1227 Please See Attendant
A Woody Allen style quandary. Use the self checkout lane or don’t.
If you do, you’re playing into the modern idea that human workers no longer are necessary. If you don’t, you risk catching some dread disease from the live cash register operator.
Today’s checkout people are mainly part time. Part timers don’t get company health insurance and won’t if the likes of Rep. John Bonehead have their way. So, that guy sneezing and coughing behind the register at MegaMart is likely to infect you. No machine can do that to you.
On the other hand, self-checkouts are not ready for prime time.
They run like television robo-cams. Automated. One attendant at a control computer keeping watch on four to six different checkout machines. If one goes wrong, they shut it down unless the IT guy is in the house and isn’t doing something more important like fixing some manager’s TV set.
There are some tricks to making these things work. First, be prepared. Make sure you have a dry cloth with you and wipe down the scanners. They get dirty very fast and can’t read the bar codes.
Next, make sure you know where the UPC stickers are located on every item you plan to buy. Some are pretty well hidden, and if you take too long, the machine will kick you out and make you go back to the end of the line.
Third, when the automated voice commands you to “put item in bagging area,” do so immediately. It knows when you don’t. How? The shelves under the bags are scales and they track the weight of the bag. This also is why they can tell you “unidentified item in bagging area.”
If you run into a problem, the robo attendant can help. Like if you’re buying contraband .. anything with nicotine in it won’t scan until you call over the live person who taps in a secret code when you prove to him or her that you’re of legal age.
If a UPC label is wrinkled, the attendant will type it in manually for you. If there’s no UPC code on an item (why didn’t you look earlier, dummy?) you will have to wait for someone to check the price.
This kind of defeats the purpose of the electronics… well, half the purpose. The other purpose keeps on keeping on: electricity costs less per hour than the minimum wage. Computers don’t call in sick … or get sick … or fail to show up for a shift. The don’t talk back to management, they don’t hold long conversations with customers they know or with that cute guy in Customer Service.
Most of us have learned to use a DIY gas pump, and it’s unlikely you’ll find any other kind except in New Jersey where you can’t pump yourself (and the prices are lower than in surrounding states.)
Try to get to a pump with the hose on the same side as your filler. Trying to snake the long hoses around the car usually misses by inches. If you have to turn around, be careful, because other drivers are not watching you.
The newer pumps put you through hoops of their own. Hence, have your credit card ready before you start working the pump. If you use a debit card you may be required to put in your ZIP code, which somehow assures all that you are who you say you are.
Follow the directions to the letter, or else. When you read “pull your card out quickly,” do so. If you let it linger, you will be sorry.
Follow the directions in order. If it says “choose grade before pumping,” do so. If it says "remove nozzle before choosing grade,” then remove the nozzle before choosing the grade.
Some of the newer pumps have television screens that treat you to advertising videos. If you have ADHD, this is a sneaky trick to make you overfill your tank. The TV distracts you. Your pump stops. You top it off without looking and spill a few cents worth onto the ground. Figure half the males have this condition, and at the end of the day, those few cents add up.
If you need a map, you’ll have to buy it. And it STILL won’t fold back correctly. If you ask the clerk behind the counter “can you tell me how to get to Elm Street?” You’ll get a blank stare.
If you can’t figure any of this stuff out, please see attendant.
--Orange Blossom special was a fancy train and lives on in song, the national anthem of country fiddlers. That name now should hang on the Today Show, which has redone its set so that viewers are oranged to death. Bad color for a TV set, and they knew that soon after they oranged up studio 3B in the late 1980s.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2013 WJR