I hate them. E loves them. In his words, “You don’t have to talk to the moron at the till.” Oh, that darling misanthrope o’ mine.

But, really? I can do a lot of things. I am terribly competent at a lot of things. But scanning and bagging my own groceries is not in my skill set. The machines always fritz, and where do you put the money? In fact, I do not want a bag. I brought a bag. What’s that, machine? You won’t scan the item unless I put it in the bag? The bag is not optional? So not only have I wasted five minutes’ time for the poor schmuck who walks me through the tag and bag process, now I have to take a bag? No. Just no.

I go to a cashier. They are faster than I am. I smile. I am friendly and polite, because, frankly, if I had to do their job, I would be catatonic within a couple of hours. More importantly, I am showing, through my choice, that I choose to interact with people who are getting paid, not machines that are not.

So. Imagine my dismay in the Main Library branch when I saw that I only had the choice of automatic book checkouts. I was appalled. They won’t do that to all the branches, will they? I need my library staff. I need someone who knows how to find scary books for an eight-year-old. I need my checkout lady who says, “Oh, the kids are liking the Henry and Mudge? I saw a couple back here. Hold on.” I need my co-conspirator in loving the populist fiction, who whispers, “Put a hold on the new Jayne Anne Krentz. It’s HOT!”

Some days, these are the only people I speak to who are old enough to buy a beer. I value these conversations. I value these people in my community, and I do not want to replace them with machines.

6 Comments to “Self-Checkouts”

  1. By Stephanie, August 8, 2010 @ 9:41 am

    I am with you on the self checkouts. If I have one or two things, I will go to a self checkout. That’s just because I’m usually in a hurry. I do like the idea of allowing someone who is getting paid to keep their job. I consider myself an intelligent person who can figure most things out. Sometimes self checkouts make me feel like a lump of dumb. Fight the machines!

  2. By Liz, August 8, 2010 @ 11:16 am

    I am so glad it’s not just me. The self checkouts make me feel that I am so useless and incompetent.

  3. By Beth, August 10, 2010 @ 11:35 pm

    I use the self checkouts. Mainly because I like learning new stuff and that’s new. Plus, I like the feeling of independence and competence. Both big in my book of Beth. But now that you mention it, I also usually enjoy conversations with clerks and I also do not want to take away jobs. How many young men of my generation earned their pocket money pumping gas and now – we all pump our own. Jobs all over disappeared. So, now that I’ve proven that I can, I won’t. If that makes sense.
    Captcha: eatiesce caliber.
    What the heck is eatiesce?

  4. By Liz, August 11, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

    That makes sense, Beth.

  5. By clara, August 11, 2010 @ 8:40 pm

    in our library, the children’s librarian explained that they would no longer be checking out at their desk so that they could focus more time on doing their reference work. Not sure I believe it.

    I haven’t noticed fewer cashiers with the advent of self check out. And there will always be retail work for people to get their experience. Coffee, for example. Someone will always have to sell the coffee.

    I love self check outs because I hate making polite conversation, in large part because I worked in retail so long. But also because I am usually toting kids and they are obnoxious. Now at the library the kids both want to check out their own books but only one of them is capable of it so I’ve got screamo central going on and I’m drawing stares anyway..I might just go to the lineup.

    If you want to use your own bag, just stack your stuff on the platform where the bags are, then when you’ve paid, bag it up.

  6. By Liz, August 11, 2010 @ 9:48 pm

    Good tip, Clara. I bet the kids loooove the self-checkouts. Such a sense of accomplishment if you’re little.

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