The Lady at the Self-Checkout

On Friday I realized that I had been assigned a fruit salad for Easter Sunday lunch at my mother's and all I had in the house was an over ripe banana and canned peaches. I realized I was going to have to brave the store on the Friday before a holiday. Ugh.

I grabbed my keys and my phone and told the Hubs to send reinforcements if I didn't return in an hour and I headed out the door. 

I arrived at Sam's Club and was greeted by a scene that can only be described as Apocalyptic. People were throwing 20 and 30 pound hams into their carts two at a time, the bakery section was ransacked and only some random birthday cakes were left, the old ladies fighting over the few remaining bags of potatoes looked like they might pull knife, and the butter - oh God, the butter - it was gone. All gone. Not a stick left.

I quickly grabbed what I needed and tried to keep a low profile. There didn't seem to be much hoarding going on in the fresh fruit aisle, but you never know when the mob might turn on you.

I made my way to the checkout only to find the lines at every register 10 or 12 people deep. The self-checkout lines caught my eye. Those tend to move a bit faster, because the people in those lines don't usually have a shit ton that they're buying - the only danger is getting stuck behind a novice. I decided to take my chances with the self-checkout.

Almost immediately I realized I'd made a mistake. 

The woman in front of me was more than a novice. She was a numb skull. She had five items in her cart: milk, ham, flowers, butter (where did she find that??), and bread. It took her a solid 10 minutes to check out. She swiped her membership card to start and then read every instruction on the screen:

"Remove the scanning device and begin scanning your purchases." 

"Hmm ... where is the device? What do they mean? This thing? How does it work? Do I just pull the trigger? Ack, my eyes! That laser beam kind of hurts!"

"Just scan the barcodes with it," I tried.

"Just hang on, I don't want to mess this up," she said. She started scanning. After each "beep" she would look at the screen and trace the item line with her finger: "Milk ... OK. There it is. Yeah, I think that price is right." 


"Ham ... twenty pounds. Whoa! That is kind of high! I wonder if I will need that much ham? Maybe I should have gotten a smaller one. Oh well, we'll have leftovers for lunches. OK, what's next?"


"Bouquet of flowers ... Mmm ... Those smell so good! Did I scan the milk?" 


"Butter ... salted ... five pounds. I should have gotten more butter. That's not going to be enough."

And then it was time for the bread. The bread is a little tricky. You must get two loaves and you scan a barcode on a picture on the counter. Even an experienced self-checker-outer can screw up the bread.

You would think that maybe I would help her out at this point. That maybe I was anxious to be on my way and I'd politely help her figure out the bread situation. But remember, she snapped at me earlier when I tried to tell her how to use the scanner. 

So, nope. I've got nowhere to be. I'll just watch. I just wish I had some popcorn.

She started scanning her one loaf of bread. It would "beep," but when she'd check the display it would show an error. She'd look around sort of confused and helpless, but never once did she look to me or ask me for help. Fine, be that way!

She tried scanning about five more times before an employee finally came to check on her. "Everything OK, ma'am?" he asked.

"No. I can't get my bread to scan."

"Well, you need to do it here," he pointed to the picture of the bread. "Oh, and you need two loaves."

Wait for it ...

"I don't want to two loaves."


"Yeah, well, you get two loaves."

"I don't want two loaves."

"I don't know what to tell you, ma'am. We sell it in a two-pack."

"Can't you just charge me for one loaf?"

"No, but you can pay for two and only take one."

"I don't want two loaves and I don't want to pay for two loaves."

"Then don't buy the bread ma'am. I'll put it back for you."

"But I need bread."

"Then go to another store."

And that's when she got mad. "I came here for groceries! I don't want to go to another store."

"I understand your frustration. We sell everything in larger sizes, ma'am. I'd be happy to run back and get you another loaf or return this one. It's your choice, but I need you to choose. There is a long line behind you."

"Forget it! I will get bread somewhere else!"

The employee swiped her loaf of bread and took off.

Now it was time to pay. "Swipe credit card or choose cash."

"Debit," she said.

"Just swipe it," I said. I was finally ready to go.

"Hold on. I need to push the 'debit' button first." She slowly and deliberately pushed the touch screen.

She swiped her card. "Bad swipe. Please swipe again." She swiped again. And again. And again. "Beep!"  Finally! Success!

We waited a few seconds and nothing happened. A few more.

"Where is the receipt?" she asked. We both know they won't let you out the doors without your receipt.

"It comes out below," I said. "Is the machine out of paper?"

She looked at the screen, "Please replace scanning device correctly for receipt to print."

She hadn't hung up the scanning gun thing properly and now the receipt wouldn't print. Who knew the machine did that? I didn't. Know why? Because I've never not hung up the scanning gun properly. How does that even happen? My kids can hang it up without issue!

