Friday, April 21, 2006

I Hate Self-Checkout at the Supermarket

The Washington Post's Caroline Mayer has a very interesting discussion happening on her consumer blog about self-checkout at supermarkets. Personally I hate the things, but people are weighing in on both sides. Here's why I hate them:

1. The stores tout this as if it's a convenience to customers by allowing you to get out of the store faster if you only have a few items. Ha! What happened to the "10 items or less" lane at the store? Gone. So, in reality, the stores just cut their costs by having fewer cashiers available to check people out. This may explain why the self-checkout lines are so long every time I go into my local store.

2. It's a pain in the rump. Yes, I know we use ATMs to get our own money and we pump our own gas, but these self-checkouts are different. You have to scan every single item, and if you do something the machine doesn't like (or it suddenly stops working), you have to figure out what the problem is or locate someone to help you (good luck). If I could throw all my groceries on a belt and press a single button that totalled it all up and then I paid, I'd be fine with checking myself out. Otherwise, I'm not interested in being a cashier (although I'd like to play one on television).

3. At my store, if you pay by credit card, you then have to go to a special table near the self checkouts to sign your card's slip. This requires a human be present to offer you the receipt to sign. The human is not always present, so I stand there like a doofus, looking hopeless so maybe some store employee will have pity on me and come over to help. Other times this human is gabbing with a co-worker, oblivious to me standing one foot away. Perhaps she's forgotten that she has any actual tasks to perform at her job. "Don't ask me, I just work here."

It's getting to the point in this world where every retailer wants you to do everything for yourself. If this is the case, it might make more sense for me to just install a gas pump in my front yard, and buy my groceries from the wholesalers. They can all just back up to my front yard, dump the stuff on the lawn, and I'll pay them. Let's cut out the middleman, since the middlemen are working so hard to take themselves out of the equation by providing absolutely nothing of extra value.

I'm not that old, but I already feel like a cranky old man.


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