Self Serve Checkouts

I think secretly, when I was helping my high school friend to learn PLU (Price Look Up) codes for her job at Overwaitea back in 1989, I was really wishing it was me that was going to wear that hideous polyester golf shirt and poorly fitted brown pants. I mean, I still remember that yellow bananas are 4011. Yes, they are. Go look it up yourself. But no, I chose to work at a video store, so to this day I am not able to look at a seven digit number without instantly memorizing it.

Anyway, when I get the opportunity to use a self serve checkout, I secretly I squeal with delight inside and rush right over there to be a quasi cashier. I know all sorts of tricks for making it go smoother. Like, if you want to use your own bag, but don’t know how to fool the machine, you just stack everything up unbagged in the bagging area and then take your sweet time to pack it all into your own bags after the transaction is complete.

Now, I know I am getting ripped off here. Going into a store that employs cashiers to manhandle my purchases means that the prices I pay include a portion that is allocated to covering the wages of those people. So, using a self serve checkout means you are paying for something you don’t get. But let’s face it – when was the last time a cashier at a grocery store was conversational? Pleasant? Went out of their way to ensure that you had a good experience? Not scowling?

Anecdote: the other day, toddler-free,  I hit up Safeway. I normally avoid Safeway, but in this case, I had gone to the produce joint across the street and they were out of fresh sage and I needed it for a recipe. So I walked over to Safewat and while there realize I need a few other things and so I grab milk, bananas, crackers, panko crumbs, and the sage and walk to the cashier. For once, the cashiers had no lineup but the self serve checkouts did have a line up, so I went with “fastest way out of here”. Like a good little eco-conscious shopper, I had my own bag, which I put on top of the pile of groceries on the conveyor (dirty and disgusting – what the hecks is with that, why do they not wash those things?) and my Friendly and Helpful Cashier did not look up, did not say hello, did nothing other than move my canvas tote from one side of the scanner to the other, and then proceeded to scan my items and pile them ON TOP of the bag (not IN, where it would have made sense). Because apparently bringing your own bag to the grocery store is actually super secret cashier code for “I WANT TO BAG MY OWN STUFF TOO”. You know, while I am juggling my Safeway card, Airmiles card and debit card while YOU PICK YOUR FINGERNAILS WHILE I WORK THE KEYPAD.

Okay, seriously? When did this become the new thing? I bring my own bags (and PS, SAFEWAY, why the heck don’t you offer me something in return? Every other grocery store chain out there does – sheesh) and this has somehow been translated to “In addition to utter and complete shit service, you get to bag your own stuff! Enjoy!”. You know, I don’t mind bagging my own things. I actually don’t. In fact, I do a better job because I understand Grocery Physics and don’t stuff a 4 litre of milk in with a loaf of bread. I am careful not to DROP the tomatoes into the bag or bounce an apple across the scanner. But if I am not getting EYE CONTACT or at the very least a muttered HELLO or some freaking COLLECTOR POINTS FOR BRINGING MY OWN BAG then sweet mother of all that is holy and good in this world, you better not pick your fingernails while I juggle all the cards you ask me to produce and then watch dejectedly as I bag my own stuff.

Anyway. Where was I? Right. Self Serve Checkouts = Awesome.

11 years ago


  1. I have a serious hate-on for Safeway and refuse to shop there.

    Have you ever tried to find a store employee to help you when you’re looking for something. No? That’s good…cause you’ll never find one.

  2. When I was a cashier they had cameras watching us to make sure we performed the best customer service, otherwise you risked getting shitcanned. It made me paranoid but also made me a better skilled employee and taught me valuable personable skills.
    It bugs me as a former cashier that CS sucks so bad these days, but I have to say the people working at Thrifty’s in PoMo go out of their way to make the consumer happy and hence why I only shop there now.

  3. I shop at safeway so much because I live so close to it … love the self check out although the monitor lady who stands there is often more obnoxious than the actual cashiers. Anyway, the other day I went to Save On because I was uptown and holy hell are those staff people friendly.
    I mean, the store is a disaster for anyone bigger than a size 2, the isles are teensy tiny and the prices are the same as safeway’s but the staff! Delightful!

    Maybe because they don’t see me every day?

  4. I don’t like the self-serve checkout cause you could be putting someone out of a job. But as for good customer service sorry to say folks that is a big city problem. Here over on the Island (God’s Country) either in Parksville, or the store I go to in Nanaimo I have always had pleasant and helpful cashiers. I have shopped at Save-on, Thrifty’s and Quality Foods and all are great. In fact a couple of years ago when my hair was long I got it chopped off something like you did and you know you live in a small town when my cashier said “Oh my god you got your hair cut”! I giggled all the way home. Not only that as I pass the many staff at Save-on where I mostly shop they always say “Hi”. “did I find everything I was looking for” or answer a question about why I can’t get whatever anymore or did I need any help. They have also checked with the bosses for an item which is no longer stocked. All with a smile. Now this may be because they deal with a lot of Seniors and I am getting really, really close to that, but I honestly think that I am Sorry to say folks the joy of living in a big community can have it’s down side.

  5. There is a cashier at Donald’s Market on E. Hastings where we do most of our shopping that knows the name of like 4000 customers, incl. myself and hubby… Plus Charlie too… I don’t know how she does it. But everybody loves Carmen and she makes grocery shopping fun… Always friendly, always asking how you are etc… One of the many reasons I prefer to support small local neighborhood stores.

  6. One of Ian’s top moans about moving back to the UK is that you have to bag your own groceries at the supermarket and he never had to do that in Canada. After more than 2 years he’s still going on and on about this! 🙂

  7. I always get great customer service at Safeway and they always have everything in stock… by far my favourite grocery store!

  8. I shop at Safewat cos its across the street from my house and I’m carless.
    My experiences there are always good… although there are the occasional time I have to tell the newbie not to bag my Mr.Clean with my food as its a POISON!

    StupidStore is somewhere I will NOT shop ever! I dont care how cheap it is. The people are rude, parents do not stop their kids from climbing up on the produce racks and proceed to touch every single piece of produce after jamming their fingers up their nose.. (I wash my veggies/fruit but thats not the point) and to top it off the few times I did shop there when I had a car, my car was hit on two seperate occasions.

    If I could afford to shop at IGA I would.

  9. egad, don’t get me started on safeway. there’s something about that place that is just off. we’re close to it too and it’s conveniently beside a liquor store, so it’s a logical choice but it loathe it. the prices seem higher, there’s little in the way of organic anything and they’re constantly trying to trick me with the location of their sale shelf stickers. i’ve even been won over to superstore – we buy our enviro diapers there so i kind of have to go there, but despite it’s many, many, many shortcomings i never feel as ripped off as i do at safeway…

    but i digress. working the till yourself is awesome. love it! particularly now that i know your bagging trick, because that long pause to get the override for bringing your own bag really makes my pants itch.

    my husband worked for superstore when he was in school and he is a fountain of produce codes.

  10. I have had tremendously bad luck with self-serve checkouts. I’ve only tried the ones at IKEA, but every time I have, there’s been some sort of disaster that required professional intervention. I harbour no illusions as to my check-out skillz.

    As for the friendliness of cashiers, I find it varies wildly from grocery store to grocery store. My rule of thumb is that the more you pay, or the smaller the store, the nicer the cashier. Big discount chain? Not so much with the niceness.

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