One Fine Morning at the Local Grocery

The Albertson’s by my house has these shiny new self-checkout machines. I dislike using them for many reasons, not the least of which is that in doing so I take an active roll in justifying the establishment’s position in laying off a dozen union employees. Some days, though, shoppers are pretty much forced to check their own groceries as the alternative is waiting in a line for literally upwards of twenty minutes before the single checker on duty finally gets to them. If you only have a couple items, you’ll use the self-check no matter how much you hate screwing someone out of a job.

So there I am with my two items at the fancy-schmancy checkout machine. I press the on-screen button reading “START” and a digital female voice calmly shouts at me: “WELCOME! PLEASE SCAN YOUR FIRST ITEM!!!”

I’m sort of put off by the volume at which the faceless woman is “speaking” to me, but I go ahead and scan my first item – a small block of Philadelphia cream cheese.


How nice. That’s almost two bits. My next item is an onion bagel from the bakery. I place it on the scale.


The number is right there on the bag, so I press the appropriate button and enter the four-digit item code.


“Fuck you,” I mutter as I press the button with the number one on it.


Hey, there’s my two bits. Big, fat, hairy deal. I press the button reading “CHECKOUT” and the verbal abuse begins anew.


I choose the button indicating I want to use my debit card and get some cash back.


I stand there for a moment, stunned. Did I just hear her announce to the entire fucking store that I was going to load my pockets up with cash? That bitch! That heartless, passive-aggressive, not even a real person, bitch!!!

Now, see, I want to get $50 cash. I need a haircut and possibly greasy fast-food for lunch later*. But if I press that button, what is the electronic loudmouth going to say?


Whew! OK, then. I swipe my card and enter my PIN.

“YOU HAVE ENTERED! 4!!! 0!!! 2!!! 0!!! AS YOUR PIN!!! IS THIS CORRECT!?!!”

Well, no, not really. That didn't happen. But it wasn’t much of a stretch to see it going down like that. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the prototype of this job-stealing monstrosity probably announced the products themselves before stating the prices.




Gads, how embarrassing that would be.

Anyway, I’m not sure who at Albertson’s decided that the self-checkout machines needed to punish you for using them by shouting your damn head off, but it really is quite irritating. If I wanted to part with money while being barked at by a faceless, cybernetic dominatrix, I’d go find the appropriate website in the privacy of my own home.

*That’s lunch for four, by the way; not just for me.

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About kirkstarr

I draw pictures for a living.
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24 Responses to One Fine Morning at the Local Grocery

  1. arbed says:

    I like the self-checkout because then I feel less guilty about that tub of ice cream that somehow got into my cart, but I'm paying for it anyway because I don't want it to feel bad if I take it back to the others in the freezer – I mean, it thought it was free from this place, what's a gal to do?Then again, our machines don't shout at you like that. It does talk, but not as much, and only slightly loud.And I also like them because they're friendlier than the teenage cashiers who carry on their own conversations amongst themselves while packing the tub of ice cream on top of the loaf of bread and ignoring the fact that I'm even there.

  2. Xeyli says:


  3. Kirk says:

    There are cool things about them and I'm not totally against them or anything. I just wish they could work in tandem with people instead of in lieu of people. And that they'd stop yelling at me.You are right not to break the ice cream's heart by putting it back. Is there an Ice Cream Liberation Front as far as you know?

  4. arbed says:

    usually I get so excited about eating the ice cream that it liberates itself all down MY front

  5. Kirk says:

    "I just want to make sure I have enough bags for the dumb dog's poop…"That's exactly why I go with plastic, Xeyli, although I guess buying biodegradable ones would be the right thing to do. Problem is, as you know, they're obscenely expensive for what they are.Hey, at least we pick it up, right? 😉

  6. Laurie says:

    I always use the self-checkout for my weekly shopping because I use a knapsack and canvas bags, not plastic, to walk my stuff hom, and if I go to the regular checkout, the checker will not load them for me, even though she will load plastic bags, if I used them. So I slow the whole line down, loading my stuff more carefully to balance the weight for walking. If I use the self-checkout, there's one feeder line for four machines, and I can take all the time I need loading, and not feel like I'm holding everyone up myself. But at first, I was really not enamored of them. And thank god they don't announce all my purchases, otherwise the whole store would know I buy the kiddie yogurt, the kiddie mini-pizzas, etc.

  7. jaypo says:

    Hahahaaaa!! Kirk, you just gave me the best laff! I know, technology can really suck sometimes. But for some people having an electronic scan of a Fleet Personal Enema might be better than the smirk when you leave checkout. Unless the self-checkout can do that too. Ya never know.

