Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Remove Item From Bagging Area!

I think it's high time for a Public Service Announcement about self check-outs. Most stores around here now use some sort of self check-out systems. I understand the reason why. It's a lot cheaper to have one employee overseeing 4-12 self check-out stations than to have 4-12 employees manning their own registers. I personally like to use the self check-out machines. Wait, let me rephrase that. I like to use the machines as long as there's no one in front of me. That's where this PSA comes in because some people need a little instruction when it comes to using these machines. Then there are the people who should probably not even be allowed to leave their house or drive, let alone use a self check-out. Grrr... But since those people are likely beyond all help, we'll just concentrate on the ones who simply need a little lesson. And since I'm that annoying person standing in line, tapping her foot impatiently, sighing loudly, and rolling her eyes, I feel it's my duty to inform the rest of America just how to use these machines.

There are many people who refuse to even try these machines for a variety of reasons. Maybe they're angry that these self check-outs have replaced actual people who are now out of work. Or perhaps, (and this is a big one) they're just scared of looking stupid or doing something wrong while trying to check out. Another reason that some folks avoid them is that it brings flashbacks of their high school job and they find themselves in a cold sweat, muttering "Paper or plastic" in their sleep just thinking about it. And finally, there are the people who are certain that robots are taking over the earth.


For those of you who insist they'd rather have interaction with an actual living, breathing person while paying for your groceries, I'm here to put things in perspective. The last time I got in a check-out lane with an actual cashier, this is how it went...

ME: Hi!
CASHIER: bored and talking to his buddy about his plans for the weekend completely ignoring me
Do you have your customer card?
ME: Yep, here you go.
CASHIER: Did you find everything ok?

Why do they ask this? Why??? "No, I didn't find everything I needed. That's why I'm still wandering around the aisles, asking for help. Can't you tell?" Or let's say you really did have trouble finding something. "I couldn't find the molasses. It took me half an hour and 2 employees to discover where it was hidden." What is the cashier going to do about it? Tell a manager? Suggest reorganizing the aisles to his boss? Insist on more employee training so they can better help the customers? Nope. If you tell him you had a hard time finding an item, he'll say something helpful like, "Oh."

What you need to do is either use the self check-out or have a little fun with it. When the cashier at the grocery store asks if you found everything ok, just tell them, "I had a really hard time finding black shoes in a size 7, king size sheets, and tires for my van." When he looks at you blankly and says, "We don't sell those things, ma'am," just reiterate, "See what I mean?! Even you can't find them!"

Then, as the cashier continues to joke around with his buddy, he absently puts the eggs on the bottom of the bag and tosses a big ole can of sweet potatoes on top of them. This is followed by a loaf of bread and finally topped with a half gallon of ice cream.

Plus, the self check-outs come in handy when you're buying something like Gas-X, tampons, condoms, foot fungus cream, and wine (what? I think you'd need wine if you had your period, gas, and crud on your feet!) Those self check-outs are looking better and better, aren't they?

So, here's my advice for those of you contemplating making the jump to the self check-out.

1. If you've never used a self check-out machine, don't give it a try for the first time on a Saturday. Go at midnight when no one else is around for you to tick off to make you flustered.


2. If you have 4001 items, skip the self check-out.

3. If you have 23 coupons, skip the self check-out.


4. If you intend to pay for your purchases with 32 pounds of coins, skip it.

5. If you lack a brain the capacity to hold an item and move it across the scanner, the ability to read simple instructions on a screen, or any semblance of common sense, just skip the self check-outs.


OK, you're ready to proceed. These machines aren't magical. You don't simply wave the package around in front of the machine and voila, the machine magically tells you how much it costs. The machines work by reading a bar code of information located on the package. That means you have to actually put the bar code toward the scanner. See how that works? If you move a can of soup across the scanner 15 times and it doesn't do anything, think about turning the can around so the scanner can read the bar code! Don't laugh. I've been behind this person many times.

