I've been living outside the UK for so long that, sometimes, going back feels like beaming down to one of those "Alternative Earths" on a Star Trek episode, where most thing seem normal but small changes in the timeline have produced unsettling results.
The basic idea seems to be to reduce costs for the supermarket by getting customers not just to collect their purchases but to scan them and pay for them without the intervention of a human being who gets paid by the hour.
With what I hope ia a dry sense of humour, these do-all-the-work-yourself tills are often labelled as "Express" tills, even though it seems to take many people twice as long to use them.
I never use them. It's all I can do to refrain from spray-painting "HOW STUPID DO YOU THINK I AM" on them. This may sound extreme but I have my reasons; ten of them in fact.
1. Why do these machines need to TALK to me? Do they think I can't read?
2. They're way too loud - do they think I'm deaf?
3. They ask questions that make me want to swear at them: "Did you use any of your own bags?" - which has the subtext of "or don't you care enough about the environment to be bothered?" but is actually the front end of a statement like, "because if you used any of ours, after having found the goods, carried them here, scanned them, bagged them and paid for them, that will cost extra."
4. They make demands on the assumption that I'm too poor to pay for my goods without selling my personal information in exchange for a pathetically small discount: "Please scan your Clubcard" - I don't HAVE a f@*king Clubcard.
5. They give incomprehensible instructions: ""Please place you bags in the bagging area and press Done when finished". What is "bagging" and why does it have its own area? Why ask me to press "Done" when I'm finished. Shouldn't they be asking me to press Done when I'm done or Finished when I've finished? And what exactly have I done that tells me that I've finished?
6. They complain and suggest that I'm too stupid to figure out how to use the "Express" till by saying: "Unexpected item in bagging area". What, so now I'm not living up to the machine's expectations? Will the next model read my personal information from my Clubcard and say, "Mike, we're so disappointed in you. We expected so much more. Please, pay attention and try again."
7. They put people out of a job and deprive the rest of us of even a brief moment of human contact.
8. They send the message "We don't care about providing you with a service or the people in your community with employment but we figure you're too compliant to make a fuss and you'll give us your money anyway."
9. I know in my bones that they will eventually ask me to pay extra if I want to use a till operated by a human being.
10. I resent the supermarket expecting me to have to learn how to shop in order to make their lives easier. They should be learning how to sell so as to make my life easier (like employing enough people to ensure that there are no queues at the checkouts).
I'd like to encourage those of you who share at least three of my reasons for not using Self Checkout tills to join with me in a campaign to boycott them.
We could run a campaign similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge on YouTube, featuring videos of people putting something REALLY unexpected in the bagging area.
We could wear t-shirts with "I Don't Self Checkout. Someone does it for me." written on them.
If you have suggestions on slogans or campaigns, let me know.