• NL

    This is a fantastic piece of writing. I missed your posts over the long weekend, and this entry more than makes up for the dry spell! Well done!

  • http://testosteronetimesthree.blogspot.com Dawn

    You are one brave woman! BRAVE. I am freakishly afraid of those self-satanic checkout lanes. Brave I tell ya!!

  • Anti-Walmart

    Walmart = spawn of satan. How can anyone shop there? Drive to 3 different stores if you must get clothes, groceries and tires! Seriously, I know it’s the only option is some small towns where they drove all the smaller businesses out of town, but in larger towns and cities… just say no to walmart.

  • Sandra

    Gah. I have *never* used a self-checkout. Because I’m pretty sure they’ve all got hidden cameras to capture the hilarity (for others, not the user) that must ensue from trying to scan all 6 sides of a box of cereal 18,000 times.

  • Koko

    I love “outsourced caring”, and it reminded me of something I saw today via Merlin Mann’s blog/vidblog. In talking to Jeffrey Veen (google), I then wandered to Veen’s blog, where he blogged about the whole customer satisfaction issue. And here’s my point:


    An no, it’s not porn. And no, I don’t work there. Here’s their tag line: “People-Powered Customer Service for Everything. GET SATISFACTION. And get help with the products and companies you care about.”

  • http://www.thejoyof.blogspot.com Joy

    I must have a t-shirt emblazoned with:

    “Outsourced Caring”!

  • Sara

    I recently went to Ikea and found that they’d installed 4 new self checkout lanes. I found this absolutely insane for a place like Ikea– you routinely have people buying HUGE items, or multiple carts worth, or 20 glasses and 20 plates and 20 bowls, each of which needs to be scanned individually. I fortunately had only three small things, all in boxes, and my checkout took less than 2 minutes, but I’m pretty sure those lines absolutely suck on a busy Saturday.

  • Chris Alexander

    I’ve dealt with those machines at Home Depot. They are like the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld! To operate them you have to put yourself in the mindset of a robot. That seems to work for me. Never tried it with a toddler though! I can just imagine.

  • http://jenontheedge.blogspot.com Jen on the Edge

    Frogger1995: Thank you for putting all of the rest of us stupid people in our places. Because really? That was quite helpful. I’ll remember that the next time I write a check at the grocery store AND I have my children with me. Speaking of stupid, “pin number” is incorrect. “PIN” stands for “personal identification number” so you just said “personal identification number number.”

    Dooce: Amen sister!

  • http://pandanose.wordpress.com mk

    I always wonder if the self-checkouts are actually saving the store any money in the long run, due to A) the number of times a human has to come over and fix something and B) the huge potential for Produce Fraud. I’m not entirely proud of myself for admitting this, but if a person wanted to, she might notice that, say, bananas are extremely cheap, whereas, say, pomegranates are extremely un-cheap. And if a person memorized the PLU code for bananas, she could just type that in and then weigh the pomegranates.

    Of course, then you have to deal with the machine shouting “Please place your BANANAS on the belt!” across the store. (It’s the same in Spanish, sadly, although my first-year Spanish book led me to believe it should be platanos.)

  • Laurie

    I don’t think the “people” checkers these days are much friendlier than the scan machines. I never have my billfold back in my purse by the time they have shoved my sacks at me and started with the next customer. I guess they don’t get “paid” to give good customer service anymore.

  • http://justbetweenstrangers.blogspot.com/ acm

    I don’t know about everybody else’s nerve, but the grammatical fussbudget in me suggests that you look up the word “enormity” because it means something entirely different from “enormousness” (although after your experience, that distinction may blur somewhat, heh).

    outsourced caring is a brilliant concept, encapsulating much that makes one want to bite people….

  • http://thefabricbolt.blogspot.com chris

    I ran across one of those the other day at IKEA. I had the clerk check out my stuff for me and even she had trouble. Oh well. There is nothing like having a small child to drive other people crazy when you are in lines. I love it. When my son was a baby and I would go to the downtown post office (where lines NEVER move), I would always let him cry as long and as loud as he wanted in hopes of annoying the clerks. Yeah, bad, bad mom.

