back to article Oh, shoppin’ HELL: I’m in the supermarket of the DAMNED

Alistair Dabbs is away. This column is a repeat publication from all the way back in 2013. Enjoy! “Thank you for using Fast Checkout.” Whuh? “Thank you for using Fast Checkout.” It’s nice to be thanked by a machine but I haven’t used Fast Checkout. Not yet, anyway. I’m still standing at the automated till with a heavy …

  1. herman Silver badge

    Hmm, in all places I've been, these infernal automated annoyance machines have been ripped out about 5 years ago and replaced with ordinary manned tills again. The machines cannot solve simple checkout problems; for that one still needs at least one hand and an IQ of about 90.

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    I have a degree in robotics

    When I shop I want to deal with a meatbag not a static, moronic lowest ( short of a snack dispenser) form of robot.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I have a degree in robotics


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        What's up Buck?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Online buying is sometimes not much better...

    Some companies have managed to sink online sales to a similar level of stupidity.

    The worst companies seek to overload a possible sale with upsells. The most stupid thing to do in a competitive market is to get in the way of a customer who has made a decision to buy and just wants to give you money, yet that is *exactly* what happens. Companies like GoDaddy and VistaPrint are atrocious by making you wade through a complete forest of other options and things they happen to sell. Think McDonald's "do you want fries with that?" but instead of that one question, the person at the cashpoint insists on naming every bloody thing on what is laughingly called a "menu" before they accept payment.

    Well, I abort in that case. I refuse to have someone waste my time - if they don't want my money, then it's clearly not the company for me. In what Universe do you improve sales by making it impossible to close the transaction?

    For the record, this is quite a while ago because GoDaddy just plain sucks* and I moved all my print work to a local guy who may charge a bit more, but delivers a consistently high quality (and I can have a beer with him).

    I accept that this approach works for the vast majority of sales, but maybe I've been in this too long: I get impatient if people stop me from completing a very simple, basic transaction.

    * for the lawyers: this is my personal, heartfelt opinion. If you managed to convince people otherwise, I can only feel sorry for those people.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Online buying is sometimes not much better...

      I was housebound for a bit (could only walk about 100yrds) so I thought, I'll browse Tesco's website for my weekly food, and maybe a couple of cheap goodies too.

      Ahhhhh click on the link to the site, brightly lit page full of deals, bogoffs and savings, so I want to browse food first

      Click the link.

      "You have not got a Tesco's account set up, please setup up your tesco's account before browsing"

      Hey ho , they just want my e.mail address, click the setup link and stare in disbelife at what they want.

      Real name

      Home address

      E.mail address

      Account name


      Repeat password

      Delivery address


      Credit card number.

      Er no.... phone an old friend and give him my list because he'll goto asda and get it all for me

      And for any store manager... try asking for that little lot to any customer wanting to come into your store and see how many actually come in.

      1. Shady

        Re: Online buying is sometimes not much better...

        They need your address because they need to deliver the groceries to your home.

        They need your name because they need to know who to ask for when they deliver.

        They need your credit card because they need paying before dispatching your groceries.

        You are vaguely aware of how internet shopping works, aren't you?

        Disclaimer - I have never, and unlikely to ever, use the t'interwebs to order groceries.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Online buying is sometimes not much better...

          I think the complaint is you can't fill in that stuff after browsing and adding food to your shopping cart, you have to fill it all in before.

          1. G.Y.

            Re: Online buying is sometimes not much better...

            This was the Obamacare web-page's mistake #1

        2. Eric Olson

          Re: Online buying is sometimes not much better... @Shady

          I believe the issue is that prior to even placing an order, you have to create an account with a ton of information just to even do a browse. The fact that a CC# is required to even register is a massive red flag, as that should never be required when there has not yet been a transaction *and* it should not be stored with the account information or associated with the login details (I realize it might be shunted off elsewhere in the database, but that's just as bad because it has to be keyed to my specific account with all the details necessary to charge orders against it).