After scanning your item, you need to put it in the bag or on the conveyor belt. The bagging area (or the conveyor belt) is a scale. If you ring up a tube of chapstick and put a 5 pound bag of flour in the bag, the machine will flash strobe lights, start smoking, and an alarm will sound, signaling an armed guard to escort you to grocery store prison. Don't be like the idiot who tried to scan a $3.00 bar code for a flat screen TV at Walmart. Not only will it not work, but you'll look like an idiot and may wind up being talked about on my blog.

You also don't want to lean against these scales because umm, they're scales! They'll register your weight leaning on them and yell at you to "remove item from bagging area!" and once again, the armed guard will have to take you away.

How do you ring up fresh produce? I may or may not have been afraid to use the self check-out for this very reason, once upon a time. Not long ago, an old woman in front of me tried to scan her bunch of bananas at least 40,000 times before I pushed her out of the way, punched in the code and threw the bananas in her bag helped her.

You need to put the produce on the scanner screen (which is also a scale) and key in the code. Most produce will have little stickers with the code. You know those cute little Chiquita stickers on your bananas? They'll have something like #3082 printed on them. Just punch in that number. The machine will weigh the bananas and charge you accordingly. If you have, oh say, an eggplant and it doesn't have a sticker on it, just follow the directions on the screen. You can look it up easily. Most things are listed alphabetically and as long as you have a clue what you're buying, you should be able to look it up with no problems.

There's really no reason to be insecure or embarrassed about using these machines because as long as you can read and follow directions (Yes, I know that eliminates probably 75% of people. Not MY readers, of course; other people!), you'll have no problems. And if you do run into a problem, blame it on the machine! Anyone who has used these, knows they have occasional glitches. Sometimes the sale price doesn't ring up correctly, or the item isn't in the database. Then there are the times the machine yells at you to put the item in the bag even though it's already there and you find yourself arguing with a machine that you're certain is laughing at you. These things happen. All you have to do is wait 45 minutes for someone to come help you. I guess you really need to cut the helper cashier person some slack though because she has to deal with idiots who can't follow instructions all day long and she's probably more than a little afraid of having some disgruntled customer throw canned peas at her head. Now, if only the nice grocery store would mail you a paycheck for all your hard work...

55 comments:

Lia said...

My grocery store has gone one better than self check outs. You scan your shopper card at a stand at the front of the store. It releases a scanner to you and as you shop you scan your items and bag them in your cart. When you are done, you go to the self check out, scan a barcode mounted on the machine and then your shopper card again and it downloads your order. You pay and go. They do random audits so they don't get robbed blind.

The scanner lets you keep a running total of what you are spending. If you bring your own bags you get 5 cents off for each bag you use. Works great for me anyway!

Nic said...

I seriously only find myself using self check out for smaller amounts of things - never produce and usually only the essentials like condoms, tampons or wine! haha ;) The typically normal embarassing items... or if I just need to get in and out of the store quickly, which unfortunately is usually never. Loved this blog and I learned something about the produce - Insecurity gone! Thanks Dawn!!

DeAnne said...

Hahaha! Great topic Dawn! I am one of the people out there who know how to use these machines & I seriously don't get why some people have such a hard time! The only time I don't get annoyed is when an "idiot" is at the machine and it clearly shouts "cash is dispensed below the scanner", and they walk away without it. Doh! Sucks to be you! I'm kidding, I would totally tell them they forgot their change ;)!

Mum-me said...

Hey, I punched in #3082 for my bananas and I was charged $10 for loganberries instead.

Keeslermom said...

I absolutely hate self check! If I have more than a dozen items, I will go to a cashier. Well, unless there is a huge line. That dang thing is SO slow! And it weighs everything in the bag, and if that weight comes up wrong, or the thing you are buying weighs less than it can measure, it freezes up. Then if you hit skip bagging, the cashier has to override!! It takes twice as long as the cashier can zip it all through. And those ladies need a job anyway, right?

Colleen said...

