After finishing my Saturday morning food shopping list and eager to get back home, I trudged towards the cashier’s area with a full cart of groceries in tow. Meanwhile, self-checkout was the only available pay point before eight o’clock. Having scanned my own orders before, I began passing each bar code over the tiny red laser without any problem. But I should have known things were going too smoothly.
Before long, the display screen on the cash register started blinking a yellow message that read “cashier needed.” Seeing what happened, an employee instantly fixed the problem and I continued the process with the remaining items in my cart. One by one, I scanned a bunch of bananas, several cans of tuna fish and a seedless rye bread. But a red light went off above my head indicting help was required. Of course, the register came to a halt. That same worker immediately remedied the problem and then went back to an assigned spot to monitor the flow of customer traffic.
But after scanning the bulkier items, including two 20 pound bags of cat litter, an automated voice rang out from somewhere directing me to remove all articles from the bagging area. When I complied and moved the larger objects to the floor, the same robotic warning told me that my action was prohibited. The same employee ran over and placed little red “Thank You” stickers on the bigger items, before resetting the register. Other surprises followed.
In the midst of checking out, I discovered English muffins were two-for-one, but no sign was posted. Wanting to get out of there, I just continued scanning without the freebie. But with Murphy’s Law in full force, wouldn’t you know the register tape soon ran empty, which caused everything to come to a halt. While waiting to refill the tape, the person on duty explained how the store introduced self-checkout for its customers in the name of efficiency. Taking a deep breath, I turned around and noticed a handwritten note taped on the register across the aisle indicating “out of service.” I didn’t dare attempt to solve the mystery of the number two coffee filters that had been missing from the store for the last three months. I was lucky to get out of there at all.
Video: Panasonic Introduces ‘Robotic Checkout’ in Japan – NewsBeat Social/YouTube; photos – own work.