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.
“ONE! THIRTY-NINE!!! TWENTY! CENTS! SAVINGS!!!”
How nice. That’s almost two bits. My next item is an onion bagel from the bakery. I place it on the scale.
“PLEASE ENTER THE ITEM CODE! OR LOOK UP NUMBER!!!”
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.
“EIGHTY-FOUR! CENTS!!! FIVE! CENTS! SAVINGS!!!”
Hey, there’s my two bits. Big, fat, hairy deal. I press the button reading “CHECKOUT” and the verbal abuse begins anew.
“PLEASE SELECT METHOD OF PAYMENT!”
I choose the button indicating I want to use my debit card and get some cash back.
“PLEASE SELECT CASH BACK AMOUNT!”
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?
“USE TOUCHPAD! TO COMPLETE TRANSACTION!!!”
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.
“FLEET! PERSONAL ENEMA!!! FOUR! NINETY-NINE!!!”
“DEPENDS! UNDERGARMENTS!!! TWENTY-TWO! FIFTY!!!”
“BLAIR WITCH PROJECT DVD! FIVE! DOLLARS!!!”
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.