Self-Service Checkouts: The Harsh Reality
So, you’ve whizzed round the shops and you want to get home in time to catch your favourite bit of midweek television. As you and your trolley full of necessities realise that time is running out, there is only one thing that is stopping you from leaving the overpacked-for-a-Wednesday-afternoon superstore… the widely-hated, widely-dreaded, monstrous checkouts.
You contemplate your options – you can either take the effortless route of aided checkouts, or you can face the nation’s worst nightmare since 1996; the Self-Service Checkout.
You’re greeted by a robotic voice. “Hello, welcome to our store,” is the first thing you hear. ‘Oh, this is nice’ you think, and as you extend your finger to the Begin Scanning button, your brain is stupidly optimistic enough to believe that maybe you WILL breeze through this experience. I am sorry to break the bad news, but such an idealistic outcome will never come to pass.
The first problem you encounter is the low touch ensitivity. You have to press the Begin Scanning button three times before it accepts your request. ‘It’s nothing,’ you think ‘I must have pressed it wrong a couple of times.’ Not much further in, the DVD you bought won’t scan. Again, you are forced to repeat the action of swiping it multiple times before the ‘bleep of success’ is sounded over the machine’s hell-bent speakers. At this point, doubts are slowly creeping into your head as you watch multiple customers pass through the aided tills efficiently and without delay. ‘No,’ you tell yourself ‘It can’t get any slower from here.’You’re wrong again. The mere SECOND after swiping the DVD, you realise that the carrier bags are not open. You spend a few seconds opening one, and before you’ve had time to even separate the plastic in the slightest the satanic machine yells “PLEASE PLACE THE ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA.” Your heart rate increases. You feel the blood rush into your cheeks, as the embarrassment of frantically scrambling for a plastic bag hits you in the chest at full force. You’re aware of heads turning to watch you struggle, with the machine all the more repeating the dreaded phrase “PLEASE PUT THE ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA.” After about thirty seconds of the most intense struggle of your entire life, you manage to ‘place the item in the bagging area.’ You wipe the sweat off your brow and plough determinedly on.
Roughly thirty seconds later, you realise that your first carrier bag is full, and have the wisdom this time to open a second before scanning an item. You’re halfway there when the cold-hearted computer resumes its death-to-humanity cries, this time in the form of “UNEXPECTED ITEM IN BAGGING AREA.” Swiftly, you remove your hand – you managed to open the carrier bag just in time. You smirk at the machine. ‘Got the better of it this time,’ you think. Yet again, you are mistaken. Instead of resuming to the scanning screen, its speakers take up a different chant. “PLEASE WAIT FOR ASSISTANCE.” You begin to become aggravated. You wait for the assistance. And you wait a little longer. And just a tad longer. And maybe a little longer than that. You watch the minute number on the shop clock change, and you feel yourself begin to once again burn red with embarrassment as the machine continues to instruct you to be patient. You’re about to walk out of the shop without your shopping when the assistance finally DOES arrive. You heave a sigh of relief. He hits a few buttons, and you wonder how he manages to get through a whole day surrounded by the devil in robot form. He smiles at you briefly, and leaves you to the rest of your shopping. ‘No!’ your head screams inside. ‘Come back!’ But he’s already too busy helping an equally confused and stressed gentleman on a separate checkout.
You scan your last items; pay with difficulty and practically run to the car, shopping in hand. You feel a passion born inside you – a sudden hatred towards technological checkouts. But the damage is far from done. As you lie in bed that very night, still very much on a mission to make Self Service Checkouts illegal, you start to wonder what is happening to the world. It’s a war between humans and technology. It always has been. You toss, you turn, but nothing can bless you with sleep as there is one dreadful, terrifying reality on your mind… The robots are winning.