  • http://milalelilolu.blogspot.com Mili

    There’s no such thing as a self-checkout here. At least not yet, but I’ll be sure not to try them.
    People are supposed to do that, why is that we want to keep people away from people so much? Jeez.

  • Natalie

    People who try to correct your use of the word “enormity” should know that “fussbudget” isn’t even a damned word.

    It’s fussBUCKET.

    Enough of my ranting.

    Brilliant post.

    Personally, I do like the self serve checkouts here at Big W (Australian company) as they work – and for every two of the self serves, there is an assistant waiting – STANDING at the front of the aisles to you know, actually HELP PEOPLE.

    And they are friendly and don’t scream at parents struggling with hyperactive toddlers who only want to rest their hand on the handrail.

    Wherever it was that you shopped, you should boycott them and their lousy lack of caring.

  • Dawn

    OMG, our Home Depot is like that; two checkouts that are never open, and 4 self-scan checkouts, one of which is always broken. And then you get people trying to buy wood and pipes and things that don’t scan through the self-scan checkout, and they need a cashier to stand next to them and do it for them, while 20 other people wait for that single cashier to come help scan their items.

  • http://www.commandertrombone.com Wiley

    When I lived in Bloomington, IN, the local Krogers got one of those self-serve check-out stations, and eventually more of them. At first, I was intimidated, but eventually I became a self-check out virtuoso. The auto-checkout is a learned skill, and anyone can get it with practice. Ironically, though, there is this caveat: the auto-checkout MUST have a faithful and caring attendant. This attendant must be the Dorothy to the auto-check-out’s Tin Man. The machine must be reset, just like at the bowling alley.

  • http://www.flittingbutterfly.blogspot.com/ Rosane

    Hi Heather,

    I h8te the self-checkouts. I make a point not to use them, thinking that I can send a message to Corporate that I won’t have their not caring. Most probably than not, all I accomplish is feeling self-righteous about making a decision. It’s the least I can do.


  • Anonymous

    don’t you have this website so that you and your houseband can stay home? why didn’t you leave the kid with him while you shop so that you don’t have to annoy people who don’t love children like you assume everyone should? i agree that the machines are frustrating and just a way for the stores to cut their costs and not ours, but it IS annoying to deal with someone in front of you in line who is having trouble with the machine, granted, not their fault, but then to see them have to wrangle the child on top of that, i mean, for fuck’s sake, it’s not rocket science, GO TO A CHECKOUT PERSON!

  • Mackenzie

    I hate those machines too – and now after reading your story and imagining working one of those machines with a child in tow, I think I’ll add a few years onto our planned start date of having children, LOL.

  • http://gigiredefined.typepad.com Gigi

    Also one of my favorite things about self-check-outs:

    When I lived in smalltown Pennsylvania, where the amishness is so thick that there are hitching posts at K-Mart, I would see an amish buggy pull up, hitch up at K-Mart, and then check out at the self-check-out.

    Definitely the self-check-out isn’t of Satan, not like cars or lightbulbs or anything.

  • http://www.dragonflyknits.blog-city.com Judy

    Even my teenage CHILDREN will not use one of those things. And they like to mess with electronics! I have never, ever, ever used one and not required the assistance of the blob in charge of straightening out things when you screw them up. They always make it your fault, but you know it’s just that the machines are screwy…

  • http://www.putyourflareon.blogs.com Aimee

    Ugh. I would have lost it too if I had to deal with that. I live in a country where customer service does not exist and the self check out lanes at the grocery store do not weigh your food as you check out. Imagine what you could do with that?

    Love the new layout. :)

  • I am

    Please deport me now.

  • Julie

    And I thought bagging my own groceries was bad enough! (I only go to the self-bagging store when I am without kids and when I need cereal, which is half the price there compared to elsewhere). We do not have self check-outs here. Thankfully. It is bad enough going to a store with a clerk and a bagger when the kids are along… having to do both with my kids present would be completely unbearable.

  • boxy brown

    I agree, those self-checkouts are idiotic. I mean, people are idiotic, too, but at least you can argue with them.

    And whoever made the observation about the 12 checkout lines, 9 of which are closed – amen. Target has like 23 checkout lines. WTF?!?