She jostled the scanner around a few times until it finally clicked into place and her receipt printed out and she slowly wheeled her cart out into the melee to get out the doors before someone jacked her for her butter.

I was so busy watching her show that I didn't keep track around me, but I'm guessing at least three people made it through the self-checkout line next to me while this train wreck tried to buy her five - no, now it was four - items.

I should have known better than to venture out on a day like that. Next time I will plan ahead or I will offer to bring canned peaches for lunch. I always have those on hand.


MyCrazyLife.nEt said…
The morons of the world keep life interesting, hahaha
Alan Keatinge said…
ahh yes, the self checkout, what's worse is people who bring alcohol to the self checkout there are HUUUUUUUUUGE signs which say "no alcohol can be sold at this checkout with staff member approval" but do these people pay any attention? nooooooo. Could I kindly request a rant about people who go the wrong way down one way aisles in a supermarket car park, then get belligerent when you won't get out of the wrong ass way? puuuurdy please?
Lynn said…
Seriously! You were much more patient than I would be. We don't have self check out at Sam's here. We just got self checkout at our Walmart *patooey!* but I refuse to do it. I am sure I will cave eventually but for now, they have had sufficient checkers every time I have gone through. I am sure they will install self checkers at Sam's soon, thus ruining its superiority to Walmart *patooey!*
Self checkout morons make me twitchy!
Anonymous said…
I love the self checkout line.... unless I am in a huge hurry or I have my kids with me. But it is like a bug zapper for idiots. They all think they can outsmart the Walmart by self checking and then the machine flips out when they opt out of bagging anything and I feel the most sorry for the attendant whose job it is to fix the screwups of the self-check people. There should really be an IQ test requirement
tduncan00 said…
Anyone who gets in line and is not ready, like how about you have all of the check filled out except the amt, while you are waiting in line. Have your savings card ready, coupons... and then you get to the baggers who have no idea how to bag food. It always makes sense to lay box items sideways in recycle bag and lay canned stuff on top.... I mean really.
Mexmom said…
I love the self checkout line, unless I get stuck behind one of "those people" then it depends on how much in a hurry I am it could either be entertaining or very frustrating.
Unknown said…
This is why I NEVER shop at Walmart. I always end up behind someone stupid like that.
Anonymous said…
I once got stuck behind a woman with 1 arm in a cast and a cart full of groceries. 1 handed self checkout. Shoot me.
L Morris Stum said…
I'm jealous that your Sam's Club has a self-checkout. They must not trust us in my neck of the woods.
Deann Salazar said…
It's fucking 2013 people, how can you not know how to scan groceries?You've been to a grocery store before right, clothing store, anyway crap is sold? You weren't in a coma when people checked you out right?
We were behind someone literally waving their item in front of the display screen like a little man was in there to ring the item up. Husband said you have to scan the barcode you know, like any other check out in the entire world. Woman asked him "where would I find that". I said "in the line with the checkers, you have to go over there first". Whatever it got her out of the way, my husband looked horrified, my 5 year old said "Daddy, mom said its okay to lie to stupid people". I could see hubs judge me, but I was too busy checking myself out.
Lisa Jones said…
J A said…
God. I always get stuck behind someone who has zero clue what the self-checkout wants when it says "Please place the item in the bagging area." How do these people even manage to dress themselves while being that fucking stupid?
My pet peeve, though, is getting behind someone who appears to be competently managing the machine, only to have them pull out a 3" stack of coupons. That shit takes a lifetime.
Joy Page Manuel said…
Just think of it as an investment in your good karma ;-))
Tim Smith said…
The only thing to make it worse would have been if she tried to bust out and pay with a hand written check at the end. That makes me nuts at any register.
We went to Costco on Saturday, and it was damn near empty. We feasted on the good holiday weekend samples and got in zero shopping cart stand-offs. I still feel like it was a dream.
Donald said…
You have absolutely made my day with this post!