          A credit card or payment method should be requested only at the time I have decided to purchase goods or services, and only saved as necessary for processing the transaction.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: Online buying is sometimes not much better... @Shady


            It's far too common that an online shopping site will require payment and delivery details before checkout time.

            If you want me to browse, and perhaps even go so far as to purchase, then perhaps you should let me do the boring stuff *after* I've decided to buy. And while you're at it, remember to make sure your payment system uses scripts from a completely different site, to ensure that enabling scripts from your site will ensure maximum confusion when it comes to paying.

            Re Tesco - I think I was looking at them recently for an online shop and collect. They not only required all the information summarised above, but seemed further to imply that clicking 'proceed' was going to get me enrolled on their loyalty card scheme. I did not click.

          2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

            Re: Online buying is sometimes not much better...

            "A credit card or payment method should be requested only at the time I have decided to purchase goods or services, and only saved as necessary for processing the transaction."

            Indeed. Fortunately, there is a good number of retailers, who do not save full card information. They authenticate the current transaction right away, and if it passes, they'll retain only last 4 digits from the card number for reference. Just like a long-standing practice with printed receipts - only a card issuer and last 4 digits can be seen there.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. joshimitsu

        Re: Online buying is sometimes not much better...

        You can browse, but you have to log in to start adding to a basket.

        Since you need to designate a store to fulfill the order and the system needs to check that the store has stock of the items, ready for someone to pick and pack your items.

        - Disclaimer: I visit local small businesses or Express stores for ad hoc purchases, and me and the little 'uns make a trip of it to drive to a superstore for big shops, because it works out cheaper.

    2. Whit.I.Are

      Re: Online buying is sometimes not much better...

      And what you get is a bit of a lottery. The first time I tried, I ordered five baked potatoes -what I got was one potato the size of a hens egg, with a 'baked potato' sticker on it. The next time I somehow got 9 cucumbers...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some Dutch shops..

    .. spent their money on coin counters instead.

    It's brilliant, the cashier rings up the total and you just dump cash into a funnel and feed it bank notes until you hit the required amount - the whole cash intake is automated. It turns the annoyance with someone who insists on paying with large amounts of small coins (that all need to be counted) into a rather entertaining (albeit brief) sight, and it helps the cashier with keeping a proper cash value.

    The automated tills do this too, but you. have. to. feed. it. one. coin. at. the. time. which. is. so. slow..

    1. Shadow Systems

      @AC Re: Some Dutch shops..

      I remember a local grocery store here in the States that installed those machines. It was awesome & really helped speed things up. The Check Out person only had to make sure it all went smoothly, could chat with you wile swiping your stuff over the scanner & weighing those bits that needed it, and then leave the cash up to the machine.

      The problem came when drunks started vomiting (and in one case urinating) into the funnels. It would then require closing the check out lane, decontaminating the machine, sterilizing the money, & a day or two of Therapy for the poor Check Out person.

      The store ended up removing the funnel machines & made their Checkers back into Cashiers again, much to the dismay of the employees & customers alike. (Nobody gave a damn about the drunks in the first place.)

      I especially enjoyed the machines because it would spit out anything it didn't believe was proper currency. Coin-like object it can't recognize? *Spit* Bill-like object it can't recognize? *Spit*

      You would then look at the "Coin" in the Change Cup & wonder "What the hell? It looks like a (Penny|Nickle|Dime|Quarter) to me!", pick it up, & realize some cheap bastard has given you something from a Foreign Country. "What the hell? Where the fuck is Dumfukistan anyway? GAH!" Then you'd have to search your pockets for more money, sheepishly appollogize to everyone in line behind you, profusely thank the Good Samaritan whom donated a Real Coin you needed, & then scurry as fast as possible from the store before you died of embarrassment...

      Which would happen anyway because you forgot to wear underwear with those pants that had the holes in the bum. Nothing says "Freak!" like mooning folks as you're shopping for pet food, baby food, adult & baby diapers, Preparation H & Orajel (an oral numbing agent for teething babies), and tubs of butter...