  • senseisgirl

    Here in Glastonbury CT, there seem to be two types of self-checkouts. The first is a horrible mess (of the “item removed from bagging area variety – Shaws.. you know I am talking about you!) and the second is quite pleasant and quick! Our local Stop and Shop has a really good team (dressed in bright red shirts!) standing at opposite ends of the lines. If I ever have trouble, there they are! I think I was a cashier in a previous life – I LOVE to use the “item lookup” section. Then again, my kids are in their teens and I am the only one I have to pull of the candy displays.

  • http://wackymommy.org/ Wacky Mommy

    Don’t look up *shit* for anyone. The way you throw words around is an amazing and glorious thing.

    I can’t use self-serve at all when the kids are with me, cuz they jump up on the machine and do a merry little dance, then the one, sad lonely clerk gets upset and has an “episode.”

  • http://alexis-paperwings.blogspot.com Alexis

    The only time I ever willingly used the self-checkout there was a little problem and the attendant came over to my lane and just took over. Which, basically defeats the purpose of self-checkout, right? Not to mention how pissed I was because I was fully capable of handling it myself and have never once liked anyone taking something over for me…

  • http://theroyalblogat.typepad.com/the_royal_blog/ [michele]

    I am afraid of those self-checkout machines and I refuse to use them. Refuse.

    We have one at our library too – the librarians get very testy when you won’t use the machine.

    Don’t totally knock Outsourced Caringâ„¢; it’s great when it pertains to in-laws.

  • senseisgirl

    To Anonymous @ 6:11 PM: People must really like you.

  • dooce

    e·nor·mi·ty [i-nawr-mi-tee]

    1. outrageous or heinous character; atrociousness: the enormity of war crimes.

    2. something outrageous or heinous, as an offense: The bombing of the defenseless population was an enormity beyond belief.

    3. greatness of size, scope, extent, or influence; immensity: The enormity of such an act of generosity is staggering.

    fussbudget that.

  • ritsgirl

    Just today I tried to scan a Cottage Living magazine and the self-checker kept spitting it back at me. I was getting the “please remove item from belt” message everytime I scanned. I kept doing it over and over until finally it was fed up and told me to set it aside and get help. The attendant told me the magazine wasn’t heavy enough for the machine to recognize the item. Of course, it scanned my small 2oz box of Imodium AD just fine.

  • Sarah

    PS…Im going out on a limb here and guessing you mean walmart. Then again in SLC it could also be a few other enormous food stores. Anyway, my almost 9 year old son was a lot like Leta. I have PTSD from his toddler days. One day in walmart he disappeared. He was 3 and had to walk with me because my 2 year old was in the cart (yes I realize this story could be an argument for spacing children). I FLIPPED OUT. The announced it over the store and look for him over the cameras. They found him. He was CLIMBING up the front of the donut case. At that time I didnt let my kids eat things like donuts so I suppose he saw a chance at both freedom and sugar and went for it.

  • Rebecca

    I completely forgot one reason as to why self-service checkouts are awesome: they’re so easily fooled if your product doesn’t have a barcode and you have an item menu to choose from. Type in that chocolate croissant in your hand as a normal butter croissant when the attendant isn’t looking, and save yourself 12p.

    This is how we get them back: we take them down from the inside.

  • http://www.sadiemama.blogspot.com Sadie

    Oh, I hate those machines. They make me shiver, and always ALWAYS find something to yell at me about.

  • http://scrappinjenny.blogspot.com Jennifer

    I hate those effing machines. I mean they piss me off. I will gladly wait in line behind 190 people to use a register instead of walking up to a self check out one. You were totally within your rights to go off on them like you did. And then some.

  • Laura

    And it speaks to the strikingly unfairness of the world, because I’m pretty sure that assclown Spencer has never, ever had to use self-checkout.

  • Anonymous

    to “sensiegirl”…how funny, we both live in glastonbury. i’m sure you’d love me if you met me. too bad i’m not a big fan of being told i have to love kids and self-checkout machines at the same time. oh, and btw, stop & shop isn’t perfect like you describe. neither one in town is, so you have your head up your ass and people don’t like assheads.