As someone who also has the "sit back with popcorn and watch stupid shit happen" mentality, this was awesome. :)
Victoria said…
A few weeks ago I decided to drop in to the grocery store to pick up six items. I didn't realize until I got there that it was the day before a statutory holiday, and also a No Tax day. The grocery store was JAM. PACKED. I quickly grabbed my six items in a hand basket (because it was impossible to navigate the wide aisles with a cart) and RAN over to the self-checkout. I didn't realize until it was my turn to pay that the cashier had to come over and MANUALLY eliminate the taxes from the bill. Oy. It was probably the worst day ever for the poor cashier.
Laurie Tester said…
Why would you go to Sam's for 5, I mean 4 items? I guess it was the HAM that she really needed? I would have taken two loaves and put one in the freezer. People are such morons. I love your blog!!!
Lulu and Daisy
Amy M. said…
Totally got daggers for making a comment at the register last week. Went to Safeway w/2yo in tow, got our stuff, and started the checkout process. A lady (with her own toddler) now in line behind us, decided to open one of the boxes of some yogurt snack thing, take out one to inspect it, and then decide she didn't want the other she placed it in the collection of baskets, under the conveyor, like it was nothing. Of course, I piped up in a gentle tone "Hey, if there's something wrong with that, you can just give it to the cashier." Cue evil look; cashier then asks "Was there something you needed put back honey?" She then hands the unwanted box to the cashier. Perishable stuff left out, only to be found and thrown away, causes stores to increase prices. I don't know what bugged me more, that she did that in the first place or that she (possibly) unknowingly just showed her daughter that it's okay if you don't want something, just leave it where you feel like.
kaypea Ramsdale said…
I feel this way everything time I drive downtown when there is an "event". . . it's like no one ever drove after a large amount of people try to mass exit at the same time. . . they become idiots. I hate everyone.
Mandy Rider said…
I can only dream of enough checkers at Walmart...
PediNP said…
As bad as that is the baggers who don't know what to do with my bags. Yep, I bring my own bags. And I've learned, there are 2 types of baggers...those who pull the bags out of the bag sack one at a time to fill them, and those who dump the whole sack out on the counter. Yesterday, I asked the bagger why he did that, and he told me he thought he'd need them all. Ummm...I have about 50 bags in the bag sack....and then he proceeded to put 3 items in each bag...not going to Harvard, I think...
Meredith said…
Even worse than the self checkout is the "Scan It" they have at Stop and Shop. You scan and bag your groceries as you go. At the end, you scan your card at the register, and it pulls up the total, and you pay. Simple, right? They even have their own lane so, in THEORY, you can get out within 60 seconds. You've already scanned and bagged, all you need to do is pay!

Wrong. I am ALWAYS either behind someone who a) has absolutely no idea how to complete the process, even though the three steps are printed on a giant sign on the register or worse, b) I get selected for a random "audit", where you have to go to a regular line and they scan a certain number of your groceries randomly.

Oh, and both of those huge timesucking activities ALWAYS happen when I have both toddlers with me. Toddlers who are great while we shop, but are hellish to have in line. Every time they start melting while we're waiting, I just let them go. Hey, I tried to make it easy on everyone.
Bethany said…
Holy crap, I'm so stressed from reading! I have a knack for picking the wrong line too. One of my least favorite qualities about myself.
Krystal said…
It sounds like you were at the same Sam's I was Friday! Yikes!
L Carilo said…
Sure makes you wish agoraphobia and stupidity went hand-in-hand.
Ellen Pittluck said…
My rule is no self checkout if I have consumed any alcohol.
Kim Peters said…
I have to say that I prefer the self checkout line. I don't have to put up with the inane chatter from the clerk. No. I don't want the toothpaste that you are selling at the checkout counter, just in case I forgot it from my list, or the gargantuan bar of chocolate.
Let me get in the store, get my stuff and get out.
As for Clueless that was ahead of you ... you got diadems in your crown in heaven for the patience that took.
Ricci M Fuentes said…
Self Check Out no longer exists at any stores in my hometown except for Home Depot and that's more like mostly assisted check out. We have a huge population of retired people and the largest university in the state. I wonder which factor really came into play when the self checkout idea was abandoned by nearly every major retailer?
Moira Incendia said…
Amen, Mandy! Our Walmart has thirty, count 'em, THIRTY registers. Of those, THREE are staffed. And none of the cashiers can handle taking a Walmart gift card.
I spent over twenty minutes at the register (not in line, actually at the register) last week, trying to explain to the woman how to do this.
OK, I swipe the gift card. The card reader asks me if I want to make a payment with the card, or load money onto it. I press payment, then hand the card to the cashier so that she can scan it and press enter.
Nope. She wants to know the exact amount on the card instead of just running the stupid thing and telling me how much is left for me to pay.
OK... I dig out the receipt from the last time I used it, which I conveniently stashed in the same little pouch the gift card came in. There's $25.33 left on it. She punches this in, and adds $2.53 to my total.
When I point this out, she gets annoyed. She tries to void the gift card line, since she loaded funds instead of removing them. No luck. She calls a CSM over. The CSM doesn't know how to void that line either. She suggests cancelling the entire transaction and starting over. I only have a few items. Fine.
The cashier rings up my stuff, and then informs me that she's going to run the gift card on her side, since she knows how to do it that way.
Or not. She adds $25.33 to my total this time.
By this point, there's a line about six people deep behind me. I just want to pay for my Easter candy and go.
She starts voiding things line by line. Oh, no. No way am I waiting for her to individually void everything and then tell me she can't void the gift card line. Fortunately, here comes the CSM again. She cancels the transaction again, then runs the gift card...EXACTLY the way I've been telling the cashier to do it since the very beginning.
I'm fairly sure my eyeballs were bleeding from the sheer, overwhelming incompetence by the time I left the store...
runningnekkid said…
Don't you lie - you saw this magnificent wreck of a woman and parked it right behind her, knowing FULL WELL that the line beside you was moving right along. "It's okay," you told the nice man who tapped you on the shoulder and pointed at the available self check stand, "I have a blog post due, and this will make for a good one."
Collette Palmer said…
And then you have to hope that you don't get near them while driving home ;)
Adrienn TUJ said…
OMG. People suck. I had a similar trip to the store last Saturday because some friends invited us over to BBQ and I had no meat to take and grill. Bonus is the store is expanding so everything isn't where it should be, plus all the weekend shoppers and when we got to the cookout they said they changed their mind and we were gonna order pizza. WTF?
Jenna Moore said…
Well said! I used to always use the self-check out at our local grocery store. If I was getting just one or two things, it was way faster than even dealing with the checkers themselves. Now everyone uses the self-check out and it takes forever!
zeebling said…
I was also at Sam's Club a couple weeks ago. On a Saturday, which I knew was a terrible idea, but it was when I had time. The lady in front of me was Asian, and she had bulk produce, and there are no barcodes on mangoes. And she couldn't read English, so she didn't know what button to push to get the list/photos of the fruit. I waited a couple minutes to see if she could figure it out, or if the incessant beeping would lead to an attendant helping, but no luck. I rang up her entire cart for her. Awesome. You're welcome. I told her that next time she should choose a lane with a person, but I'm pretty sure she had no idea what I was saying.
elsun76 said…
That is AWESOME!
Self-checkout is yet another area in life that should require an IQ test before attempting. Driving and breeding are also on the list.
Gyps said…
Ugh this reminds me of the time my Hubs and I went through a self checkout at Wal-mart. We were behind a lady with (and I'm not exaggerating here)25 cans of cat food plus some other items. Unlike the regular checkout, you can't just scan it once and type in the quantity so we had to stand there while she took her time finding the barcode on each and carefully placed them into bags. If I remember correctly, we were forced to wait because it was after hours and only the self-checkout was open.