      Ahhh the memories. =-)pwith the

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @AC Some Dutch shops..

        " What the hell? Where the fuck is Dumfukistan anyway? "

        You are definitely American

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @AC Some Dutch shops..

          " What the hell? Where the fuck is Dumfukistan anyway? "

          You are definitely American

          Hmm, don't know. I can recall a time when I was handed change by London Underground which contained a coin which looked like the £2 coin, but wasn't (can't recall what it was). I'd nearly left the station when I noticed it, so I got back to the window and asked the person to change it, which he wouldn't, claiming that wasn't the coin he'd given me (you know that this must be a while back given that there was still a human to argue with, but I digress). He caved when I asked him to call Transport Police (I had time that day), so I guess it must have gone to another victim.

    2. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: Some Dutch shops..

      Some French bakeries use the coin dump system.

      Also, why is it that only people in the UK seem to have a problem with automated check-outs?

      They work fine in France. And the US. Do TescoSainsAsWaitrose use cheap-rate or knock-off system providers?

      Worth Investigating, Mr Dabbs? A world tour of Supermarkets, perhaps?

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Some Dutch shops..

        They work fine in France.

        No they don't. The ones round here complain if you put your empty bag into the bagging area (there's no "did you bring your own bag" option), so you have to scan all your items into the bin and then hold up the queue while you perform a second move into the bags after you've paid. You still see lots of people queueing in the "10 items" line with a sandwich or a magazine, they hate the self-service tills so much.

        Just before Christmas someone did try an innovative use for them though. She picked a few high-value items like Android tablets and bluetooth keyboards, took them to the fruit and veg area, and weighed them as low-value veg like carrots. The scale printed off a label barcoded for 500g of carrots for 3euro or whatever, which she stuck over the initial barcode and then tried to scan them through the self-service till. The till was happy, it saw 500g going into the bin which matched the scanned label, and she paid her 3euros.

        She got caught, the radio news didn't say how. Probably the RFID tag under the original label, but it certainly showed initiative.

        1. Dr_N Silver badge

          Re: Some Dutch shops..

          "No they don't. The ones round here complain if you put your empty bag into the bagging area..."

          Are you shopping in Marks & Spenser's ... ?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Some Dutch shops..

            Are you shopping in Marks & Spenser's ... ?

            No, Casino and Carrefour. M&S is only in Paris, AFAIK.

        2. Grade%

          Re: Some Dutch shops..

          "She got caught, the radio news didn't say how. Probably the RFID tag under the original label, but it certainly showed initiative."

          If you look up there's a camera for every automated till. Somewhere close by is a little room with a mirrored window and it is someone's sad little job to watch a slew of monitors for miscreant behaviour.

          I know because the sad horror of local grocerteria installed these tills a year or two back and yesterday I saw the door open to that darkened little room lit only by the wall of monitors -- someone was asking the unseen person therein a question. I suspect it was along the lines of, "Had enough yet?".

          Surprised at the site and wanting to see what the monitors were tuned to, I noted the one I could see well and turned my head, saw the auto-tills, glanced up and saw a camera above each one.

          Oh! So, no trust? How sad. :(

          1. Eric Olson

            Re: Some Dutch shops..

            They are called Asset Protection and they wander around the stores in plainclothes or in a uniform that's designed to look vaguely LEOish, complete with shiny badge with the shop's logo (at least that's how Target does it).

            As far as the automated tills, part of the fun is that each item needs to have a weight added to the database so that it can verify that an item being placed in the bagging area (just a very large scale pan) is what it should be. Of course, it was clever to some degree to try to defeat it by posing it as a bag of carrots in the exact same weight, but it probably would have been a little more clever to do some kind of bulk item like rice or oats and bury it in the middle... not that I would ever do that.

