Self-Checkout Bully

According to famous futurist Ray Kurzweil, it’s only a matter of time until the machines around us are conscious.  He calls it ‘The Age of Spiritual Machines’.  I think that machines have already reached this point and we just don’t know it yet.  That’s the only way I can explain why a self-checkout machine at my supermarket would treat me like such a piece of shit.

You’ve done your shopping.  Now you can’t wait to get home and eat that Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese you just bought.  It’s so good when it gets that brown skin!  And you slip a noodle onto each tine of your fork… I’m getting off topic.  Sorry.  Back to the supermarket.  So you head for checkout. Dang!  All the lines look really long and have old ladies with 60+ assorted cans that no doubt will pay by check.  But wait… self-checkout?  This looks empowering!  I’m the master of my own grocery destiny.

Let’s just forget entirely that my bagging skillz suck and that I’ll end up with crushed bread, cracked eggs, and a bag so heavy it’ll dig its razor-sharp handles into my palm.  My experience goes something like this:

BEGIN CHECKOUT

I press the button.

DO YOU HAVE A FRESH N EASY CARD?

Yes!  Thanks for asking!  I’ll enter in my phone number for ya.

FRIENDS CARD ACCEPTED.

Sweet.  Friendship and savings here we come.  I start scanning and bagging.

PLEASE PLACE THE ITEM IN THE BAG.

What?  I did.  I’ll pull it out and try again.

PLEASE PLACE THE ITEM IN THE BAG.

I’m telling you I did.  Obviously it must be too light for you to sense it.  Here, lemme help by pressing on the bagging area with my palm to simulate the weight of something added.

UNAUTHORIZED ITEM IN BAGGING AREA.  PLEASE WAIT FOR ATTENDANT.

Fuck!  I pissed it off!  Now the little help light is on, and I’m stuck waiting for a human slave.  After a minute, one comes over, nametag of Mark, enters in some code, and I seem to be back on track.  I scan my next items, but my first bag is full, so I need to move it to my cart and open another bag.

DO YOU NEED MORE TIME?

Uh, yes.  I’m not the Usain Bolt of bag transfer.  And these fucking plastic bags are stuck together and I can’t tell if I’m putting stuff in a bag or between bags, so just calm down.

DO YOU STILL WISH TO COMPLETE YOUR PURCHASE?

Yes!  Why would I bring all this shit to you and then just bail?  But now I’m scanning and  bagging again.

PLEASE PLACE THE ITEM IN THE BAG.

Grr.  Mark has to come over a few more times for some light items that the bagging area won’t recognize.  At least I’m making progress.  But now this avocado won’t scan!  Your sensor can’t pick-up the barcode because it’s rounded by the avocado’s natural shape.  Curse you mother nature.

DO YOU NEED MORE TIME?

YES.  RELAX.  I enter in the avocado code manually.  It’s 16 numbers long.  You are making me earn this avocado, machine.  Okay, you accepted the code.  Thanks for that.  Back to scanning.

ID VERIFICATION REQUIRED.  PLEASE WAIT FOR ATTENDANT.

Damnit!  I’m so sick of seeing Mark!  It’s really defeating the purpose of this self-checkout.  They should call it Guided Checkout featuring Mark.  And it wants my ID to purchase MARSALA.  Cooking wine!  If an underage teen was trying to buy Marsala to get loaded, LET THEM.  They’ll fucking learn their lesson, man up, and buy some Corona next time.  Punks.  Glad I was never a teen.  I’ve now spent at least 6 minutes waiting for Mark to rescue me.  But finally, everything is scanned and bagged.

DO YOU HAVE ANY COUPONS?

I do!  Thanks for reminding me.  Maybe you’re not so bad after all.  I’ll scan them for you and drop them in your slot.

PLEASE PLACE THE COUPON IN THE SLOT.

Umm, I just did.  Didn’t you feel it?  I guess not.  Now what?  Maybe I can fool you by wiggling a business card in your slot.  Nope, you are an intelligent bully machine.  Help me Mark!  Mark does and is gone.

MAXIMUM NUMBER OF COUPONS EXCEEDED.  PLEASE WAIT FOR ATTENDANT.

Ahhhhhhhh!  I used three coupons!  Wtf?  I can’t use three coupons?  Mark enters his code, and apparently I can.  I guess they didn’t trust the machines enough to make a judgement call on acceptable coupon use.  Extreme Couponers have ruined it for everyone, creating a retail climate of paranoia and gluttonous savings.  Mark and I have to pay the price…

SELECT PAYMENT METHOD.

Oh thank god.  I’m so close.  I swipe my Amex.  I sign the digital pad.  My signature looks like someone on a deserted island writing HELP with sticks on the beach.  Doesn’t matter.  I’ve got no pride left.  Just ground beef that is starting to sweat and grey.

SIGNATURE APPROVAL REQUIRED.  PLEASE WAIT FOR ATTENDANT.

Noooooo!  I want to go home.  That old lady with the can left 10 minutes ago.  Mark is sick of me.  I’m sick of Mark.  Self-checkout computer #3 must be laughing his digital ass off.  Mark comes over, codes in one last time and I’m free.  9 minutes of Mark waiting time.  But it’s over…

DAMNIT!  I forget to scan and bag my cream cheese.  Fuck it, it’s not worth it.  I’m out.

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