Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Doing it myself

When I first drove a car and I needed petrol I would pull up beside the pumps and wait for somebody to come and see what I wanted.  I would wind down my window and ask for four gallons of super.  The petrol pump attendant would put in the fuel, then return to my window and say, "That's six and tuppence, please" or whatever the cost was.  I would hand him (always a him, never a her) a ten bob note and wait for my change.  That was back in the days when there were still butchers' shops and bakers' shops - and quite possibly candlestick-makers' shops as well.  I have long since become accustomed to refuelling the car myself, driving on to pay at the kiosk or walking into the shop to pay.  In France, because it's more convenient, I generally use the pumps where one inserts a credit or debit card and has no need to use the services of the cashier.  Which is a little hypocritical of me.

I have come to accept the need for me to push a trolley around a supermarket, selecting for myself the goods I wish to purchase, rather than expecting a shop assistant to do the running backwards and forwards to fill my list told to him one item at a time.  But I do dislike those do-it-yourself checkouts.  I have used them on quite a few occasions and I still do if I have just one or two things in my basket and there are queues at the few tills open.  My experience is that leaving the cashier to do the work is very much simpler.  When using those DIY tills I usually forget to tell the machine that I have brought my own bags so as soon as I put one on the packing shelf the wretched machine screams at me, "Unexpected item in bagging area" and whatever I do has no effect so I have to wait until the one member of staff overseeing a dozen of these machines spots the red light and comes to my rescue.

Two or three items later, the machine screams again, "Unexpected item in bagging area".  Unexpected? That is the packet of tea I scanned only two seconds or so ago.  How can you not be expecting it?  Once again I wait to be rescued.  And it's definitely not worth the bother of trying to buy a bottle of wine.  Scan that and the whole thing goes into collapse mode just in case I am under 25 years old.  (Why 25 is something I have yet to work out since anyone over the age of 18 is allowed to buy alcohol.)  Trying to buy two or three bottles practically brings the whole store to a standstill.

I am not entirely sure what might be the benefit to me of using these tills.  I can accept the concept of supermarket chains buying in such bulk that the goods they sell are cheaper than at the local corner shop (which has been put out of business now by the supermarket) and the fact that by serving myself from the shelves I am helping to keep prices down.  I suppose the idea is that these latest machines will help ensure that prices are kept down but at what cost?  I would, I think, prefer to have supermarkets employ people to act as checkout operators than have to do all the work myself.  That, surely, is beneficial to the community as a whole: more people earning cash, fewer people claiming benefits.  I have to wonder, too, just how many items find their way surreptitiously into shopping bags, bypassing the scanner and bagging area of DIY tills.  Does the saving of, say, one salary outweigh the cost of the seepage?  I do know that I prefer the human contact.  It's better for my blood pressure as well.


What does help keep my blood pressure at a reasonable level is opening the bedroom curtains in the morning to see this view.


Uncle Skip, said...

Just think of how many more folks we could keep employed if the 'old way' were still available.
Isn't it a bit ironic that there is less service in the service industries today?

Brighton Pensioner said...

There's just as much service as ever but most of it is self-service these days!

Buck said...

But I do dislike those do-it-yourself checkouts. I have used them on quite a few occasions...

I used them when they were new, mostly for the novelty that was in it. I avoid them at all costs these days, for all the reasons you've stated and one other: there always seemed to be some doofus ahead of me who was unclear on the concept and took FOREVER to scan and bag four items. Never again... give me a cashier, please.