Friday, August 28, 2009

Curmudgeon attempts to master the self-serve scanner -- again

President George H.W. Bush went to an exhibit at a convention put on by the National Grocers Association in early 1992. Oddly enough, as a wealthy, privileged individual, he'd not done his own food shopping in a long, long time. Maybe he'd never done his own grocery shopping. So he was amazed to see a checkout scanner in operation. He made the mistake of saying so. (The link will take you to a 1992 New York Times article. Genuflection optional.)

Of course, this incident was dredged up many times during Bush the Elder's unsuccessful reelection campaign. Bush was mocked as out of touch with middle class reality -- which he surely was -- but probably no more so than many of his wealthy, privileged critics, most of whom didn't do their own grocery shopping either.

But a technology need not be entirely new or unfamiliar to remain baffling.

In my own household, Long Suffering Spouse does most of the shopping. (This post explains why.) But I occasionally accompany her and, sometimes, when exigent circumstances require, I am sent in alone.

One such occasion arose recently when Long Suffering Spouse discovered, while in the middle of preparing the evening meal, that she was out of soy sauce. She showed me the empty bottle, pointing out the characteristic green cap and calling my particular attention to the 'low sodium' legend on the label. She hoped that I could find an exact replacement, but she authorized me to use my discretion to find a substitute if I was wholly satisfied that an exact duplicate could not be found.

After telling me exactly what aisle to head for, Long Suffering Spouse sent me out into the early evening.

I found the aisle, I found the exact duplicate -- I even verified the low sodium label! -- and my self-confidence thus bolstered, I thought I would take on the self-serve checkout line.

I have never yet been able to get through the self-serve checkout without assistance. Sometimes, when Long Suffering Spouse has been with me, she's been able to fix my mistakes. On a couple of occasions, Long Suffering Spouse has stood by in shock and amazement as I so badly fuddled the transaction that she was unable to reverse my steps -- and the attendant had to put things right.

But on this night, having achieved my mission objectives with a minimum of fuss and bother, I felt I might even conquer this ultimate grocery store challenge. Besides, whenever I get in the 10 items or less line, someone in front of me has a full cart, speaks no English, wants to write a check, writes the check before presenting coupons, and then wants to write another check. Either that or someone discovers, upon presenting 10 items, that he or she has only money to pay for nine. Hard decisions take time.

And, besides, there was an open self-serve lane.

Steeling my courage, I ran the bottle over the scanner. It registered. (I don't always get this far -- so I thought I was doing fine.)

But then the machine directed me to put the item down on the belt that would take it away to the bagging area.

Well, I thought, I don't need a bag. Just let me set the darn thing down and figure out how to pay. A button lit up that said "I don't want to bag this item." Aha! I thought, the machine knows what I want to do. I pushed the button and the conveyor belt reversed course, bringing the bottle back to me.

But I still couldn't figure out how to pay. Had I canceled the scan? I wasn't sure. I scanned again.


Now the computer thought I had bought two bottles of soy sauce.

By now a line had formed behind me. I could feel them becoming impatient at my ineptitude.

I began pushing buttons randomly.

And, I think, waving my arms.

I may also have screamed for help.

The attendant eventually took the hint and soon, with her help, I was back on the road with my bottle of soy sauce.

I told Long Suffering Spouse about this adventure. For some reason she thinks I'm pretty near hopeless.


Jean-Luc Picard said...

There is one in our supermarket, but we refuse to use it.

landgirl said...

Oh, Cur, I thought about you as I began to describe myself as curmudgeonly--I hope you do not have monoply on that term. I got very sick of voices coming at me out of boxes--GPS or Sat Nav and push 1 to place and order and Floor 1 from elevators for heaven's sake. The last thing I would want with my soy sauce was another talking box. Unless I am in an extraordinary hurry I tend to enjoy the grocery line dramas--sneaking a look at the tabloid headings, peering like a voyeur at the things other people eat, seeing who remembers their cloth bags and what they say on them. Definitely more fun than talking box.

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

ha ha ha ha ha, i wish i could have watched that one!

smiles, bee

Dave said...

I smiled when I read the headline and continued through the post.

I will take money from a machine; but, I won't put money into one (vending types excluded - I'm talking about AT type M's).

My local grocery store takes great pains to try to get us to use the six lonely self check out machines, to little avail.

"Sir, would you like to try the self check line?"

"No thanks."

"I'll help you!"

"I like standing in line."

Patronizing smile and: (Sotto voce) "OK you old guy it ain't that hard, geez, why'd I get stuck at the Kroger in the heart of old people country?"

My little bit to keep people employed.

AndyK said...

Excellent job! Tie up the self-serve scanner as much as you can so that other people are forced to give their business to hard-working American check-out workers. Don't give in to the union-busting efforts of the food conglomerates.

Solidarity Forever!