It is 8:32 on Tuesday morning. I’ve been sitting in my living room through at least 4 episodes of Timmy Time on the DVR trying to convince myself that I can somehow turn a carrot, an apple, some crackers, and a couple of teaspoons of hummus into lunch and dinner for today so I can avoid going to the grocery store until tomorrow when the 2 year old is at his part time daycare. I could have gone last night after the kids were asleep, which by the way, was miraculously by 8:30. I considered it. I really did. Until I realized that what should be a quick trip to the store would take me three times as long as it should because after peak grocery store hours they only have the self-check out area running.
Let me just say two quick things before explaining why I did not go to the grocery store last night. First, I have a Master of Business degree (hey, it took me long enough to finish it, I may has well brag about it). It may not be getting used much right now, but I get it. I know why a company chooses to install these things and use them as much as possible from a P&L standpoint. They have to be operationally cheaper than people, or they wouldn’t bother investing in them. Cheaper operations means lower prices means more customers, in theory. Second, I’m not actually opposed to them – when I only have 3 things to buy and no children to wrestle. I think they are a brilliant way to reduce lines and get people in and out of the store quickly.
That said…I hate that stores have decided to adopt them as a replacement for ANY open checkout lines just because the store isn’t busy. Here’s why:
1. I have an entire trolley (basket for my American friends) full of groceries and nowhere to put them. Well, can’t you just scan them straight from the trolley and put them into bags you say? Yes, of course I can, but the bagging area is only wide enough for one bag. So then where do they go? Ah yes, back into the trolley. On top of the groceries I still need to scan. Or, I have to put them on the floor until I’m finished and then reload the trolley with all the bags.
2. The machine is touchy. If I accidentally press the wrong button or slightly rest something on the scale, I then have to wait for an employee to come over and clear it for me. Why couldn’t that employee that is just standing there watching me, be scanning my groceries while I load them on the belt?
3. It has to weigh everything I put in the bagging area. If I forget to let it do that before I remove the bag, the aforementioned employee has to come over again to clear the machine and confirm I am not stealing anything before continuing to stand there doing nothing until the next time I confuse the machine.
4. I have to wait until I have placed the most recently scanned item into the bagging area, and it has been weighed, before I can scan another item or the machine freezes and the employee has to come and clear the machine yet again. Meaning it is impossible to scan quickly.
5. Weighing produce. I have to search through all the pictures of every single item of produce and then try to match up what I have with one of the options on the screen. Do my bananas have red on the tips? Oh, no, so it must be this one. Seriously? What is stopping me from saying all my produce is whatever happens to be cheapest? Yes, I do have 10 kilos of spring onion thank you very much.
6. I have to tell the machine that I was the one to remove the bag that had been in the bagging area. Every. Single. Time. I remove one. Either that, or the employee, whom I am starting to get to know very well by this point, has to come over and confirm that…Actually, I’m not really sure what. Maybe that someone else hasn’t taken off with my groceries while I was trying to locate the barcode on my next item?
7. The employee who has just been standing there, other than the 15 times I confused the machine, then has to check my receipt to make sure I didn’t just ring in all of my produce as 10 kg of spring onion, while I stand there thinking this truly would have been much faster if she/he had just been the one to scan my groceries in the first place.
After mentally running through this experience last night, I decided I was far too tired to deal with it, and it would actually be less painful to skip the nighttime grocery run and drag the toddler and baby through the store this morning instead. For anyone who has taken two small children to the grocery store…I know, right?
For everyone else, this basically means I would rather - have to strap 2 kids into car seats, drive to the store listening to them screaming about being “stuck” in said car seats, spend 10 minutes searching for a trolley that has both a baby seat and a toddler seat before giving up and just strapping the baby to me and putting the toddler in the child seat, then spend the next hour trying reach things on the bottom shelf while not throwing off the bouncing motion that keeps the baby calm all while saying, “stop touching things,” followed by the drama of loading all the groceries into the car, then trying to find the right area to return my trolley so I can get my two dollars back, then trying to wrangle two kids who are no longer contained by a trolley back to the car and into their car seats - than be subjected to the agony of self-check out.
Come on grocery stores. Give a tired Mom a break and go back to having at least one check out lane open at night so grocery shopping can go back to being the vacation it was meant to be. I’m happy to pay the slightly higher prices to make it a luxury vacation.