Room 101


It was 11.00pm and my wife and I needed baby food. We stopped in a small Sainsbury’s to pick up the children’s provisions. We picked up 4 small cartons of baby milk and made our way to check out, they were closed. As I looked around for help I spied the self service tills. I was filled with a sense of trepidation and dread. We made our way over and attempted to usethe machine. It was not long before my temper rose and my wife abruptly took over, claiming that I was “just like my father”. We eventually managed to pay and leave with the four small items but not after a few choice words and two separate members staff aiding us. I can’t help but feel the whole process would have been must easier if they had just opened one of the regular tills.

What frustrates me about self service checkouts is that they never seem to work, for me at least. You find the barcode, which can be a challenge in it self at times, move it across the scanning device and….nothing. I try again and again and again waiting for the elusive ‘beep’. After what feels like the hundredth attempt I finally get a ‘BEEP’, hooray. Only three more items to go. But then the fun really starts. That sanctimonious voice chimes out from the machine that there is an ‘Unexpected item in bagging area, please remove item and try again’. I now can’t carry on until Johnny the checkout assistant comes over to input his magic code to allow me carry on. And if you’re buying alcohol, forget it, he’ll then have to come back over AGAIN to input his magic numbers and if I’m really lucky and I’ve been good all day Johnny may also ask me to prove I’m over 21. Buying a single pieces of fruit and veg? good news you get to learn how to weigh each item with a simple 15 step, one item at a time, process.

I’m sure these things were designed to help customers and to ease their shopping experience but they don’t. After walking around the supermarket, carefully choosing my items I now have process them through the till myself and I’m supposed to be thankful? Well I don’t think so. What I should do is invoice the supermarket because I’m now effectively part of the workforce; and I don’t work for free. I shall also expect to be given the opportunity to purchase cheap shares and I also want to be invited to christmas party. Further more, I’ve not been trained to use these machines, what if I drop a 4lb melon on my foot? I don’t want that kind of responsibility, that’s not what I signed up for when I agreed to go shopping.

Now, I am aware that the self service checkouts were designed for the quick shopper with only a few items and who don’t have time to wait around. And with up to ten checkouts requiring only one or two members of staff I can see why the supermarket opted for self service. it’s another way for multi national corporations to squeeze a few more shoppers through the door whilst keeping their overheads to a minimum.  Some people may even enjoy the whole process of self service, but not me. I’m happy to wait in a queue and have a fully trained checkout girl “beep’ my items through. It gives me a chance to reflect on my shop. Did I forget anything? Should I have really bought Shark Attack 3 on DVD? I didn’t much care for 1 or 2.

And is the self service any quicker than the ’10 items or less’ aisle? Why not just create more of those. It would create extra jobs. If every Sainsbury’s Tesco, Asda and Morrisons abandoned their self service checkout and replaced them with 3 or 4 regular checkouts itwould create thousands of much needed jobs in local communities. And at a cost that could be covered by less than a  1% pay reduction for the top executives. It’s a no brainer.

We could do our shop and not have to worry about beeping our items through, knowing which side ofthe screen we need to place our items, before and after we’ve scanned them. Never again will we hear the vexatious, synthesised voice issuing demands and orders. No more will we desperately look around for help when something isn’t working, Johnny the checkout assistant will no more dash over to punch in his very special numbers to pull us out the hole we have fallen into. It will be like it was; easy and stress free. Well, as stress free as supermarket shopping can be.

Self service checkouts should be banished to room 101. Not only that, the room should then be encased in carbonite and dropped into the deepest volcano on Mars, never to see the light of day. Good riddance, to a bad idea.





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