Monday, 25 July 2016

I have yet to use the "self-service"

check-out in the supermarkets I shop in. 
I can remember when the first self-service one went in to the bigger of the two supermarkets in the local shopping centre.  It was, as you would expect, rather chaotic. It wasn't something people knew much about. The only people who did were those lucky souls who had travelled overseas to places where, apparently, such things are common. 
I didn't like the idea then - and I don't like the idea now. It is not just that I am worried I might get something wrong or accidentally fail to scan something or set an alarm off or...well, you know the sort of thing I mean. 
It's the human side which bothers me. I have taken the trouble to learn the names of the check out operators in the supermarket I  usually shop in. Most of them are students. It is store policy to employ students who need jobs - and some of them really do need jobs.  It was years ago I met the first of these students. She was doing psychology. I read an essay for her. Word got around and another student...and then another... they don't always want help they sometimes just want to talk to someone about their workload or about how good it feels to have finished an assignment. It has led to me doing some formal co-supervising and the occasional informal tutoring.
I saw one of the students in another shop the other day. She stopped and chatted for a brief moment. I occasionally see them out and about in the local area. I usually get a cheerful smile or a wave or, if they are behind me, a "Hi Cat!"
As they move on to other things they seem to tell the new student taking over who I am. "You're the one who...." Yes.
When my very close friend died - almost two years ago now  - one of the girls who works in the greengrocer heard about it. She came out from behind the cash register and gave me a hug. The man who owns the business was going past as I paid for my things. He put a hand on my shoulder as he passed. In the supermarket one of the regular staff, a girl with many problems and one many people avoid, said to me, "I heard about your friend. I'm so sorry." She meant it too. 
Yes, it's a normal, busy suburban shopping centre of moderate size. Yes, it's supposed to be one of those anonymous places where nobody knows you. And yes, I know that I stand out in the crowd because I don't bother to take my cycling helmet off and I need a walking stick. I know too that I get pointed out as "the person who writes to the paper".  Even with those things though I could choose to be anonymous. I could ignore people but, even though I would sometimes like to do just that, I won't. It's rude.
I don't suppose everyone else has the same sort of experience when they go shopping, even some of those who have been shopping there longer than I have. 
The odd thing though is that it hasn't taken a lot of effort on my part. It has just been what I consider to be "normal" conversation with the person who has served me.
A machine can never do that.


Southern Gal said...

good for you!
i must admit that i shop for my groceries online and have them delivered. i just am so busy with work and the parking is so bad where i live (with no designated spot nor a driveway) that this solution works for me. i am pleasant to the delivery men (i have yet to see a woman) and tip them well. (its a small price for me to eliminate this stressful annoying task)

Stroppy Author said...

My supermarket has self-check and has done for years - but I still know and chat to lots of people in the supermarket. I think once it is well established the dynamic of the shop changes. You still need a human to confirm you are over 18 and can buy alcohol, glue, cough medicine and paracetamol. You need a human when you get re-scanned. You need a human if you have a question or a complaint or when you hand in some stray toy or glove you have found. I guess it depends on the layout of the supermarket, though - in Waitrose, which is my local, staff are very visible and there is quite a lot of interaction. The info desk is right near the door, like a welcoming desk. The staff have a bit more time to chat as they aren't dealing with a constant stream of people on check-out (though there are still lots of checkouts). I like having the choice, but know more people on the self-check than on the tills. It need not be all gloom, but it will probably take time to settle.