            Then again, here in the States those high-value, small-parcel items are typically wrapped with an anti-theft alarm that can only be removed with a special tool or are on lock racks that require an employee to retrieve and check out from a specific location. Then you need someone on the inside to help you out... which might be why shrink on a per-incident basis is much higher when it involves an employee.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Some Dutch shops..

        Oh no they don't, not in the US. I can faithfully report that Safeway, Giant/Stop-n-Stop, Lowes and Home Depot all have horrendous systems.

        Giant's is the worst, but then again, this is the store whose terminals bear an uncanny resemblance to PCs running OS/2.

        Lowes gets a special demerit for having a loyalty program that replaces a barcoded keychain tchotchke with one on your smartphone that the scanner cannot scan, thus rendering the whole exercise pointless.

        Home Depot lets you do the whole transaction in French, which is nice. Especially when I have to call the assistant over.

        1. Charles Manning

          French... bah!

          The automated checkout system at our library has about 15 languages, including.....

          Aaarrrr... speak like a pirate!

          At least someone has a bit of humour when designing these systems!

      3. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

        Re: Some Dutch shops..

        >> Worth Investigating, Mr Dabbs? A world tour of Supermarkets, perhaps?

        You have to be taking the piss.

        1. Dr_N Silver badge

          Re: Some Dutch shops..

          Does anyone do otherwise in your column's comment section...?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Some Dutch shops..

          >> Worth Investigating, Mr Dabbs? A world tour of Supermarkets, perhaps?

          You have to be taking the piss.

          On this site? It would be rather disappointing if he wasn't :)

        3. Martin Summers Silver badge

          Re: Some Dutch shops..

          Oi Mr Dabbs, if you've got time to post comments you've got time for a column :-) Go and enjoy your holiday!

      4. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Some Dutch shops..

        "Also, why is it that only people in the UK seem to have a problem with automated check-outs?"

        That's some statistical sample you've done there, I doff my hat to your survey skills.

      5. BobRocket

        Re: Some Dutch shops..

        At least two of the big four use the same software (as well as a national convenience chain) provided by the same servers, I have had occasion to view a competitors data when trying to view my own (which is a right pain as I don't gaf about theirs, I've usually got a meeting to go to and need my data)

      6. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Some Dutch shops..

        "Also, why is it that only people in the UK seem to have a problem with automated check-outs?"

        They're fine for a half dozen items (ie, as a replacement for express lanes)

        When you're forced to run the entire week's shopping through them they're an infernal bloody nuisance.

        The only thing worse than having to do such a thing at 11pm is being behind someone who is doing that when you only have 3-4 items and all-bar 1 or 2 self checkouts are actually working.

      7. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Some Dutch shops..

        "Also, why is it that only people in the UK seem to have a problem with automated check-outs?"

        Most of us don't. But then most of don't write for a technology rag and want a quick and cheap humour article for the weekend :-)

        On the other hand, the bagging area scales do seem to be overly sensitive sometimes, complaining about "unexpected item" when all I did was pull the bag open ready to put stuff in. Or maybe it's just an item that doesn't have the exact weight programmed into the machine. Or a really small item that doesn't seem to register on the scale even though one of the flimsy carrier bags can manage to register.

        But on the whole, I do find them faster and more convenient. Any "technology tart" who can't figure out which side to place the shopping basket before starting pressing the screen is getting old and set in his ways and probably about to start regaling us all with how technology was better in the olden days.

      8. Annihilator Silver badge

        Re: Some Dutch shops..

        "Also, why is it that only people in the UK seem to have a problem with automated check-outs?"

        I find that outside of satirical articles and stand-up routines from early-2008, they work just fine.

    3. Velv

      Re: Some Dutch shops..

      "The automated tills do this too, but you. have. to. feed. it. one. coin. at. the. time. which. is. so. slow."

      Edinburgh Trams ticket machines are even worse. After the first coin goes in it blocks the slot until it's ready for the next coin. But you've already half inserted the next coin, which gets kicked out and falls to the ground, rolling down the nearby drain. Never mind. Only got to wait another 10 minutes for the next tram given you've spent so long trying to buy the ticket.

