Alan Dee: Check this out, there’s a reason I never get frustrated by self-service tills

Aslice of something akin to science has been served up to confirm the scale of that most irritating of first world problems – the relentless spread of the self-service checkout.

Tuesday, 27th May 2014, 6:46 pm

The findings of a survey of shoppers has turned up a string of suck eggs statistics.

Here’s a stunner – the ‘unexpected item in bagging area’ is the biggest single cause of complaint. Amazing.

Almost half of us always, or often, need a human helping hand if forced to follow the DIY route. Only two per cent claim they never need help.

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But there’s one thing that the survey has failed to establish.

They’re meant to save time and make shopping more efficient – but where’s the proof? If you ask me, they do neither.

I don’t speak from a position of strength here. Ever since the checkouts began to appear, I have studiously ignored them whenever possible.

I’m rarely in so much of a tearing rush that I’ll tempt fate by stepping up to the scanner, and I much prefer the chance to daydream while someone else sorts out the bill.

What’s more, there’s so much pleasure to be had in nosily surveying the contents of the trolley in front of you in the queue and making playful assumptions about your fellow customers.

I’ve got nothing against advances in technology – but they have to work in my favour. Self-service checkouts just expect me to do all the work, while being patronised by a computer and nervously waiting for something to go wrong.

And apparently I am in a majority – 55 per cent of those questioned reckon that, if they only have a few items and there was a choice between checkout staff and a self-service machine, they’d go for the human touch every time.

But I’m in a minority, too – only one in 10 of us say we never use these infernal machines.

One in 20, by the way, use self-service checkouts to avoid being embarrassed about buying personal items. Are they mad? What about the knock-on effect when your private little purchase becomes an unexpected item and all eyes turn on you? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Anyway, if most shoppers would prefer to deal with a person, how can we drive the computer checkouts from our lives?

It’s a sacrifice, but somebody has got to do it. And if I, and like-minded refuseniks, all commit to use the self-service checkouts from now on, and make such a performance out of it that it slows the process down to a crawl or worse, it won’t be long before the big chains start to think again.

The ‘look at me, I’m hopeless’ tactic involves short-term embarrassment, I agree, but the long-term benefit is that you never have to attempt that little job again. Do you, Mrs Dee? Or can you change a flat tyre yet?