  8. tom says:

    If the person is already buying Depends, shouldn't he or she lay off the Fleet Enemas? It sounds like everything's already moving along just fine. 😉
    The only store around here with those infernal machines is our local Wal-Mart Superstore. I do like bagging my own stuff, because I can cram more into each bag, resulting in fewer trips upstairs to my cave.

  9. Jay says:

    Yes the DIY shopping days are here, after all of the ominous warnings we've been hearing about our Glorious Technological Future over the past few decades. And, as fate would have it, it's far from the cheerful and pristine experience drawn up by aspiring sci-fi artists. Instead we get shouting schoolmarms inside dumbed-down computer screens instructing us to place our items in the bag."It puts the lotion in the basket!!!" Not far from, eh?Up next: the first flying cars? Sure as hell I'm not riding in one.

  10. SweetMisery says:

    Oh I hate those machines. Have used them a couple times. It was frustrating to say the least.

  11. Kzinti says:

    I avoid them like the plague. My daughter on the other hand loves them. <sigh> Damn kids….

  12. Kzinti says:

    You know… on a definitely side note here…
    Is it just me, or does that image of Cthulhu look suspiciously like Dr. Zoidberg? Hmmm… Woowooowoowooooooo….

  13. Scott says:

    does that image of Cthulhu look suspiciously like Dr. Zoidberg?
    Definitely! (I wish I had something witty, but my bag of Futurama quotes is empty.)

  14. Scott says:

    What I hate about the automated checkouts is when anything is the least little eensy-weensy bit off and the whole thing stops and says "PLEASE WAIT FOR CASHIER!" Then I feel like a jackass.
    The best attendant hits the button to let the shopping continue before the thing can even finish the sentence. "PLEASE WAIT FOR CA–"

  15. SweetMisery says:

    New generation. Zooming ahead of us.

  16. MoonCat says:

    I hate those things and they hate me. I swear they can see coming. Very nearly every time I use one something goes wrong, the cashier has to come over, they can't fix it, the manager comes over, he can't fix, the thing starts smoking, someone calls IT and another nice regular cashier person says 'I cant take you over here" So I figure I'm going to have to deal with a person one way or the other and just choose to skip the humiliation of looking like I don't know how to use the self-check out.

  17. Jenn F. says:

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels violated by these things.

  18. Ruth says:

    Likewise, my local store just installed them. In a lapse of judgement, I decided to try them out. First and last time. I know there is a severe labour shortage in my city, and they can't find people to fill these jobs, but these things are evil incarnate. Among the many frustrations: I bring my own heavy duty canvas bags (which I actually do prefer to pack myself, because the cashiers don't seem to grasp that they can hold a small elephant and still not break…come on! fill it up!), but the machine is not designed to accommodate anything other than flimsy plastic bags. Plus there was no where to get my 3 cent credit for bringing my own bags, like I get at the regular till.In addition to the shouting and incessant annoying beeping, it was doubly embarrassing when the attendant had to come over about 5 times to help me (because I'm an idiot). After helping me, she would go back and stand at her little lectern to watch me (there was no one else using the damn things) and make sure I didn't "forget" to scan anything. When I screwed up again, she called out directions from her podium (announcing to the world that I'm an idiot), or had to walk all the way over again to help. It was a nightmare. Never again.

  19. Jay says:

    If they did that I might actually like using them more.

  20. Kirk says:

    From what I hear, being violated by a machine is significantly different than being violated by a fellow human being. Not saying it's bad, mind you, just different. 😛

  21. Kirk says:

    "…does that image of Cthulhu look suspiciously like Dr. Zoidberg?"Ha! I never thought about that before, Kzinti. But yeah, there are striking resemblances.Hey, you know what would be cool? An episode of Futurama in which Zoidberg removes his lab coat to reveal a tiny set of bat-like wings on his back.

  22. Kzinti says:

    And Leela would mud wrestle with Amy too… Now that would be double cool…

  23. Wislander says:

    I have this strange attitude; If I have to check myself out at the register I think I should get a discount. Call me crazy, but if they are paying less for payroll at the checkout, then the discount should be reflected at the check out line for the person doing the work. The Super Wal-mart in the town I live in had 10 self-check lanes.. so few people used them that they ended up removing them.

  24. Kirk says:

    "I have this strange attitude; If I have to check myself out at the register I think I should get a discount."Not strange at all, Wislander. You're doing the work they used to pay someone to do, so a small discount seems apropos.

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