You have me laughing out loud here. I am a huge fan of self-checking and am constantly irritated by the people who have no clue (yes, I can be bitchy! LOL!). I try to avoid the grocery store on weekends - had to go last weekend and it was hell. Amateurs!

Jen said...

ROFL! I really needed to read this one for a laugh. Thank you so much, Dawn. I've used the self check-out machines and they are really helpful when you have a handful of stuff. All of those situations you've gone through, so have I among others I'm sure. Awesome read, gal! :D

Jeanette said...

Omg, this is by far the BEST blog post ever written! I was behind a lady the other day that took FIFTEEN minutes to ring up 6 things because she was talking on her cellphone and just madly waving her items above the scanner instead of actually LOOKING for the barcode to scan! Kudos to you for finally telling people how to do it right!

Mary~Momathon said...

I very rarely use those machines! They do intimidate me. If the item doesn't fit on the bagging area - such as when you are buying a 4ft level at Lowe's, or the bag area is full already, I get confused. I admit it. Add to that my 3 yr old must touch everything messing it all up! I have used them, but again, I get all befuddled if something is on sale. I'll keep practicing, but don't get behind me in line!

Robin said...

I'm a fan of the self-checkout! But like you said...only if I'm not behind someone who doesn't know how to use it. And I also feel pressure to move much faster if someone is behind ME because I don't want to be the slow one being blogged about! :)

Sarah said...

SOOO funny. I'm sitting here alone in my apartment and still laughed out loud. That's good stuff. I think I'll put a link on facebook to share the laugh with my friends. :)

I needed to laugh after the week I've had. Thanks! :)

Kasaka said...

I don't react on your blog much, but I have to today! I was laughing out loud reading it! So true! My beef with Safeway's self checkouts is, that the scales are in the bags! If you bring your own bag, you're screwed! Every four items of "skip bagging" require manual approval. How dumb is that!

Bailey's Leaf said...

I'm not a fan of the self check because of the person losing their job thing. My husband thinks that they are great. One time I did use one at Lowe's and it locked up. It took 15 minutes and 3 associates to figure it out. I couldn't have been out of there if I had just stayed with a traditional line.

Shannon said...

You must have been the lady behind the lady at the other self checkout when I went shopping today. With I had known it was you. I would have chatted with you while we waited for those people in front of us. ;-)

Kilian said...

I'll use the scanners when they pass along a bit of the savings the stores are getting because they don't have to pay a human being. i know the day is coming when the real checkers will disappear, but in the meantime if I'm paying for a human I want a human. Not that the interaction is much better. I used to fantasize about being invisible when I was a kid, but now that I am an overweight middle-aged woman and have become invisible and inaudible, it's not nearly as fun as I thought is would be.

Anonymous said...

If they lowered the prices when they brought in the self-check lines I'd be happy to use them. But they didn't and I'm still paying the cashiers' salaries, so I expect them to work! Although I agree that they come in handy when purchasing certain items.

rmslil said...

The code for bananas is 4011. Sorry I could not resist that tempation. I was a grocery cashier through college some years ago.
Everyone buys bananas and that code is engrained in my head forever, yep the banana code but nothing else useful from my college years, What can I say! :) Loved the post though. Love your blog too.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, Dawn! So true! This was such a funny read with plenty of laugh out loud moments. Thanks!!

SRoush said...

There is nothing like going to the grocery store at 3 am, getting a whole cart of groceries, and having the only lane open be a self-checkout. Then I get to try to check myself out, using my own bags, while the self-checkout cashier and the security gaurd watch and laugh.

Cookie said...

ROFL! I'm the one with 23 coupons.

Slatsette said...

Advice: How does one keep preschoolers from trying to sit on the bagging area. It's some sort of gravity field, some of impossible temptation....

Tara said...

I've been afraid to use the self checkout for grocery shopping for two reasons.

