Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Great Concepts that Often Don't Work I

Self Checkout at the Grocery Store
Ahh, this looks nice and convenient. There's no one in line, and you've only got five items. You're running late due to that meeting at work, and you've got to make these nachos you promised for the book group tonight. You'll be in and out of here in a jiffy and don't need to worry about getting stuck with some yacking cashier who wants to tell you all about her grandchildren, as she manages to bag four items at the same rate you could bag 400.

You step up and put your jalapeno peppers on the scale. You touch the button on the screen to look up produce. A bunch of nice pictures pop up of commonly bought items. Obviously, not many people buy jalapenos in this store. You find the alphabetical directory and push the tab for the letter "J." Nothing comes up under "J." You look under "P." There you find "peppers, sweet" and "peppers, hot." There is nothing for jalapeno peppers. Of course, they are hot peppers, but you saw other hot peppers in the produce section. What if the jalapeno peppers were cheaper than the habaneros? You don't want to be charged for habaneros, if that's what the computer thinks you mean when you press "peppers, hot." You look around. Is there anyone to ask? Of course not. Oh well, screw it. You don't have time. You press the button for hot peppers, and the price doesn't look too bad. You move onto the cheese.

Where is the barcode on the cheese? Oh, there it is, of course, on that folded under bit of wrapper. You straighten it out and run it over the scanner. Nothing happens. No nice little beep. No voice telling you "...Cheese...$3.59. Move. your...cheese...to. the. belt." You run it by the scanner again. Still nothing. You wave it back and forth. Nothing. Is the scanner not working? You try the sour cream. The beep sounds, and you move your sour cream as instructed. Same with the salsa. Same with the tortilla chips. You come back to the cheese. It still won't register. You contemplate just throwing the cheese in the bag and leaving. But no, you are an honorable person. You tap the button on the screen to call for help.

A flip-flop-clad teenager, popping gum and laughing at something one of the boy cashiers just said, shuffles slowly over to your register and asks if you need help (because, you know, you always press that button when you don't need help). You explain to her that the cheese won't register. She proceeds to re-enact your exact movements with the cheese and has no more luck than you had. She goes around to the other side of the register and calls a manager. At least five minutes later, the manager, who turns out to be the yacky woman with all the grandchildren shows up. She has a key and fixes the problem in no time and then proceeds to tell you all about how these machines just don't seem to like those packages of cheese. You're the fifth customer today who had trouble with that...

Yes, it seemed so nice and convenient, 25 minutes ago when you first walked up to that register.


Stefanie said...

My natural foods co-op has real people at the check-outs. However, I am always tempted by the self serve at Home Depot and almost every time it ends in disaster.

litlove said...

LOL! Been there, done that... They work no better in the UK!

knitseashore said...

I am tired of the robot voice at HD who insists I put my item on the bagging area, when it won't fit! Once I scan it, why can't I put it wherever I want it?!

Emily Barton said...

Stef, my natural foods store has real people, too (and no electricity. It's Amish), but I find myself, all too-often, going to the Giant to get stuff I can't get there. And I've been tempted at Home Depot, too, but haven't yet succombed.

Litlove, well, I'm glad to hear it's an international thing. Otherwise, I'd have to be very jealous of those living in countries that have got it right.

Ms. Knits, yes, why do they bother to tell us at all where to put things? We've obviously made it as far as we have knowing to put things in a cart, bring them to the checkout, etc., so we must be able to figure out on our own what to do next.

ZoesMom said...

That has happened to me more times than I can count!

I also love the new ATMs at my bank that don't need envelopes for deposits, but if it can't read the writing on the check it gets rejected. Um have you seen most people's handwriting???

Of course, like the self check-out, when it works, it is great.