods so why not get the full service. Today I continued my shopping habit rehabilitation. I opted for a manned checkout. Except this time I was approached by another member of the staff advising me that I should use the self checkout if I’m only buying a few items. I refused to budge.

It was really nice. Cathartic even. I got a first class service with a smile from a human being without being hassled about unexpected items in the baggage area. I even had my bags opened for me by the helpful checkout attendant. Granted this isn’t always the case, usually your change is thrown at you and the person is as miserable as Morrissey in a slaughterhouse. But it keeps someone in a job, and in current tough economic times this can only be a good thing.

This utopian technological future may turn into a dystopian world destitute of the human touch if were not careful.


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