The Code Of The Self-Checkout

If this confuses you, run away from it.Ah, the self-checkout station. I don't know about your city, but in these parts, every new or remodeled supermarket has four of the things. They are a gift... and a curse.

They're a gift, because in the era of bar codes and debit cards, some of us can do a supermarket cashier's job pretty well. And if we can drag our bottles of soy sauce across the laser over here while the trained professional argues with you about your coupons over there, everybody wins.

But it's a curse, because, much like guns and babies, we've decided that the self-checkout is technology that everyone should have, even if they don't know what the hell to do with them.

So, in the interest of clearing the way for me and other competent people, allow me to propose a few simple rules to help you determine whether you should be using the self-checkout.

Can you program a VCR? If not, get the fuck out of the self-checkout. It's about the same level of complexity.

Are you still programming a VCR? If so, you might want to get the fuck out of the self-checkout. This is new technology. If your comfort level is still in 1991, stick to the conveyor belt.

Are you paying cash? If so, get the fuck out of the self-checkout. Yes, I know they accept cash. I don't care. Every second you're dicking around with the bill reader and scooping out your change is a second of my life I'm losing.

Are you buying more than two bags worth of food? You are? Then get the fuck out of the self-checkout. There is a point at which the efficiencies of having a trained cashier and a full-sized aisle add up, and since most self-checkouts have two bagging stations, I've decided by fiat that two bags worth is that point. And that's if you know what you're doing.

Do you think the self-checkout is an exciting educational playtime opportunity for your child? Then get you, and your spawn, the fuck out of the self-checkout. I don't care how much Billy enjoys hearing a computer tell him how much a can of Spaghetti-O's is. Keep him off the scanner.

Do you often find yourself staring blankly at a screen, wondering what strange messages the glyphs on it are trying to convey? Then dear sweet merciful fuck, I'm begging you, GET OUT OF THE SELF-CHECKOUT. I'm not talking about puzzling out the interface for the first time, although seriously, save your first run through for when nobody's using the other three. I'm talking about the people I see using them all the time, people who don't get it and clearly never will. People for whom the trained human with the nametag is a vital part of the experience. I don't understand how these people even decide the self-checkout is a good idea, but they do, and they ruin it for the rest of us.

Can these people be stopped? Probably not, what with the current social restrictions on shin-kicking. But we should at least make the attempt.


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Amen, Brother.

I'm fast with the self-checkouts, so if they're deserted, I enjoy avoiding irritating niceties, small-talk, and potential cashier ineptitute and getting the hell out of the supermarket in record time.
HOWEVER...if the self-checkouts are populated by people with graying hair or mothers with children in tow (and...that's pretty much the ONLY people you'll see there, anyhow, as they stare slack-jawed & scratch their heads in slow-witted confusion) I beeline for the good ol' cashiers.
Your post needs to be taped to the doors of every store with self-checkout options from here to Arizona. 

I use the self-checkout when

I use the self-checkout when I have more than 2 bags' worth of food. I . . . I'm sorry. I just really really fucking hate dealing with cashiers at a certain place where I shop. I work very efficiently, I swear.
Can I add to the list? If you can't understand that the machine is going to complain every time you don't put the item into the bagging area, get the fuck out of the self-checkout. I once saw someone hit "skip bagging" on every single one of their 30 or so items. Every third time you do that, the cashier at the front has to clear your suspicious behavior. I couldn't believe that a murder had gone uncommitted by the time they were through.

Biggest problem with Self-Checkout

My issue with self-checkout isn't the self-checkout themselves but with the way supermarkets use them.  One in my area added them and then to encourage people to use them closed all but two of the regular lanes during their busiest times.  Luckily I was able to stop going to that supermarket since a Wegman's opened up soon thereafter, but I was glad to see the shoppers refused to use the self-checkout until they opened more regular lanes, you'd have lines 10 deep to use a regular lane and the self-checkout would be empty.
Personally I feel that self-checkout works much better at the hardware stores where I'm usually running in to grab one particular tool that I need to make a repair, and I don't want to wait behind the really handy people buying enough equipment to remodel three rooms and build a deck.

