By Jeff Girod
Get in line! That’s what supermarkets are telling customers, as big-name grocery stores such as Albertson’s are getting rid of their self-serve checkout counters. But don’t blame Albertson’s for bagging self-checkout lines . . . According to a report from the Food Marketing Institute (my alma mater, go sports team!) only 16 percent of supermarket transactions in 2010 were done at self-checkout lines. Moreover, customers reported being much more satisfied with their supermarket shopping experience when they used lanes with button-pushing, grocery-bagging cashiers.
Count me in the minority.
I love the self-checkout line because it’s like an IQ test. (And really, how often do you get to show off how smart you are?) Can you find the bar code on a loaf of bread and put it in a plastic bag all by yourself? Sounds simple enough—until you’re standing behind a doofus who has gnawed open a loaf of bread with his teeth and is running each individual slice over the scanner.
Or maybe the person ahead of you just stands at the self-checkout counter waiting for a cashier to magically twist out of the ground like David Blaine. Or instead of paying with an ATM card, tries to cram a personal check into the coin slot. Or she just quietly lays her head on the scanner and starts humming, waiting for someone to tell her where the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is.
Face it. People aren’t bright. I’m bright. You’re bright. I like you. You’re fun. We should hang out more. But most people? Dumber than a holiday sale on cantaloupes, which by the way, is another nearly impossible item to scan in the self-checkout line (and the reason I gave up eating anything shaped like a volleyball.)
There should be a test you have to pass to use the self-checkout line, like getting a driver’s license. And just like somebody driving a car, if anyone is caught in the self-checkout line using coupons, trying to scan more than 15 items, or just being a general dumbass, an officer of the law should be able to legally shoot you. (Or at least knock you sideways with a can of lima beans.)
I’ve never had any “formal training,” per se, as a grocery cashier or a professional bagger, but it all seems fairly self-explanatory. I’ve been through the checkout line enough times on the other side of the counter that I know where the groceries and money are supposed to go.
Plus self-checkout lines eliminate the idle chit cat with the cashier: “How are you doing today?” Seriously? I just watched the cashier say the exact same thing to six other people. It’s her job. And she’s already scanned Golden Grahams, Clearasil and a bungee cord before I can answer. Nobody cares how I’m doing. I don’t even care how I’m doing. Let’s save the 10 seconds it takes to ask how I’m doing and just put the deodorant and the turkey hoagie in a plastic bag, okay Margery?
And why does the cashier always feel the necessity afterward to thank me by my last name? It might be impressive if I weren’t standing three feet away watching her read it off of the receipt. All it proves is that Vons hires cashiers with at least 20/40 vision who can sound out vowels. For an even more personal touch, why not just whack me in the groin with the rubber divider?
Sometimes you need the veiled privacy provided by the self-checkout line. It doesn’t ask. It doesn’t tell. And occasionally, the self-checkout becomes a red light district for ointments, lubricants and things that pad things from touching other things.
The self-checkout line is ideal in those situations where you don’t want a human cashier to know how you’re spending your Saturday night: Cake frosting, Vaseline and a discounted DVD of Lindsay Lohan? Sure. Whatever. The self-checkout line doesn’t judge. And it saves you from having to buy eggs, flour, butter—all the extra ingredients for baking a cake, then lying about throwing a Freaky Friday-themed birthday party.
On second thought, maybe I should start using the cashier lane to make more friends.
Contact Jeff Girod at email@example.com.