The Annoying Reality of Self-Checkout Lines

I’m feeling a little evil. Oh sure, I used to be a mild-mannered
housewife, running errands, going to soccer practice, helping at
the school. But now I’m feeling evil. Just a bit.
I’m feeling a little evil. Oh sure, I used to be a mild-mannered housewife, running errands, going to soccer practice, helping at the school. But now I’m feeling evil. Just a bit.

Well, heck, maybe more than just a bit. You see, I have recently been to hell, and I can tell you exactly where hell is. It’s in the self-checkout aisle.

Self-checkout is one of those things that sounds good on paper but in reality is just pure hell.

Really. I’m fairly certain that self-checkout lines were invented by some sadistic retail executive who presented self-checkout to the other sadistic executives as, “We can save millions by making the idiots who shop here do all the work.” And I’m sure all the executives cheered and the stock price went up and everybody was happy.

Everybody but me, that is.

Look, self-checkout should be easy. I mean, how many of us have stood at a check stand, watching a person slide our cans and bottles and ceiling fans across a little flat thingy-bopper that makes the price go into the computer and thought, “Heck, I can do that.” Come on, admit it. You’ve thought it. I’ve thought it. I mean, really how hard can it be?

Well, I am here to tell you that it can be very hard, indeed. Look, there’s a reason why stores TRAIN their checkers. That little scanny thing isn’t easy to use. In fact, it’s darned difficult. I should know – I’m an idiot who just keeps trying to use the self-checkout.

I’m just lured by them. The simple truth is, nobody is ever in the self-checkout lane. You have it all to yourself. No more waiting behind a woman pushing three overflowing carts with 572 items, each missing a price tag. No, you simply walk up to self-checkout and scan your items, bag your stuff and walk out the door.

Unfortunately, the reason there’s nobody in those lanes is because your average, ordinary shopper has no idea how to scan an item. And forget looking up a price. How am I supposed to do that?

Now look, I’m not one to give up easily – after all, I am a parent. So, I’ve tried self-checkout more than once. More than twice, even. I’ve actually tried self-checkout more than any sane person would – but after all, I’m a parent and therefore not quite as sane as I used to be.

But each time I’ve failed. And I vow that the last time I used self-checkout was my last time. Ever. Look, I had 13 items, which is one item over the express-lane limit at the store where I was shopping. So, I went to self-checkout because frankly, people with 13 items in a 12-item lane really annoy me.

It started out OK. I scanned the first item, a can of Beefaroni. (Before you ask, yes, I allow my child to eat Beefaroni and no, I don’t know what exactly it is.) The Beefaroni scans, and I put it in my bag. Then I scan another can of Beefaroni.

And suddenly the scanner yells at me. It wants the Beefaroni out of the bag, and it wants it out NOW. In fact, the more I try to scan the second can, the angrier it gets. I’m starting to get really scared, but I just keep scanning over and over again.

And then a checker walks up, takes my Beefaroni away, scans a little plastic doo-hickey and all is well. Until she walks away and I try to scan the Beefaroni again. So she comes back and scans the plastic doo-hickey again.

And, like a miracle, I scan the Beefaroni and the scanner likes it. So I scan the rest of my stuff. And I’m feeling really good. After all, the machine hasn’t yelled at me again. And then I get to the 13th item. Another can of Beefaroni. I scan it and hold my breath.

And the stupid machine starts yelling.

So I did what any other mild-mannered-person-turned-evil would do. I told the machine to go to place that is very, very hot. And I dumped all my Beefaroni back in my cart.

And I left one little can sitting right in the bag in the self-checkout, so the computer would continue to rant and rave about it.

And I checked out in the express aisle with my 12 items – because, after all, even a mild-mannered-housewife-turned-evil has some manners.

Laurie Sontag is a Gilroy writer and mom who wishes parenthood had come with instructions. Her column is syndicated. She can be reached at [email protected]

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