21 June 2011

Please put the item in the bag!

Supermarket bosses have come up with this brilliant new idea to annoy their customers. Firstly, they introduce self-service tills, so that customers can scan and pack their own items without the inconvenience of having to interact with another human being. Then they reduce the number of open checkouts, so that the queues at the ones staffed by real people are horrendously long. The supermarket I visited this morning had only one proper checkout open. This 'encourages' the customers with few items to go to the self-service tills where it often takes them far longer to process their shopping than it would if they had waited in the queue at the other one.

How so? Well firstly, the machine yells at you in a very loud voice to "Please scan an item". So, you scan the item and before you even have chance to draw breath, it yells "Please put your item in the bag!", so you put it in the bag. However, the machine doesn't recognise the fact that you've done this and yells again "Please put your item in the bag! Please put your item in the bag! Please put your item in the bag!" until you take out the item and then put it back in again. Then it yells "Unexpected item in the bagging area, please remove the item." So you remove it and it yells at you again: "Please put your item in the bag!" So you do, and it yells "Please scan an item!"

You attempt to scan the next thing, but it doesn't recognise the bar code, so you faff around for ages to get it to scan and put it in the bag. Again, it yells "Please put your item in the bag!" - but you already have done, so it just carries on yelling at you until the assistant comes to tell the machine to shut up. By this time, you have completely lost your temper and have resorted to shouting obscenities at the machine which, being a machine, neither hears nor cares.

This morning, after such an experience, I asked the assistant if these self-service tills were just a way of avoiding having to employ more staff on the checkouts, and she told me that the staff at that supermarket hate them, and they wish that people would boycott them because they are more trouble than they are worth. They consider it a punishment if they are assigned to monitor the self-service tills because they are such a pain. I told her that if they could at least reduce the volume on the damn things, it would help, and she said that they used to be able to but the new software 'upgrade' removed that option. Great.

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