They Call Me Gypsy Queen
Anonymous said…
lol...i just choked..
Anonymous said…
We just got self scanners at our Walmart. I was so happy because of the 30 checkout lanes there is NEVER more than 4 open. I just never realized before last weekend that people are so stupid. I actually said "DAMN, is she REALLY that dumb.." out loud and got dirty looks from 3 people in line with me waiting my turn before I said..."oh sorry, did I say that out loud?".
Melissa Hannon said…
Our local Grocery stores have them now, Home Depot as well. I used to be a cashier so I hate using them, its too much like work for me.
oh my dear sweet baby jesus...i'm pretty sure that lady would have ended up with a fruit salad in her ass right around the bread-incident. WHY, WHY, WHY didn't you!? Shit. Just reading this has me reaching for the Xanax.
Lydia Polak said…
Until recently I worked at Sam's as one of the sample people. I worked in customer service for about ten years (and often wanted to punch people in the throat). Every day at Sam's, EVERY. FUCKING. DAY, we'd have people asking us if the item we were sampling (or any other random item) came in smaller packages because, "I really don't need that much." I'd answer politely but I was always thinking, "You're in a bulk store, you moron. You PAY to shop there, and yet you remain shocked that you can only buy bulk items." Also, maybe it doesn't happen in Kansas, but in Michigan, I'd watch from my sample cart as people would trot up to self-checkout with two or three overflowing carts and spend a lifetime checking out their shit. I kept waiting for one of the exasperated people behind them to lose their mind...but it never happened.
Adamo Castello said…
I don't understand this story. were you working there, or were you a customer?
Matt Fi said…
I prefer the Self Checkout line as well. It's quicker and most lines in my store are usually much longer plus people usually grocery shop there and buy a bunch of stuff which takes even more time. I do agree with the person's patience, I wouldn't be that patient, I'd just be leaving to find another line. Self Checkout is typically pretty easy to do but the scanning thing can malfunction at times.
Matt Fi said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt Fi said…
I agree with you there. It's fine to have second thoughts about buying something if you see something is off about it but if it's a perishable then it should be given to the cashier right away so that they can have someone inspect it and then put it back if they feel it's okay.
Business Card Scanner App said…
Any office supply store will have business card scanners app that will be a lot less expensive than paying someone to manually input the information. They are easy to hook up, and they work very well. You should also advise your client to rent a badge scanner from their next trade show organizer. When the show is over you get a CD with all the contact information. Click here: bcr app

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