‘Thanks for using the express checkout,’ she said after I eventually managed to get my five items through the self-service process with only three visits from the grumpy keeper of the magic plastic card.
Of course before I could even attempt to scan my five items – a bottle of red, reduced item Stilton, an apple, three bread rolls, and a packet of chewing gum – I had to declare that ‘No, I wasn’t using my own bags’ which always makes me feel really guilty as I have a huge carrier bag full of other carrier bags hanging on the back of my kitchen door. So many carrier bags that it makes it impossible to get the door completely open. I always mean to reuse them, but somehow I always forget.
Anyone know if Woolworth’s carrier bags are collector’s items yet?
Foolishly I started with the wine and immediately the red light started flashing to the declaration of ‘authorisation needed’. Now maybe I’m being oversensitive but having every man and his dog aware that I’ve just bought a cheap bottle of plonk at ten in the morning is just a little embarrassing, particularly as I might bump into some of them at the park later.
For some reason the attendant was, as always, busy doing something else and I, as usual, had to call her over which brought even more attention to my dilemma. The fact that she sneeringly checked her watch as she casually swiped her card, pressed a few buttons, and then walked away laughing, seemed to somehow further underline my shame.
Next up was the reduced item cheese. Not a very big piece, just enough for a ploughman’s lunch really. Now, I’m not a ploughman but I do like a bit of cheese and pickle of a lunch time. The cheese had a barcode, but of course as it was reduced the barcode had been printed with one of those hand held printers and it wouldn’t scan. After five minutes of trying to flatten out the barcode and making dozens of increasingly esoteric scanning swipes I was eventually asked; ‘Do you wish to continue?’ Well, yes I did, so giving up with my swiping I decided to enter the barcode manually and after three attempts actually managed to do it. Huzzah!
I then scanned the chewing gum and placed it in the carrier bag that had taken me three minutes to open and position on the metal prongs at the side of the till. ‘Please place your item in the bagging area,’ said the voice from the machine. ‘I have.’ I cried, then realised I was talking to a pre-recorded message and that I wouldn’t get much of an argument out of it.
I lifted the chewing gum out of the bag and thrust it in again hoping the force of impact would make it appear heavier and register on the scales. 'Unexpected item in the bagging area. Please remove item before continuing.’
Nooooo! How could it be unexpected? She’d just asked me to put it in (fnar fnar), but knowing that resistance was futile I removed the item as requested… The red light began flashing again.
‘Please wait for assistance,’ it said accusingly.
Now when this happens it makes me feel like I’m a thief trying to get away with not paying for my purchase. Reluctantly I had to signal the attendant again and, as she grudgingly pressed a button to bypass the ‘unexpected’ problem, I realised that she was probably ignoring me on purpose as I’ve been shouting at the bloody machine.
The single apple didn’t have a barcode, which was as expected. Unfortunately it didn’t have one of those stickers that tell you what sort of apple it was either, so I couldn’t navigate my way through the minefield of loose products to the right apple with ease. Eventually I gave up and hit the loose carrots button which seemed to do the trick. Well, they’re both organic and good for your teeth aren’t they?
Lastly it was the turn of the bread rolls, twenty-pence each or three for fifty-pence. I knew that I didn’t really need three, but a ten-pence roll was too good a bargain to miss. Sad aren’t I? Of course when the rolls came up on the display monitor they were all charged at twenty-pence, no discount at all! I called the attendant over again and explained that the machine was trying to rip me off. She shook her head and explained - very, very, very slowly - that the discount would be applied at the end of the transaction, then turned and scurried briskly away.
I pressed the button to pay. I was fast losing the will to live and wanted out of that hellhole of a supermarket.
‘Have you swiped your clubcard?’ The devil woman machine enquired. I don’t have a clubcard, but I wasn’t telling her that, she might make something of it. So, not bothering to respond I chose the cash icon from one of the many paying options available to me. My bill came to £6.97 and, as I didn’t want to break into the twenty in my wallet, began fumbling around in my pockets for change.
‘Do you wish to continue?’ The devil machine asked slyly implying that I was taking far too long. ‘Yes, I bloody do,’ I muttered back.
I have no idea why I always feel the need to feed the coins in one at a time, but I do. Perhaps I don’t trust the bloody machine and want to see each penny register before continuing. Anyway, it took me almost five minutes before I’d managed to insert all the various bits of shrapnel from my shaking hand into the machine.
‘Thank you for using the express checkout.’ She said loudly, and then spewed out various bits of paper which I stuffed into my pocket never to be seen again
Express? I don’t bloody think so. There was another fifteen minutes of my life gone that I wasn’t getting back. Next time I’m going to a real person even if there is a really long queue.