    4. TheProf Silver badge

      Re: Some Dutch shops..

      My local ASSCO* store replaced the serve service coin funnel with a slot. It's much more fun now as the queue to use the machine grows longer and more grumpy as I put. in. the. coins.

      *It could be TESDA. No, it's definitely ASSCO.

    5. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: Some Dutch shops..

      There's a Morrisons local near use that allows coins to be dumped in on mass that's quite pleasent to use.

      Still think the m&s ones work the best so far (sainsburys or tesco being the worst since by all accounts the damned things behave like you're a thief on the slightest variable outside of its limited range of obnoxious programming).

    6. James 100

      Re: Some Dutch shops..

      I discovered the Morrisons self-service checkouts have a nice coin hopper like that. A year or so ago, I'd accumulated a small plastic bucket of loose change, mostly coppers (each time I do laundry, I take the coins out, then don't always pocket them again later, so they slowly build up). Having discovered this, each time I was going to be walking past it anyway I'd fill a pocket with change and buy something small that I wanted anyway - milk, some salad or whatever.

      Some supermarkets also have coin-counting machines - which take a fairly hefty cut of your money in the process. Stuff that!

    7. Whit.I.Are

      Re: Some Dutch shops..

      Some manned tills in Japan have a hopper for the input of cash and automatically spit out the correct change into a bowl too. Very handy if you're a tourist unfamiliar with the money, probably quicker for the checkout staff and less prone to errors.

  5. Richard 12 Silver badge

    I quite like them.

    Bip, bip, bip, bip, touch touch tappity tap and I'm off, lunch is done.

    For anything larger than lunch, I use the zap guns.

    1. Geoff Campbell

      Me too

      I use them regularly, and have never experienced any significant problems.


      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Me too

        I do. But with a sense of guilt.

        Why do some poor devil out of a job!

        Just so TescRosbyDss can make a few more millions for their shareholders to store in an HSBC offshore account.

        (Hope Dabbsy is having a holiday).

        1. Mpeler

          Re: Me too (Hope Dabbsy is having a holiday)

          He's probably stuck in an automatic checkout at Trashco somewhere... having to listen to

          "Thank you for making a checkout till very happy"...

          (Another proud product from you-can't-be-Sirius Cybernetics)...

          P.S. Have a beer (or a few) whilst you're on holiday!

        2. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

          Re: Me too

          >> Hope Dabbsy is having a holiday

          Here in Sorrento, it's nothing but humans serving in the shops. Actually, better than humans: they're Italians.

        3. Charles Manning

          Doing a poor devil out of a job?

          Let me guess...

          * You still use telegrams instead of email.

          * The lamp lighter still lights the gas lamps in your street each night, then turns them off at 6am.

          * You only wear hand-woven, hand stitched clothing.

          Things are always changing. That's just life. The drones must adapt too.

          1. Dan Paul

            Re: Doing a poor devil out of a job? @Charle Manning

            No, the people who take those jobs really don't have much of a choice in careers like you or I do. That's why automated checkouts should be illegal. This is change that we as a society don't need because these people end up with unemployment benefits instead of a job and we ALL pay.

            The prices did not go down because they have automated checkouts. The only thing that comes of them is a "slight" increase in "convenience".

            When convenience trumps employment, everyone loses.

            I assume you will feel the same way when someone or something takes YOUR job?

            No? I didn't think so.

  6. Teiwaz

    I prefer to use the automated checkouts

    Well, most of the time...checkout for me is only for huge amounts or trips that include alcohol.

    Being a single guy, I really want to get the whole purchase done with as little strained inter-personal communication as possible.

    Apart from buttons having to be pressed repeatedly on occasion and volume on the beep and voice often having been mucked about with by some kid earlier so the beep is inaudible and I keep thinking the beep of the next machine over is my machine registering an item when it;s not, then the voice messages nearly deafens me, the process of purchase is a lot less hassle overall.

