Now I know I’m not the only one among us who’s convinced that the self-service machines at supermarkets are deliberately designed to make us look utterly incompetent in front of everyone else waiting. The gruelling test of patience involved is designed to only allow those with an iron will and determination to actually leave the shop with food. But my experience recently probably deserves special mention, because, well, it happened to me. Let me recount, picture the scene…
I stand already irritated in a queue which stretches back half a mile down the frozen food aisle and seems to slow to a crawl each time the shoppers pass by Spam Fritters or Mr. Brain’s Pork Faggots, peering across with the same morbid and perverse curiosity as they would at a grotesque accident on the motorway. There are just two checkouts open despite the queue of 50 people, and while most of the staff stand around talking, they leave Shane, Asda’s self-service conductor and great orchestrator, presiding over the sophisticated network of self-service facilitation terminals, trying to shepherd each one of the trembling luddites and technophobes to one of the few vacant machines.
When I eventually near the front it becomes clear that the queue is being held up because they no longer supply plastic bags (a government initiative to cut waste), and the people at the front of the queue are shouting ‘well ow am I sposed to get my shoppin ‘ome then?” I actually support this because nothing annoys me more than seeing someone load up 50 plastic bags with one item each. Shane offers to sell them at 5p a go and proceeds to wave a bag in front of the machine in an attempt to add it onto the bill. The machine complains with it’s usual “assistance is required” and he starts waving his supervisor card around like a desperate man, entering validation codes and telling the machine to shut up. They’re calling it a ‘Bag for life’, but let’s face it, it’s not a fucking puppy.
But great, things can move on. WE HAVE BAGS. A minor victory.
Then it’s my turn. But as soon as I go to work I get bombarded by a barrage of error messages knocking me back, exhausting me with it’s pained noncompliance and utter lack of cooperation. As I desperately try to scan items across its glass window it seizes up in a twisted spasm, pleading in a pained voice “Urggghhhhhhhhh…… unexpected item in the bagging area”. What now? I half expect it to say “HA, is that the best you’ve got you dumb bastard!? You lose! GAME OVER!”
It’s a frenetic race to get things bagged as quickly as you can before it seizes up again with yet another error and you have to wait for the poor sod to finish with the other 5 machines he’s trying to nurse back to health so he can come and attend to yours.
Approval needed!’. We wait as the guy makes his way over for the fourth time by this point to give clearance for a packet of tunes. They do state on the packet that you mustn’t exceed 12 packets in one day, but it does make you wonder how many verdicts of accidental death have been recorded from an excessive amount of throat sweets. When it comes to putting a reduced price hot sausage through, the item won’t scan and the number on the front, which incidently is about a hundred characters long, turns out to be one number too many to actually fit into the box provided on the screen. So as I stand confounded trying to make it fit I’m eventually forced to concede and call for yet more assistance. The thing is by this time the guy’s actually getting annoyed AT ME!! Then he repeats the torturous process himself, slowly punching a number code into the computer, before he reaches the same conclusion as I did.
“There are too many numbers”
“Yeah that’s weird”
“Yeah I know.”
“I’ll try it again”
“No why don’t you just put it through as a carrot?”
“Nah mate, I cant do that”
and so he feverishly goes about re-checking the number.
IT’S A SAUSAGE!!! FOR 10p!!!!!!!!! JUST GIVE IT TO ME!!!!!
Despite the fact that we only nipped down the shop for a few things and my tour around the store only took about 10 minutes, it seems to take an eternity to work through the remaining items in the basket. An infuriating feat which tests all my faculties of patience, wit and speed, and as I finally manage to wrench myself free from it’s grasp, swearing under my breath, the machine bids me a courteous farewell with “Thank you for using the fast lane”.
You’re having a laugh!! Next time it would be quicker and easier to try and roll the items out the shop past security with my nose.