Things I hate #8

Automatic checkouts. I seriously despise those fuckers. In principle they’re a good idea. Let’s 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. It’s shite.


The system is simple enough. You’re 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 it’s not. Because, despite the big-hearted slogans and the loyalty cards, the supermarkets don’t trust you. The supermarkets know that at heart you’re all thieving bastards and you’d 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 they’re 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 hasn’t been scanned you’ve 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, it’s there. It’s in the bag. Let’s move onto the next one.


But no, it won’t move onto the next one. It’s not going to let this lie. Because you’re trying to have its pants down, aren’t you, you thieving cunt. The barcode reader is locked and every CCTV camera in the store has now trained it’s 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.’


I’m in danger of repeating myself here. It’s in the fucking bag.


‘No it isn’t. You’ve pocketed it along with a gas barbecue set worth £159.99. PLEASE PUT THE ITEM INTO THE BAG.’


It’s in the fucking bag!


This implied accusation that somehow I’m 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 it’s Wimbledon c. 1983 in the hope that the weight sensor just might believe that the fucking crisps are there.




The computer thinks about it. Finally, the suspicious twat chip inside the machine recognizes my now broken packet of Seabrooks. It nods it’s 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.




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! It’s not a fucking mini-fridge, is it?!




WHAT???!!!!!!! ‘Please WAIT!!! Please fucking WAIT!!!!!! Zipperdeefuckingdoodah! The whole point in this fucking process is that I don’t have to fucking wait. Because I haven’t 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!’ She’s the machine’s slave. She’s the computer’s lacky. Until boffins can devise robots that are any good in a foot chase, she’s got herself a job. Pretending to help you out, surreptitiously she checks to see if you’ve 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 it’s done it every fucking time I’ve 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 you’re late. And now you’re wound up. Every little helps, my fucking arse.


One comment

  1. AndrewsBlog · August 1, 2009

    Not to mention the hassel of buying a bit of booze as the machine needs to be told you are over 18, or that every other item is security tagged.

    I hate them and only use them late at night when they send all the staff home for 40 winks.

    I have adopted a heavy light approach,

    scan your items altenating a heavy item with a light one.

    You scan a greetings card and it won’t recognise it, please place item in the bag, so you wave a bottle of scotch pass the now disabled scanner in a perfectly natural manner and place it into the bag, the stupid machine seams happy and you have now won the scotch (unless it has a security tag) the bonus with this is that you have also saved the wait to be verified that you are over 18.

    OK I’ve not actually got away with a bottle of scotch but a pair of jeans (only £2 anyway) a tee shirt, a multipack of crisps and a few pot noodles.

    Serves them bloody right, I waved it past the machine, the machine was happy, I was not unhappy so there it goes.

    I did see a rugby club outing stop at a 24 hour tesco once and get away with about a trolly full of beer due to scanning problems, a lack of staff and general high jinks.

    Half the cases of beer seamed to just move from one trolly to another going nowhere near a scanner!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s