    My main gripe is the space the shops often grudgingly provide in the bagging area. My local Tescos don't give much space for more than one bag, so I end up with a swaying tower of goods which I then have to bag properly after I've finished. The nearest Sainsburys on the other hand provide enough space for 3 or more bags. I have to assume Tescos had their designed with their Metro stores in mind and assumed people would only use the machines for small shopping trips.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I prefer to use the automated checkouts

      I do it the other way. I prefer to spend as much time standing in line, ususally behind a couple of parents with two carts' full, making their monthly grocery run. I just consider it as relaxing time, since I don't have to do anything but stand there. I don't have to think. I don't have to speak. All I have to do is hold out a bill large enough to cover the total.

  7. keithpeter Silver badge

    I just go to the tills

    I just go to the tills where people get paid to scan the stuff.

    When there is a queue and some spare bod comes around and asks 'would you like to use self-checkout' I just point out that the reason that I am in the queue is that I have already decided not to use self-checkout. I then respectfully suggest that if the spare bod really wants to get the queue down, they could hop on a till themselves.

    Mind you, I'm tending to go to markets (the ones in the open air with stalls) far more now, and I also find myself using small corner shops as a matter of deliberate policy.

    Credit to Mr Dabs for logging the self-checkout phenomenon. I think that this was a brave move to make on this particular Web site because I have an hypothesis that many here would like interacting with a machine with a pretty obvious logic rather more than interacting with a human being.

    I think that the ultimate supermarket rant is still that of David Foster Wallace from the pre-self-checkout era. See 7th paragraph of Wallace's text below...

    Alas, David Foster Wallace will not be able to update the rant, and that leads me to the thought that we should all perhaps sit down for a bit and not worry about minor things.

    Coat icon: off down to Birmingham Food Markets to buy veg and argue with the 'KIPper who runs the pots and pans stall. Always fun.

    1. Teiwaz

      Re: I just go to the tills

      > " I have an hypothesis that many here would like interacting with a machine with a pretty obvious logic rather more than interacting with a human being."

      Too bloody right.

      Along with the probability that you might get drawn into actual conversation with the checkout person (and I've had some awkward ones, with mumbling or barely audible (over the noise) checkout attendants, or a friend you're with says or does something stupid, inflicting embarrassment there is the obligatory 'Do you need help bagging?' or some-such, causing me to wonder if maybe i'm beginning to look older or more infirm than I feel (also a slight insult to my masculinity, of course I'm aware i might be grateful twenty years down the line, but i get the feeling they'd have to page another member of staff if I said yes).

      Using a machine is preferable to all these, malfunctioning machines I can deal with, malfunctioning people I can't

      1. Johan Bastiaansen

        Re: I just go to the tills

        In my experience, most sane people follow a more obvious logic than most machines.

        I live in a somewhat civilized country.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I just go to the tills

        'Do you need help bagging?'

        No, just with opening the bags which have been made out of material so thin that the van der Waals force is holding them firmly closed.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: I just go to the tills

          lick your fingers. You'll get enough traction to open the bags.

          1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

            Re: I just go to the tills

            lick your fingers. You'll get enough traction to open the bags.

            There's a simpler and more hygienic solution to the thin-carrier-bag problem. Hold the bag with one hand at the centre of the top edge (i.e. between the handles) and the other on one of the side edges. Stretch the top. This causes the corener of the pleat in the side of the bag to stick up above the top edge. Pulling on this corner while holding on to the body of the bag will open it.

            It sounds incredibly complicated, but that's just the way I tell it.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: I just go to the tills

      "I just go to the tills where people get paid to scan the stuff."

      You clearly haven't been in UK supermarkets.

      In most of them there are _no_ tills with meatbags on them after 10-11pm.

  8. Martin Summers Silver badge

    In the spirit of repeats, shouldn't those that commented on the original article repeat their comments too? :-)

  9. Velv

    Shops in Scotland are now required to charge for bags to encourage customers to bring their own.

