Automated Aggravation

July 5th, 2006

A local drugstore recently installed two self-checkout terminals. Last night was the first time I had been there since they were installed. The terminals were each being used as Krissy and I walked up to one of the checkers. In a loud voice that could be heard from the back of the otherwise quiet store the pre-recorded female voice coolly, but resolutely, announced, “Card not accepted.” The woman at the first station kept canceling and retrying her checkout. After numerous rejections she pressed the help button.

“Would you like assistance?”
*BEEP*
“Help is on the way.”

Then she waited. While she was waiting the man at the second terminal finally gave up and pressed the help button.

“Would you like assistance?”
*BEEP*
“Help is on the way.”

It was at about this time that the woman in front of us had her card rejected. The cashier called for a manager to void the transaction. The visibly flustered manager eventually made his way over to void the transaction. Then he went to help the man who was having trouble with the self-checkout. He tried pressing all sorts of things and even used his key, but even though he failed the machine announced, “Please take your receipt. Please take your change. Thank you for shopping.” The manager gave up and pulled out the man’s single purchase from the bag that had concealed it. He then placed it forcefully on the conveyor belt behind our purchases. It was a box of home pregnancy tests. The man didn’t look like he was too excited about having this item on public display. Most of the customers in the store were now watching the manager and the other woman at the self-checkout. While this was happening the woman’s self-checkout station beeped again.

“Would you like to keep waiting?”
*BEEP*
“Help is on the way.”

This made her sigh. It was not a sigh of relief, but an aggravated sigh of frustration. The manager was busy helping the other customer and by this time our cashier was ringing up our selections. While scanning our items she got the woman’s attention and asked, “Do you want to cancel your purchase?” The woman then turned around and exclaimed, “No! I’m Canadian and this machine won’t accept my postal code!” A cashier at the other end of the row of checkout lanes raised her hand and indicated she could help the next person in line. It was at about this time that our credit card was declined. Krissy tried it again a different way… still declined. I think they must have been having problems getting cards processed. As we walked out without our purchase I heard our cashier call her manager to void the transaction. He was exasperated, but I didn’t see what happened because we were out the door.

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