1. I like to get the 5 cent credit for each of my reusable grocery bags. Is there a button for that?

2. I like getting help out to the car. Is there a button to flag a bagger to help me out to my car?

If both of those answers are yes, then I will use the self checkout next time. But for now I will continue to wait in line for a real live in the flesh cashier. *sigh*

Dayna said...

If anyone has any difficulty using these self-checkout lines...just take a teenager along to assist them with the process!

I sent my daughter along to help her grandmother once...and they were successful!

Rebecca said...

Thank. You.

Stop & Shop out here in the east has the scanner things Lia talked about. They are a beautiful, beautiful invention. It even alerts you when your deli counter order is complete - so you can place an order, go about your shopping, and pick it up at your convenience!

Oh, and if you bring your own bags, it's even better and faster! (Not to mention a 5 cent discount per bag.)

Laura G said...

I just say "You don't want to be behind me!" and then procede with my 50 items, 25 coupons, grabby toddler and two forms of payment. I love saving money!!!

Amanda said...

What I hate is when you follow all the instructions and the stupid **^&^%%&*%&%&^* machine won't work right and tells you that you need cashier assistance.

Ashley said...

LOVE self checkout when it isn't one with the stupid scale bagging area. BJ's is the best-fewest number of issues there. If there's one with a scale I only use it if I'm kidless. Otherwise I'm the crazy mom screaming at her kids to GET OFF THE BAGGING AREA!!! What don't they understand about "do not get near the bags"?

Anonymous said...

Dawn, you have posted something near and dear to my heart. I love self-check out when I can zip through the line. Here are a couple more helpful hints: have your store card and form of payment ready before you start scanning. Nothing worse than waiting for somebody fumbling with their wallet/purse. DON'T even think about paying for your purchases with a check. It wastes everybody's time behind you. NEVER scan alcohol first. The scanner doesn't like it. Don't scan a months worth of groceries while holding a squirming, screaming toddler or with any kids in tow. AND, when there is a line behind you, don't start teaching your little darling how to scan. Well, maybe you should; they're probably better than you.

Whew. I feel a lot better now. Thanks Dawn!

Karen

Meg said...

omg - I totally enjoyed the laugh I got this morning when I read your blog. I am SO with you! People need to learn to read and understand or stop getting in the self-checkout lines that require you to know how to read and understand!!! I prefer Jewel's conveyor at self-checkouts to Domonick's bagging area - too much pressure to scan and bag quickly or get that horrible weight doesn't match error code and flashy light. Plus the conveyor allows my kids to move away from me and to the end of the checkout to bag for me. :-) I get to be 'alone' for a little while and I get them to work at the same time. win-win for me.
My SuperTarget (where we do 98% of our grocery shopping) does not have these aisles yet, but then again we buy so much at SuperTarget that I'd probably never use them anyway (wouldn't want to pi$$ somebody off).

Anonymous said...

Dawn,
they don't make half gallons of ice cream anymore.
Lise

B said...

I love using self-check. Even for my cart FULL of groceries. :)I also like watching the people who have no clue how to weigh or use the machines. I laugh everytime.

Winona said...

THANK YOU!!! I love the self-checkouts and use them whenever I can - and get very annoyed at people in front of me who obviously have no clue. Have they never paid attention while waiting at the register?

Anonymous said...

I really really think you need to add a number six about not taking preschoolers with you through the self checkout. Mine like the others always tends to mess up the scale - uggh.

Tony said...

I do have issues with the self check-out. If the bagging area is full and you remove a bag to make room for more items, the machine yells at you. So I pile up items quite precariously! And then my children add their own items and the scale is all confused and alarms go off. And don't put your purse on the scanner while you search for the credit card. More alarms.

-Cindi

Jessica said...

Thank you! Now if only the idiots who can't figure out basic checkout skills would just read your blog. As you said, I'm sure it's none of your readers who have these problems!

I simply can't understand how these people don't know how it works. Seems to me like it's very logical. And as you said, all you have to do is read the screen and listen to the annoying machine's voice!

Mom Taxi Julie said...