    Select the "Use own bags" option and the till goes into lockdown until the attendant checks your bags are empty. Way to make for a "fast" checkout...

  10. Bloodbeastterror


    (Pace Dr_N... :-) )

    Expensive but high quality including their magic wand on which you register each barcode as you put it in the basket. It counts the items and totals the cash on the scanner screen so you can see how much you're spending. At the end, scan the "finished" barcode on the automated till, do the normal credit card stuff, and leave. Brilliant. Used it dozens of times and never had a problem.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Waitrose

      I went right off the Waitrose thingummy the first time I tried.

      Two reasons;

      1.) They fitted the holsters on the trolley handles so close to the end that there was no room for my hand ( Not especially big hands either).

      2.) While the scanner always works perfectly when my wife uses one, when I try the dratted things make it very clear that they don't like me and refuse point blank to admit that they have seen the bar code. (The scanner at my gym that supposedly reads the membership cards pulls the same trick. I think they must be related.)

    2. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      Re: Waitrose

      >> scan the "finished" barcode on the automated till, do the normal credit card stuff, and leave.

      You missed the bit where the machine says "RESCAN" and you have to stand there, red-faced, while a Waitrose employee laboriously rescans everything and repackaged your bags, piling the heaviest items on top of the eggs, and everyone in the supermarket stares at you like you were a shoplifter.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Waitrose

      "Brilliant. Used it dozens of times and never had a problem."

      6 of the last 8 times I've used it, I've had "you have been selected for a random audit" - queue waiting 5 minutes for a meatbag to show up and rescan at least half of your shop to ensure it was done accurately.

      Why fucking bother?

  11. DasWezel

    The potential is there....

    And has been since day one. Scanning things isn't hard, but whoever designed those automatic checkouts needs a reality check. I'm pretty sure it'd be possible to design it without it being a completely unusable PITA.

    Design by committee in action. One that's been doing their shopping online for a good couple of years.

  12. Herby


    These "automated" tills are a terrible thing. I ask the simple question: "What's in it for me?". The obvious answer is: "Nothing at all". If I am so stupid as to use the automated till, it wastes my time, and really provides no benefit for me. Of course, to the supermarket (or home improvement store) that has them it saves them money as they think they will get more customers to pay for less cashiers. Do they pass any of this "savings" on to me? Of course not.

    So, when I see these shiny-shiny blinken light things that have all sorts of rude remarks, I avoid them like the plague, and recommend others not use them as well.

    Look, if I wanted to check out myself, I might have grown items in my own vegetable garden, that is taking "self serve" to the extreme.

    Why bother!

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    This week both the machines & the checkout operators at B&Q were causing problems

    Four items - I should have known that was one too many for the automated checkout. It refused to accept the last item was the right weight although it had accepted one previously.

    Grab the items & go to one of only two manual tills in operation (since last time I was there they've replaced all the manual tills with new ones but still never seem to have more than one or two operators).

    Despite the lengthening queues the operator, instead of checking stuff through & collecting money PDQ, is trying to get everyone to get one of the new loyalty (sic) cards. I complained. As I got to pay someone who was collecting cash from the tills (including the ones without operators!) got to mine. The operator put them off saying snarkily "this man's in a hurry". So I told her yes, I had to get away to go elsewhere to get the stuff they were out of stock of.

    Two things that really annoyed me about this: way back my wife was in the initial staff of this store and at that time it was well staffed and well managed; and nearly as far back, I had a gig setting up the S/W for their allegedly super-duper distribution set-up - so how come they can't use it to keep stuff in stock?

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge


      The automated tills at B&Q are voiced by the most annoying woman in the world.

      To start with, her voice has a horrible, naggy timbre, but they've made it far worse by setting the timing so that she nags you to do something just when you're about to do it anyway. As you lift an item up to the scanner, she says "Please scan an item...", if you pause for a second after scanning, quick as a flash she's in with "Place the item in the bagging area".