  • Jodie

    Here’s the ‘burbs of Dallas TX, we have one grocery store chain that has NO self-checkout lanes… Tom Thumb. But due to coupon doubling and other things like saving money we usually go to Kroger which has a bunch of the robotic self-check things. They usually work OK, but I don’t have a small child either. I prefer a real person, but often there are only 1-2 lanes with a checker available. I’m a computer person, but I do Customer Service at my company, so I’m always appalled by the poor customer service at: grocery stores, the US postal service, cell phone companies and many retail stores especially Sears (I don’t shop there anymore due to that.) I wish I could go without shopping all together and never need customer service again… I make my husband deal with the cable company… being on hold for an hour is another annoying thing.

  • Anonymous

    oh, and another thing, senseigirl, ince you assume nobody likes me…i’ll assume from the original post that not everyone likes people who force their kids upon others and expect people to LOVE their children, and the fact that their child is so cute and because they have a child they should be given all kinds of leeway, especially when they practically roll their child’s carriage over my foot in the store because i didn’t get out of their way fast enough and just like i get dirty looks when my dog shits on their lawn, even though i pick it up with a fucking bag and throw it away appropriately. next time, i’ll just smear the shit all over the disapproving person, like the person who assumes i should love their kid and smears them all over me.

  • Squealbox

    It must be WAL-MART! I hate that freakin’ store!! Nothing but frustration…the stupid self check out machines NEVER work properly. They have 23 check out lanes but only 2 are staffed with humans, the poor customers are forced to use the always lousy, stress inducing self check out machines. I feel your pain Heather. I have stopped giving Wal-Mart my money because they don’t deserve it.

  • Michykeen

    Okay, I kind of don’t mind the self checkout when it’s just little ol’ me and a couple cans of cat food. But the people who insist on trying to scan an entire week’s worth of groceries at those things should be drug out in the street and shot.

    Also, I can’t use one of them without thinking, “It puts the item in the bag, or else it gets the hose again!”

  • senseisgirl

    Anonymous: Wouldn’t it be ‘funny’ if I did know you, and love you?!

  • Vee

    You’ve hit upon one of my biggest pet peeves. Not only are self-checkouts an abomination, but grocery stores continue to build 12 checkout aisles even though they never open more than 3 at a time. And you can’t fit yourself and a shopping cart into the checkout aisles. They want to give the illusion of many checkout aisles, but in reality I have to make a decision upfront: do I want to go in before or after my cart…and if you go in first but have left something near the back–oh well, you’ll never get it. If they’re going to use self checkout and close all their aisles they need to remove about 6 of them and make the aisles wide enough that you can walk beside your cart. A pointless rant, but one I think of every time I go to the store. I usually refuse to self-checkout…I use the time waiting in the one long line for a real person to read all the gossip magazines. It’s sort of fun. Unless I’m buying ice cream.

  • Cheryl

    Over here in England, self-check outs have hardly been introduced yet so we only have to deal with indifferent check-out staff providing “service” at only 3 out of 20 aisles. Please don’t add the demon machines to your list of exports !
    Er, I don’t understand the video clip at all. Is it related to the self-service machine monsters ?Cultural differences no doubt (confused Brit in London)…

    PS I worked in a supermarket on check-out as a teenager so feel qualified to say that Caring has been Outsourced.

  • http://whisperingsfromthewings.blogspot.com/ Cindi

    Am I the ONLY one who chooses the self-checkout lane when I am not in a hurry and have a HUGE cart of groceries? I then Fuck up every other item so one of those bitchy helpers has to come help me. I also use that “skip bagging” option for more than three heavy items and the eggs and the bread, and they have to come and over-ride it. By the time I am half way through they usually have someone doing it for me. God there is nothing like fucking with technology.


  • http://www.afunkdiddy.blogspot.com Polly

    i love how you got all english sounding – it adds weight i think.

  • Michykeen

    P.S. – I love you, Heather. You brighten my day with your words and rants and pictures of Chuck.

  • http://www.earthtobella.com/ Viviane

    Sounds like Walmart, haha! I actually loved their self-checkouts when I lived in the States, because I would be able to bag things the way I wanted and did not have to wait in line.