Automatic checkouts. I seriously despise those fuckers. In principle theyre a good idea. Lets face it, anything that means you have to endure less interaction with other human beings and their selfish bad manners, their sticky germs, their appalling, unbending attitudes and their repulsive, blackhead-pitted skins has to be a good thing. But the technology is flawed. Its shite.
The system is simple enough. Youre essentially saving the supermarket some money and working for them for free by checking out your own shopping, thus allowing them to sack the members of staff who would have been working the tills. Serves em right, the miserable fuckers. A big thumbs up for capitalism. You scan your choices in, then bag them up, insert cash into a note reader/coin feed, or chip and PIN your bank card, HAL then thanks you for your custom and away you toddle. Simple as. Except its not. Because, despite the big-hearted slogans and the loyalty cards, the supermarkets dont trust you. The supermarkets know that at heart youre all thieving bastards and youd fleece them of their last tin of Rice Pudding given half the chance. And so they have programmed such a level of distrust and suspicion into the automatic checkouts that theyre constantly challenging your honesty. The fuckers are paranoid.
Anything you scan has to be put in into a bag which is suspended between two prongs over a weight sensitive plate, or onto the conveyor belt which (again is weight sensitive and) carries all your groceries so that they can be messed up in a bagging area. If anything appears on the weight sensor that hasnt been scanned youve had it. Because shoplifters are notorious for bagging up their swag and would never dream of putting anything in their pockets. Equally anything you scan has to be put in a bag. This last stipulation has got nothing to do with the supermarket but is an initiative started by the express checkout CPU itself because the computer wants you to use more plastic carrier bags, destroy the ecology and kill the planet so that machines can take over.
My trip the other lunchtime was typical. Chicken and bacon sandwich with mayo on brown, bar of chocolate, bag of crisps, bottle of Coke. No challenges there, I hear you say. Think again. We started with the crisps. Beep!
PLEASE PUT THE ITEM INTO THE BAG, says a robotic female voice pitched with well-enunciated superciliousness.
I look down. I look back at the machine. I have, its there. Its in the bag. Lets move onto the next one.
But no, it wont move onto the next one. Its not going to let this lie. Because youre trying to have its pants down, arent you, you thieving cunt. The barcode reader is locked and every CCTV camera in the store has now trained its beady eyes on me. I can almost feel the laser guiding red dots on my chest. Zooming in on my head. Go ahead, punk
The machine underlines the problem: PLEASE PUT THE ITEM INTO THE BAG.
Im in danger of repeating myself here. Its in the fucking bag.
No it isnt. Youve pocketed it along with a gas barbecue set worth £159.99. PLEASE PUT THE ITEM INTO THE BAG.
Its in the fucking bag!
This implied accusation that somehow Im shoplifting scum goes on until it sees me retrieve the Seabrooks Ready Salted and then begin hurling the packet back into the bag like John McEnroe grounding his Slazenger racket into the turf like its Wimbledon c. 1983 in the hope that the weight sensor just might believe that the fucking crisps are there.
IS IT IN THE FUCKING BAG NOW?!
The computer thinks about it. Finally, the suspicious twat chip inside the machine recognizes my now broken packet of Seabrooks. It nods its head and grudgingly beeps as if to say, I knew you had it all the time you light-fingered fucker and we progress.
I scan my next purchase. Beep! I drop it into the carrier.
UNEXPECTED ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA.
Eh? What do you mean unexpected item?! How the fuck can it be unexpected? I just scanned it and you agreed that it was a Toffee Crisp and cost 0.44p. I dropped it into the bag. How can it suddenly be unexpected, you daft twat! Its not a fucking mini-fridge, is it?!
PLEASE WAIT FOR ASSISTANCE.
WHAT???!!!!!!! Please WAIT!!! Please fucking WAIT!!!!!! Zipperdeefuckingdoodah! The whole point in this fucking process is that I dont have to fucking wait. Because I havent got the fucking time to wait. The red light goes on regardless, indicating the start of a foot-tapping, obscenity-generating, anger-fostering, bile simmering pause until some assistant finds the motivation to drag themselves away from a conversation about dildos with an equally unenthusiastic co-worker and shamble across. It always does this, she inevitably says. A dead voice and a sour look on her face. You fucking Luddite! she might as well add. You thieving fucking Luddite! Shes the machines slave. Shes the computers lacky. Until boffins can devise robots that are any good in a foot chase, shes got herself a job. Pretending to help you out, surreptitiously she checks to see if youve got a patio heater tucked up your t-shirt or a 50 inch LCD shoved in the carrier bag.
She swipes her card. She reassures the machine. I smile. Cheers, love. Always does it? Really? I know it fucking always does this, because its done it every fucking time Ive used the bastard thing!
That it fucks up constantly, with at least every second item that you scan, is compounded by the fact that you only used the express checkout because you were in a fucking hurry in the first bastard place. Twats. Humanity-quenching, money-fucking-grabbing, suspicious bastard twats. And now youre late. And now youre wound up. Every little helps, my fucking arse.