      The one thing that impresses me in B&Q is that the checkouts appear to have a scale that can weigh anything from a plastic catch to 50kg of sand.

  14. ecofeco Silver badge

    Our self service modern wolrd


    That is all.

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

    No humans on tills

    Then no sale. I normally dump my stuff and walk out.

  17. KA1AXY


    Was when it gave me $30 change instead of $3

    They had loaded the cassettes wrong. Watching them fix it and wonder how many customers had been through before me (and had said nothing) was entertaining.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: fun

      "They had loaded the cassettes wrong."

      How did they manage that? Are all $note denominations the same physical size or something?

      1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Re: fun

        "Are all $note denominations the same physical size or something?"

        AFAIK US dollars are all the same size. But there's more to it. Cassettes are usually coded (with pins or chips) to indicate the nomination they hold inside. Pretty easy to mess it up.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: fun

          Thanks for that. I've never been there so didn't know. It must be hell for blind people who need to use cash.

  18. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    There is a simple solution to those tills

    Simply make it mandatory that management and whoever designed the thing have to use them - no escape, no excuses and no alternative options like shopping at the competition who were smarter by avoiding the idea altogether. Either this results in things that are actually usable by normal human beings, or it'll cause a premature abort of the project whilst still in the testing phase.

    It's actually an approach that could work on many levels. I suspect if they forced the Microsoft coders who came up with the ribbon interface to actually use it it would have never gotten past the planning phase, ditto for Vista and TIFKAM.

  19. keithpeter Silver badge

    Ribbon People

    I suspect if they forced the Microsoft coders who came up with the ribbon interface to actually use it it would have never gotten past the planning phase...

    Alas, I think The Ribbon People actually thought that The Ribbon was a good idea. I have to face the fact that there are people in the world who think like that.

  20. Bill B

    London Underground next?

    I so look forward to Dabbsy reviewing the TFL pay by bonk system.

  21. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Easy solution

    Dump everything on the bagging area and walk out.

    If enough customers do it the twats in headquarters will get the idea.

  22. BobRocket


    The supermarkets are dinosaurs just waiting for the meteoritic winter to finish them off.

    They superceded the high street because grocery shopping was such a pain with finding somewhere to park and then having to go into each shop and do all those seperate transactions.

    Free parking and one transaction lured the shoppers, and the high street died (the one stop shop with cheap petrol cuz they were all out of town).

    Online is the way from now, except not with their useless shopping experience, it is marginally less painful than physical shopping but not by much.

    Amazon (Uber) are going to eat their breakfast and won't even buy them dinner first.

    Do those at the top know, yes.

    Do they care, no.

    When they pay you off with 3 million quid after halving shareholder value, would you care ?

    In less than 10 years they will all be gone.

  23. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Tesco automated checkouts have an "own bags" button at the start. A nice idea that discourages the use of one-trip plastic carriers.

    Unfortunately, nobody seems to have thought this through. When you put your hessian bags-for-life in the bagging area, the till says "Please wait while we verify your bags" and blocks until the harrassed assistant notices your flashing light and comes over to "verify". If you're in a hurry it's best not to be ecologically-minded.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Damn machines only 2 legs and arms short of taking over the world.

    I thought I had found a good way to get rid of a piggy bank full of copper coins - pour them into the CoOp self-service machine by way of payment. It worked, eventually (after churning away for a while counting and sorting), and I was considerably lighter afterwards.

    However, it knows who am I, like all the other customers who key in share numbers for the divvy. It seems to have remembered my deluge of small coins and has marked me down as a troublemaker - from the next visit to the CoOp onwards it has been giving me change in as many small coins as it can, by way of revenge, so I'm collecting change even faster than before. It's going to be a vicious circle :)

  25. Sarah Balfour

    late to the party as always - but this is necessary…

    He did canvas totes with 'Unexpected Item' on, but I went and feckin' lost mine!

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