How we must look while using self-service checkouts

Photo by Anna Shvets on

By now, pretty much everyone in America has either used or seen a self-service checkout. We’ve all heard[1] the annoying instructions commanding us to “Please place the item in the bagging area” if we don’t immediately bruise our potatoes by slamming them into the bagging area. We’ve looked at the weights of our produce with surprise as we’re charged about $0.83 for 3 bananas. Or looked at the weight suspiciously as we see how much the Whole Foods salad bar costs and can’t believe that lighter-than-air salad weighs more than a pound. How the hell?!

Have you considered how funny we must look to staff or other customers while we use these kiosks?

We tend to have a look of disappointment when something doesn’t ring up the way it should. Some of us will have a worried look as we try to figure out how I’m going to get this fixed and get the sale I saw?

Some of us may get nervous and fear being judged by those behind us because we’re holding up the line after ringing up that bottle of wine and the kiosk says, “Approval needed.” And then some of us get slightly offended when the attendant approves the purchase without glancing at ID. I’m not that old!

Sometimes the packaging will have 3 different bar codes and we accidentally scan the wrong one. An error message normally pops up requiring the assistance of the attendant. Then we scan again, but the dang barcodes are so close together we scanned the wrong code again. Ugh! We experience a creeping sense of shame that it’s been proven we’re incapable of completing this simple task and have to watch as the attendant scans the item for us. This feeling can be made worse if the attendant uses a scan-gun which was already at the kiosk, but was invisible until this moment. 😀

Sometimes we’re scanning our merchandise and then one of the items doesn’t scan before we place it in the bag. We could swear the machine beeped, but the machine chastises us for trying to steal the item by saying: “Unexpected item in bagging area. Remove this item before continuing.” We quickly take the last item out of the bag and try scanning it before the attendant comes over to see what happened.

Or my personal favorite, the bar code doesn’t scan at all. When this happens, we tend to go through the same routine:

  • Wave the item horizontally over the scanner toward the bags, and wave it back.
  • Wave it upward and back down.
  • Check that nothing is covering the barcode (like fingers), and wave it past in a circular motion.
  • Finally give up and call for assistance or walk defeatedly to a cashier who must have seen that awkward dance we just had with the machine.

This happened to me again this morning. I had the grocery store all to myself, and the cashiers were standing around chit-chatting. I was listening to an audiobook and didn’t want to pause it, so I went to the self-checkout lane. I tried scanning my breakfast taco, but nothing happened. I did the normal scan-dance routine. This time, however, I made it more entertaining for the idle cashiers…

I elaborately bowed and waved at the machine a couple times as though I was worshiping it. After which, I placed the taco on the scanner and exclaimed, “I offer this as a sacrifice to the Cash Register God! I pray my humble sacrifice brings you eternal profits.”  📈

The cashiers giggled as they waved me over to their registers so they can help me.

It’s good to be generally aware of how others may see you as you go about your daily routine. We may never know that our reactions are the bit of humor which brightens an employee’s day. I certainly was the highlight of the day for those cashiers this morning.

[1] I apologize in advance to the hearing impaired.

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