I HATE self check out. Especially at Costco. It would be ok if I didn't have to put it all in the "bag" area and could just scan it in the cart. That's 2 more times I have to pick up all those boxes!

Also really I hate that they are taking jobs away from people. If feels like I'm buying my groceries from no one and doing all the work myself.

Anonymous said...

Great subject today, Dawn!

I, too, just LOVE when the cashier asks me if I found everything I was looking for! Just once, I'd like to make a list of the things that I couldn't find and tell them to send someone over to find the items for me. ;o)

Donna in PA :)

On Stage said...

Loved this post, Dawn! Good job!

JillyBeanTM said...

I was about to tell you that bananas are 4011, but somebody already beat me to it :P

I worked at a Super Target for a year and a half and had nearly all the produce memorized. Now I remember only a few things (which is probably good) like bananas, green peppers, red peppers, and a couple others.

At our grocery store (HEB) we have 4 self checkouts and one is always down (it rotates which one, to keep it interesting) and one always has the person with 10,000 items (sign says 20 or less, lady!) and the two closest the doors always have problems when it's windy out. They've had to erect makeshift walls between the doors and the bagging area because the wind was causing the scales to go crazy "please remove item from bag". But I'd still rather use a self checkout than go to an actual cashier... because I almost always get stuck behind the lady who has to argue about a price "it said 4.99 not 52.95!" or the guy with 7,000 coupons he printed out at home that won't scan because he's running low on ink, or the lady buying a year's supply of cat food, all in individual cans (isn't it cheaper to buy the boxes??). At least with the self-checkouts there are 3 or 4 up and if one person is taking forever, you can grab another one.

Anonymous said...

Loved this post!

Does your library have self-check? Mine does. There is even a wooden maze/bead toy mounted on the front of the counter for the kids to play with. Hey, that's a thought for the stores!

Jill

Lee said...

I love the self checkouts and find myself getting annoyed with the stores that don't have them. I have been behind 'that' person more than once and I am also the one tapping and sighing. I mean really, how hard is that to do? :) And by the way, there is absolutely nothing wrong with arguing with a machine!

Anonymous said...

Nope. Hate self-check out not because I can't figure out how the machine works but because the rush that everyone seems to talk about. Yes, I do have young kids. I just won't take them grocery shopping at 5pm. And yes, I do happen to spend money at places where there are pleasant cashiers.

Tamra in Colorado said...

I like the self check-out in theory, but in practice I have problems about 50% of the time. My item is not in the database, the credit card reader is not working, the printer runs out of paper, only the cashier can enter coupons and she's busy helping someone else. Maybe you can help me with this one: How do you use your own bags in self check? The one time I tried it, I put my bags on the scales before I scanned anything, and I got the "Remove all items from the bagging area" warning. So I put my bags on the floor, stacked all the items in the bagging area after I scanned them, then after I paid, I had to move all the items off of the scale and into my bags. Is there a better way? I would have asked the cashier, but of course she was busy helping other customers.

Lisa said...

What a timely post!! Just yesterday I made a quick trip to the grocery and had 6 items. I prefer to do self checkout, so off I went. When I finished I had one coupon, which the clerk has to scan. I don't understand why Kroger's doesn't trust us to scan our own coupons, but OK. The clerk was busy helping someone - an older gentleman and she was ringing up his ENTIRE order for him - IN THE SELF CHECKOUT!!! So, by the time she's finished ringing up his buggy full of items I'd gotten tired of waiting and just paid for my order. Now I'll have to go back to get my money for the coupon.

BTW - Yes Anonymous, there is a company that still sells a full half gallon of icecream - Blue Bell.

Dave S. said...

Hey Dawn,
I use one of those at the Home Depot. Since I know the routine, I sometimes hit the Spanish button. I don't think there are many Spanish speakers around here as the closest radio station is about 300 miles away.

This does turn heads, and also keeps people from bothering me. Si?

Michelle said...

