Maybe this is a sign of me getting more intolerant as I get older but the self-service checkouts at supermarkets have been really annoying me of late. Since they put them in my local store they have made the queues longer and I have witnessed two checkout rage incidents, one so severe that security were called to eject the irate fellow from the premises. Surely this is a sign they are no good and proof that this is one more step along the road to Skynet taking over.

These checkouts are incredibly annoying but they haven’t yet had me reaching for the car door handle and tipping right off the “Falling Down Scale”*. But they would be less annoying if people a) learn how a fucking queue works and b) get things into perspective. To help articulate my feelings towards the self-service checkouts and in the spirit of keeping things in perspective I would like to compare the system of the self-service checkout to a brutal fascist dictatorship and the staff that monitor the checkouts are therefore the “self-service checkout gestapo” or SSCG. See, it’s all about getting things into perspective, it makes for a calmer society. Furthermore let me tell you a little story about self-service checkouts;

Here Come The SSCG


These self-service checkouts are supposed to make things quicker and less stressful and the whole idea of them is that you should be able to serve yourself, right? WRONG. Because you start serving yourself until, “UNAUTHORISED ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA” startles you into dropping your bottle of wine. Whenever I go shopping there is almost always an unauthorised item in the bagging area, otherwise known as my three year-old son. But to be honest you only have to have the audacity to look in the general direction of the bagging area to set off the alarm. All of a sudden I am surrounded by several members of the SSCG, armed with their futuristic headsets, barking orders in my face: “We have a code blue at checkout 14, I repeat a code blue, authorise clean up crew alpha beta one”. The gestapo swipe something across the screen and the alarm stops, they retreat slightly, taking up their threatening stance a few metres away.

With the panic over and the smashed wine bottle replaced I am free to scan the new bottle of wine through the scanner, “AUTHORISATION REQUIRED, ILLEGAL GOODS IN THE BAGGING AREA.” Another flashing light goes off and the gestapo are back, “Step away from the bagging area please sir.” I step back, questioning whether 15 members of staff to authorise one bottle of wine may be a little excessive, but hey this is a dictatorship so it is wise not to argue. “Have you got any ID please sir?” Catching a glimpse of my face in the mobile phone display cabinet near to the checkout it is fair to say I look every one of my 34 years today, glancing at my 3 year-old son and my nine year-old daughter I decide that humour is the best response in this situation;

Me: “Flattery will get you everywhere”

SSCG: “I do not make the rules sir just follow them, our policy is we have to ID anyone we may suspect to be under the age of 25”

I sigh and show them some ID and they do their secret swiping and re-take their patrolling position, goose stepping up and down, harassing other unsuspecting customers. I return to my scanning, regretting the decision of coming into the store for a “quick” shop that has now turned into a 40 minute stress test. I think I have almost finished so I press the finish and pay button, “PLEASE SCAN YOUR REWARD CARD.” I fumble in my wallet for my reward card -“ENTER YOUR REWARD CARD IN 5 SECONDS OR YOU WILL BE TERMINATED.” I manage to swipe my card just in the nick of time “REWARD CARD……… REJECTED, PLEASE LEAVE THE STORE IN 5 SECONDS OR YOU WILL BE TERMINATED, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” A laser cannon appears from underneath the checkout (ok I may have made this last bit up). I finish my packing and hurry off vowing that things were better in the good old days when we got to interact with real people…

So there you go folks, a real genuine experience I had that also serves as a warning to the ills of modern technology. I can assure you that all of these things actually happened and I have not in any way exaggerated them for comic effect.

*The Falling Down Scale is explained in a previous blog – https://theworldoutsidethewindow.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/delayed-perspective-the-film-and-tv-blog-that-takes-a-while-to-get-there/

3 thoughts on “The Self-Service Checkout Gestapo

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