I have written several times about the victories and defeats that happen each and every time I set foot in a grocery store–which is a minimum of four times a week–but there’s one thing I can no longer stay silent about.
Well, there are many things I can’t stay silent about, but this one is tops on the list–the self-checkout lane.
What should be an easy process–get in line, scan, pay, leave–is complicated by the fact that a) machines are machines and b) most people are not in fact smarter than the machine and make me question the whole theory of evolution.
So because I’m a helper, I have created a series of simple questions that will determine whether or not you should use the self-checkout lane.
1. Can you count to 12?
First of all, I’m referring to the Express self-checkout lanes. The sign says 12 items or less. It does not say, “Everything you can stick in the small-ass cart you chose instead of regular cart.”
And that does not refer to the number of item types, but the actual item count. For example, those 35 cans of soup that took you 15 minutes to pick out does not count as a single item. You are not a special snowflake. If everybody ignored this rule, it would just be a regular line.
So if you can’t count to 12, go through that regular line.
2. Can you form a straight line?
In most cases, there are two sets of checkouts–three on each side. This does not mean that a line forms behind each one. There is one line–ONE LINE–that forms in the middle behind these two rows of machines.
And this is the important part: If you’re the first person in line, do not stand eight feet away from the middle of the two sides of checkouts, therefore blocking the rest of the floor for all the other shoppers and causing the line to snake all the way back through the produce section.
One line. A couple feet back from the registers. Not complicated.
3. Can you find the barcode on a product or match a picture on the screen to your product?
In order to scan an item, you have to scan the barcode. Find the barcode, scan it, and move on with your life. If there is no barcode, as is often the case with produce, they provide a menu on the screen that looks like a children’s matching game. See banana? Press banana button.
Yay! Look at you!
4. Can you put items in a bag?
You must place your scanned item in the bag. If you actually remembered to not only bring your reusable bag from home but also remembered to bring it into the store–showoff–use it and bypass trying to open the plastic bags provided (pretty good call.)
Either way, place the item in the bag. That’s it. If you put it back into your small-ass cart, the voice will yell at you that “an item has been removed.” If you place it there before you scan it, it will yell that there is an “unexpected item in bagging area.”
It’s all about timing. Scan. Place in bag. Proceed.
5. Can you flatten money to insert into the slot?
The voice coming out of the machine gives you two clear options–swipe card on the PIN pad or insert cash. That’s it. They’re telling you what to do. Don’t act surprised and look around, don’t pull out a wad of crumpled bills and expect them to be accepted, and don’t ask if you can write a check.
You will always have to pay for your groceries. Swipe, insert bills, get a gold star. And seriously? A check?
6. Can you move along when you’re done?
If there is a long line behind you, do not stand there when you’re done and read your receipt and all 300 extra pieces of paper that get pumped out of the printer with it like it’s a treasure map. There is nothing on that paper that is so important that you need to throw on the brakes and cause a backup.
Shuffle up a few feet and by all means, feel free to make a day out of your perusal. Just don’t block the now-vacant machine. Move it along there, buddy.
So I think that sums things up.
If you answered “no” to any of the questions above, reflect a bit on your limits, swallow your pride, and proceed to the nearest employee-manned checkout.
Don’t be a hero.