Self-Service World


An acquaintance of mine mentioned how much he hated standing in line at the convenience market to pay for gas. Invariably there is someone buying lottery tickets and three packs of cigarettes — and then scratching off the tickets before leaving the counter while he continues to wait, he complained.

What about “pay at the pump”? I think credit card scanners on gas pumps are one of the greatest timesaving inventions ever invented, as I no longer have to go inside to pay for gas. When real “service stations” went the way of the dinosaur, I became accustomed to inconvenience. At first, I thought “pay at the pump” only worked if you wanted to buy gas on credit. Then I found that debit cards also work and they can zap the money right out of your checking account. I haven’t been inside a gas station or convenience store since.

In the interest of saving time, I’ve learned to use those digital scanners at grocery stores with exactly the right flick of the wrist to scan the card right. The trouble is that every business seems to have a slightly different machine, and it is so easy to accidentally push the wrong button and end up canceling the entire transaction. Now cards have chip readers and all you have to do is find the slot on the machine, not always as easy at it seems.

I’m sure the day is coming when no one will carry cash at all, just plastic cards.

Automation reached a new low, however, when self-service checkout aisles were installed at my local Wal-Mart. With this new “convenience” you get to scan your own groceries instead of standing in a checkout line. Just as I was getting used to shopping carts that were unloaded by the cashier, these idiotic self-service scanners came along to destroy my composure again.

I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one who avoids them. For some unfathomable reason these machines seem to hate me. I scan my item. The computer sits there stupidly doing nothing. Eventually it says, “Scan your first item.” But I already did! What to do now, scan it again and get charged twice? “Put the item in the bag,” says the machine. But I already have! “Put the item in the bag,” it says again. So, I take it out and do it again, just to make a machine happy. “Scan the item before putting it in the bag!” shouts the machine while everyone turns to look at me as if I’m a shoplifter. No wonder these self-service machines are avoided like debris on the Interstate.

No doubt a Yankee invented these stupid machines. Southern machines would have better manners and speak our language: “Y’all scan yer item now. Take your time, honey, don’t get your britches in a wad.” This would be so much more customer friendly.

Speaking of talking machines, the ATM machine at the local Bank of America used to have a British accent. I called it the “Princess Di ATM.” I guess they eventually figured out why everyone was snickering — It is “Bank of AMERICA,” isn’t it? They finally got rid of it in favor of one of those touch-the-screen things. It doesn’t talk; it only pings. Reminds me of a clown with a horn. I’m afraid if I do something wrong it will squirt me with seltzer.

This is obviously another Yankee innovation. What an ATM machine in the South should say is something like: “Howdy, y’all! Welcome to Bank of America, southern style. Just put your deposit down yonder in the slot, hon. Here’s some of your hard-earned money back to spend. Y’all be sure and come see us again. Ya hear?”

Corporations are so out of touch with the real world and real people. They really need to get out from behind those desks and see what real people talk like, don’t they?

Copyright 2006 Sheila Moss

About Sheila Moss

My stories are about daily life and the funny things that happen to all of us. My columns have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and websites.
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1 Response to Self-Service World

  1. sarah9188 says:

    I’d be all about a self-checkout with a Southern accent! That would be amazing. When it comes to using self-service or self-checkout areas, it really depends on the mood I’m in. Sometimes, I just really don’t feel like talking to another human being after working in my public service job, and it has been permanently ingrained in my head to smile and make pleasant conversation with the cashier. I have the local Lidl self-checkout system figured out now so unless I have a huge amount of groceries, I’ll go there. It was a pain in the butt to figure out, but now that I understand it, I’m part of the small elite who do and can skip the long lines. Yay me!


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