I love self checkout...

and pretty much only shop at places that offer it (whether it's a supermarket or home improvement store).
Another "rule" may be: If you have produce and can't tell what it is either by visual identification or the 4-digit PLU number, get the fuck out of self checkout.

I'm going to go ahead and

I'm going to go ahead and pre-empt that rule with this one:  Don't buy produce if you don't what it is called.  The megamart will label it.  

I hate self-checkout.

I'm sure that the idea has merit somewhere, but I have never seen an implementation that was not fucked up beyond usefulness.  As far as I am concerned, you should only be using them if you want to buy items you are too ashamed to let a fully disinterested cashier know you need.  
Re: the column specifically, Publix — being the best supermarket choice everywhere I have seen them — gets it 60% right.  That makes them the leader by a country mile.  They only exist as 10 items or less lanes.  There are only 4 machines.  They have cash input disabled for half of them (the left side) and they seem to have disabled the "bitch endlessly about the bag scale sensor" feature disabled.  But it's still a slower process than using a cashier and bagger for anything more then 2 items, and they have to come over to physically inspect your credit card, so what's the damn point?  Kroger's horrendous.  They were so enamored with the idea of providing functionally zero service they replaced fully half of the checkout lanes at all of the stores near me.  They replaced the two bag system with a lazy susan so that people could self-checkout their entire weekly shopping.  They have a Kroger Plus loyalty card (which is a rant for another time) which sets off a fucking virtual mardis gras every time you buy an item discounted for plus members, and the weight sensor simply seems unable to deal with reusable bags.  Oh, and my favorite bit: because they wanted to replace as many people with machines as possible they built them close together. But, they don;t want to loose impulse purchasing, so they put racks of tabloids and crap in after the first week.  Which make the path one nanometer wider then a shopping cart.  WHO COULD HAVE FORESEEN THAT GOING BADLY?
I like it at home depot because I often fall into the odd space of having 1-2 items to buy, and because unlike the supermarket you could end up behind someone buying siding if you are in the regular checkout line.  But even then I'l prefer the flexibility and comparative competency of a person if there is a fully empty line.

you stole my thunder vortech

Vortech pretty much summed up my rant. I worked in a supermarket for 9 years (Thriftway in Cincinnati, a local chain that competed really well with Kroger on it's own turf). Everytime  one of these monstrosities goes in, somebody loses their job.

I remember asking about

I remember asking about exactly that when they were first talking about putting these things into Meijer, way back in my cashiering days.  The management swore up and down that they wouldn't be cutting back on the cashiers, and everybody knew it was bullshit.  Now, most nights, there's exactly one cashier in the store, covering the self-checks.


You forgot to mention produce. If you're purchasing more than 2 pieces of produce, get the fuck out of the self checkout line. We don't have time to sit and wait for you to look up the code for Broccoli, then squash, then broccoli rabe, then spearmint, then bananas, then apples, then eggplant. Keep it to 2, or leave it to the cashier, who does this for a living, and as such, memorizes the scale codes for produce.

Oh fuck yes, I'm glad someone

Oh fuck yes, I'm glad someone else brought up produce, it was the first thing I thought of. Last time my husband and I were out shopping he insisted on doing the self checkout... and looking up every single item of produce on the machine was a nightmare. If you've got only scannable stuff, it's fine, but if you're buying any fruits or vegetables the self-checkout menu is a nightmare.

Also, if you're buying

Also, if you're buying alcohol or using coupons, don't use the self-checkout.  You're going to need a cashier to approve the sale anyway; don't make the rest of us wait while you stand there waiting for one to come over.

Huh.  I think the machines

Huh.  I think the machines I've used accept coupons readily and easily.  Maybe I'm misremembering (it's been awhile).

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