I love the self-checkouts. Except when the ones at Dominick's won't let me use my own bags. Fun as it is, I have to place the items in the bagging area then after checking out completely repack them into my own bag since it won't accept the weight of my reusable bag in the bagging area even if it's there before I start. Not that I'm not bitter.

It does make for good comedy to watch people sometimes though!

Hannah H said...

I work at a Safeway, and I usually ask if people found everything okay. And I do this for several reasons.
1) It shows that I care about the shopping experience of my customers
2) I have the power to send people to go and get items that couldn't be found, and/or call departments and see if we have some of the missing item in a backroom somewhere.
3) If I hear the same item is hard to find more than a few times, I mention it to other people who have the power to create displays that put that item in a new location, or who can make that item more visible.
4)It lets me know when we are out of items, so I can be more informed of what products are in stock and/or I can know if the person wants a raincheck.
5) I use it about the general condition of the store. Were the workers friendly to you, did you think the store was clean, were there items in your way, what can we do to make it better.

I love my job as a cashier. LOVE IT! One of my favorite parts of my job is the fact that I get to interact with so many different people. I hear funny stories, I get an update on the weather, and I have people that will specifically come through my checkstand, and they catch me up on their life. I'm not saying that self-checkouts don't serve some purpose, but I am really glad that my store has decided against self-checkouts for now.

sarah said...

I love this post! It is all so true! I always love it, when TWO people are there at the self-checkout w/ a huge cart of groceries. "20 items or less" ring a bell?

Sue daisy said...

dawn...
love your humor
and posts that i can relate to...

Anonymous said...

FYI: The self check-out registers at Lowes tell you the price when you scan the bar code!

Smiller said...

I so want a store in AZ that has what your first person to comment described. That would rock!!

The silliest thing I ever did at the self-check is accidentally hit Spanish instead of English. I speak a little Spanish but not enough to figure out how to turn it back to English again. I was embarrassed but had to ask the cashier start me over.

Laura said...

First: they don't make half gallons of ice cream anymore? I had no idea, since I haven't had a use for that small of an amount of ice cream in years!

Second: I could have totally written your post...Our Walmart has signs that say you have to have 20 items or less (which should read "fewer," but don't get me started on THAT) in order to use their self-checkouts, but apparently no one who goes to my Walmart on Saturday can read. I have on occasion sneaked through with 21 items, but I'm so fast no one notices. :)

I do have to say the self-scanners at Stop and Shop have saved my sanity in the grocery store. I never have to talk to a person, even to get my deli items, and I can use the "12 items or fewer" (they get the grammar right, at least) lane to check out $300 worth of groceries, since I'm only scanning one barcode and then taking of 5 cents for each of my reusable bags (and yes, you can do it with the "coupon" button and just choose the reusable bag option as many times as the number of bags you have). I do find that I only get audited when I buy ten things and have two minutes to get out of the store, but that's not bad of a tradeoff for how much easier and stress-free shopping has become. And a second plus is, when I bring my kids, they can take turns scanning items, and can even tell me how close to a certain dollar amount I've come. Then I can say, "no pudding today, kiddos, we're about at budget." It's win/win for everyone.

Thanks again for the laugh, and for letting me know, once again, that I'm not the only one who get frustrated with people who I feel should never leave their houses!

Sarah said...

Hey! I'm the one scanning my entire grocery cart full of items - but none of our self-checks are marked "20 items or less." Plus, I'm still out of there in under 5 minutes. The last time I let a guy in front of me who only had 1 item, it turned out it was his first time using self-check. Man, did I regret that one.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dawn, 4011 is the universal code for bananas. Just FYI LOL :) Kristine in Michigan.

Jaclyn said...

I will pay for my items at the self checkout in coins - sometimes $10 or $20 worth, since my husband refuses to spend change and keeps giving it to me. But I will only feed coins into the self checkout machines as long as there is no line, since I don't want the rest of the world to have to wait for me. The stop and shop is great, since there is usually nobody waiting, and sometimes you get lucky at Wal-Mart but they are usually busy.

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