The "Self-Service" Check-Out isn't Really

Personally, I love the "self-service" check-out at the supermarkets. It's great if you don't have any produce, or coupons, or alcohol, or your own bags, or anywhere to go in the next half hour. I worked in many a supermarket way before they were "super"markets. I even worked in one pre-scanners. We had to memorize codes for everything. (Scallions: 2410-- Sure but ask me what pants I'm wearing while my eyes are looking straight ahead at the computer screen.)

In my estimation, the day supermarket employees started working twice as hard coincides exactly with the day self-service registers were installed.

Every time my husband buys beer, the employee has to get out of her seat, walk around his graying, balding head and past his middle age belly to officially confirm to the register that he's over 21. At least this affords me the opportunity of saying, each and every time without fail:

"Aren't you going to check his ID?" Or even better: "He's over 21... 2 1/2 times."

Then, as the cashier heads back to her seat at the podium, I call again:

"Wait, I have a coupon."

This register has trust issues. Not only doesn't it believe my husband's over 21 (which is absurd in itself. He looks great for his age but nobody who's graduated high school in 2012 is going to come up to him at the mall and say: "Hey, weren't you in my English class?")

The register apparently also has absolutely no faith in me depositing my coupons into the slot as promised. It politely asks me if I have any coupons and if I answer in the affirmative, it turns on me. It starts yelling songs from The Preacher's Wife: "Hold on! Help is on the Way!" Things start beeping and the cashier has to come over with a card, a key, and six codes. You know somewhere way back at the beginning of these self-service machines, some supermarket somewhere got burned big time. Someone must have scanned thousands of dollars in coupons, pocketed them and put a tissue in the slot.

Then, I panic because sometimes I can't find the codes to scan and have to turn the package over six times like a Rubik's Cube.

Then, I panic when I buy fruits and vegetables. Do I scan the little label? Is it this label or this label? Do I weigh this? Do I use the code? Is this the code? Where exactly is the scale?

Then I panic because I never know where to look. The receipt comes out on the top, but I have to swipe over there, but the change comes out on the bottom, but the store coupons come out on the top but not the same top as the receipt.

Then I panic because the automated cashier accuses me of not putting the item in the bag when I did.

Then I panic because I can hear the impatience in the automated cashier's automated voice when I'm not getting the item in the bag fast enough.

"Please put item in the bag."

"Put scanned item in the bag."

"Bitch, put it in the bag before I cut you." (My supermarket's in a bad neighborhood.)

I'm sure my days of playing supermarket checker are numbered anyway. I saw it in an employee's eyes a few weeks ago when I was having produce issues. She came over and smiled and said: "Here, let me help you" but I could see deep in her pupils that by the time I'd turned that avocado over on the scanner for the fourth time, she wanted to yank it from my grasp: "Oh, just let me do it already!"

I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the next time I approach the self check-out, a flash mob bullfight breaks out. Cashiers suddenly cut their breaks short, race to their registers, flick on their number lights and beckon me, urge me, cajole me to come over in an attempt to distract me from their fellow employees who are frantically scurrying around, chaining off all the self-service lanes.

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