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Friday, January 13, 2006

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs


Okay, we have a new rule in the Briggs house - we do not buy anything, ever, anywhere, no matter how dire the circumstances, at a business that has a “self-checkout” isle.

Never, never, never.

If I were dying of thirst in the middle of the Mohave with a $100 bill in my pocket and there was a water store requiring self-checkout I swear I would rather meet my end than deal with this form of modern lunacy.

And, it would not really matter because chances are, even if I was willing to buy a glass of water, the mechanical moron would not be able to actually complete the exchange before I turned to dust.

A while back, our family had the misfortune to need to buy something at just such a place. It was an outfit that I had patronized before. Not my favorite place to be, by any means, but an occasional necessary evil.

Having found our desired items we proceeded to the checkout line.

We stood for an hour. Or maybe it was 15 minutes - all three of our daughters were with us and time can get a bit muddled in such circumstances.

Finally I looked up to see what was taking so blasted long.

Two customers ahead of me there was a fellow trying to get change out of change machine - well that is what it looked like as he kept trying to feed a $5 bill into a machine.

“Oh good grief,” I said to She-who-must-be-obeyed, “We are in the wrong line.”

“Why do all these people need change anyway,” I said as I looked for the check out line.

SWMBO looked at me like I was complete fool - something that happens to me on occasion.

“He’s not trying to get change, he is trying to pay,” she said quietly, as though she did not want the world to hear her explain the situation.

“Where’s the cashier?” I asked in my usual subtle voice.

SWMBO winced.

“It’s a self-checkout,” she mumbled in that shut-your-mouth-your-embarrassing-me voice.

“A self-what?” I said, again in my subtle voice.

SWMBO just looked away and took a few steps away from me and the stuff I wanted to purchase.

“Hey buddy,” I said tapping the guy in front of me, “Where’s the checkout stand manned by a person?”

The guy looked at me like I was retarded and SWMBO started walking for the door.

“I’ll see you at the car,” she said.

An hour or so later, a guy with the open mouthed stare of the truly brilliant and a uniform showed up. Apparently he was the cashier in charge of the robots.

“Have you got another bill?” he asked the poor fellow trying to pay.


The look of confusion and utter defeat on the clerk’s face foretold the future.

“Do you have a credit card?”

“Yes,” the customer said.

The clerk stuck out his hand.

“I don’t want to pay with a credit card,” the customer said.

“But it won’t take your cash,” the clerk said.

An hour later the clerk’s boss showed up. There were several other robot cashiers but from the length of the lines the same moron had programmed all of them.

At least the boss-guy figured out how to open a cash drawer, accept payment, and count out change.

Finally it was my turn.

I scanned my stuff.

No, I scanned most of my stuff. Two items would not scan.

The mouth-breather with the uniform managed to get up from his chair and come to my aid in a matter of minutes.

“It won’t scan,” he said.

I wanted to cry.

I started to launch into a crisp and lucid criticism of the current state of affairs at the guy’s store and then thought better of it. It just was not worth the trouble.

Finally we found another mouth-breathing soul to go look for a price. Actually keying it in was nothing short of a miracle.

My total appeared on the screen. I pulled out my checkbook.

“Where do I put the check?” I thought to myself since clerk-boy had disappeared again.

I hit the “pay by check” button on the screen.

“Please see cashier,” the robot blinked at me.

Never, never, never. Never again.

I will pay ten-times the going price, and travel to Waco to do it before I walk through another robot checkout.

Anyway, I could drive to Waco and back quicker than I could pay a robot cashier.

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