New Addition to the "S" List

There are many stressful experiences that we go through in our lifetime. Buying a home, starting a new job, having a baby etc.. but I think that supermarket self-checkouts should be added to that list.

When approaching the checkouts with your three items of shopping, there are usually two choices open to you. You can queue up behind the families putting their monthly groceries through the tills of the new trainees or you can risk your mental health by using the self-service checkout systems. The world of personal shopping really has gone out of the window, to be replaced by a form of torture only previously seen on bad Japanese game shows. Still, it can’t really be that bad…. can it?

A few days ago, I gave the self-checkout at Loblaw's a try (I've been avoiding this for some time). My first challenge came with deciding where to queue. There were three rows of checkouts and other customers seemed as perplexed as me about choosing which queue to join.  I stood there asking myself...

“Should I opt for the queue with the fewest people or should I also take into consideration the number of items in the basket of each shopper in each queue? In addition, should I factor in the likely intelligence of the people in the queues?”

There was one certainty with all this...whichever queue I chose would be the wrong one. Sure enough, I got stuck behind a lady who couldn’t find the barcode on her packet of crackers, a teenager who needed to individually select 15 different flavours of muffin using the on-screen interactions, an old lady who spent 5 minutes sorting through her over-large collection of bank/credit cards in her wallet.

When I finally arrived at the self-checkout machine, frustration turned to stress. I suddenly felt all self-conscious that it was my turn and realised that everyone in the queue behind me was watching me, waiting for me to do something stupid and forming opinions based upon the combination of items in my basket.

I tried to scan my items quickly and, inevitably, put something in my bag too quickly. Very loudly the machine was laughing and mocking me "Please remove the last item from the bag". I did but apparently I didn't do it quickly enough or properly and as a result...I was locked out from the system. I felt completely helpless. I looked around desperately for assistance and a young man in uniform came to help me. "Kyle" as his Loblaw's name tag advised me was his name...scanned his card through the system, gave me a look as if to say “can’t you do anything right?” and then told me to carry on.

In the meantime, I could hear the people queueing behind me, huffing and puffing and whistling to themselves (it could well have been to the tune of ‘Right Here Waiting For You,’ I was too busy panicking to be able to tell). Sweating profusely, I paid, grabbed my bag and beat a hasty retreat.

What an ordeal! If I’d wanted to spend my precious time scanning shopping, I’d have applied for a job as a checkout operator. It’s not service, it’s not quick and it’s certainly not personal – I don’t even get the benefit of having a pointless conversation with a miserable checkout operator. Quite simply, it’s me working for the supermarket and not being paid for it. There’s no fun or benefit to me in that.

It was my first and last time with the self checkout. 

Gristedes Supermarket at Night NYC by Jeffery B Kellner via Etsy


  1. I'm with you... self-checkout at the supermarket or IKE.A is sooooo stressful and never any faster ! xoxo

  2. I quite like the self check out. It took me a while to get the hang of it but now I use it constantly.

  3. Self checkout sucks ... and it takes away meaningless jobs from the youth ... I'm with you on this one!

  4. I loved the self checkout when I lived in the States. It took me a couple tries to get the hang of it, but once I did it was fast & efficient, and I wouldn't have to argue with a pimply unidentifiable-gender cashier that I neither needed nor wanted a plastic bag for my loaf of bread. Back in Canada, I've found it's usually more efficient to go through the regular checkout.


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