Self service is not always what it is cracked up to be. Take yesterday morning for instance. On the way to visit my new grandson and his parents, Zoe and I stopped at ‘Marks and Spencer’ to pick up a few supplies for lunch. Being just off the motorway, M&S would be a quick and easy place to stop we reasoned.
We gathered what we needed in record time. We loaded the goods into our basket and headed for the check-out.
“We may as well go through self-serve,” Zoe observed. I was, it has to be said, dubious. My experience of these ‘self-serve’ checkouts has never been good. I normally pick the one that has run out of bags or the one where the scales have jammed. It can’t always be like that though can it?
“Well, ok,” I agreed, having sized up the length of the queues at the manned check-outs and determined that the self-serve area was clear. We began scanning our few items through and dropping them into the bag. There were plenty of bags and the scales did not jam.
The screen blinked at us and gave us our bill, requesting that I put in my bank card. I did this. It frowned and demanded that I remove it.
I removed it.
The screen suggested I try again. I checked that the card was ok and pushed it back in.
“Not authorised,” the machine spat.
I looked at Zoe, we raised our eyebrows and the machine flashed again,
“Swipe your card and provide a signature,”
I obediently swiped the card and tried to write my signature on the Perspex box labelled, “Signature.”
“Please remove your card – card not authorised,” ranted the machine.
I removed the card and the screen lit up in excitement,
“Remote Assistance is underway,” (works best when read using the voice of a Dalek I feel)
Really? I looked around. I wondered why I had bothered.
A lady appeared, flustered and frowning and waving a bunch of keys.
“What’s the problem?” she demanded.
“It says, remote assistance is underway – I think that means you,” I tried helpfully. (She seemed pretty remote)
The lady nodded and we ran through the process again. It was no good, the machine did not like my card.
A queue had formed behind me at this stage. The lady stood back and suggested we go to her own machine at the end of the aisle where she could put the goods through. We followed her dutifully.
The lady put in her key and began tapping a keypad on her touch-screen to login. The screen flickered and died. She banged it with her fingers several times. The screen blinked and came back to life. A second lady appeared.
“What’s wrong?” she enquired, summing up the situation quite quickly and attempting to login herself. I glanced at my watch. New grandson would be starting school if they didn’t hurry up!
A third lady came to look but thought better of it. She called out something and left. The first lady must have caught what she said because she banged the reluctant screen a few more times and was finally allowed in.
The lady swiped our goods again (with difficulty as her swipe machine seemed to be lodged behind the screen and wouldn’t move) Bags of crisps and sandwiches were forced through the gap so that their bar code could be detected. Several items went through twice and had to be cancelled along the way.
The total flashed up and, miraculously, seemed to match the earlier one we had been given. She smiled, triumphant.
“How would you like to pay?”
“Cash definitely, cash!” I said.
The lady laughed, her sense of humour restored. We paid and made our escape.
It had only taken fifteen minutes to get through the ‘self-serve’ checkout with seven items. What a time saver indeed.
Still, I did get to see both my little grandsons. My youngest daughter was also visiting with her husband and son.
Such minor difficulties as we encountered this morning faded into insignificance as the elder of the two babies by five and a half months, beamed ecstatically and ‘chattered’ to me as I walked in, whilst the newest addition lay, snug as a bug in a rug, enjoying his third day in the world.
I really cannot complain. 🙂