back to article Oh, shoppin’ HELL: I’m in the supermarket of the DAMNED

“Thank you for using Fast Checkout.” Whuh? “Thank you for using Fast Checkout.” It’s nice to be thanked by a machine but I haven’t used Fast Checkout. Not yet, anyway. I’m still standing at the automated till with a heavy metal basket - rock on, shopping dudes - cutting into my fingers of one hand while I’m jabbing at the …


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  1. Gus

    Automated till hell ...

    ... which begins with "Please remove the last item from the bag" then "Please put the last item in the bag" and descends quickly into the the seventh circle of hell, the Key Master pressing several buttons while telling me that this always happens. If "this always happens" why the fuck do they not fix them? I never use this machines now because they invariably take longer than queuing at a normal till.

    1. Snivelling Wretch

      Re: Automated till hell ...

      Absolutely - I make use of the services of a trained operative every time.

      The stupid thing is, where it might actually be handy for buying a single item that shouldn't need to leave my clutches, I'm still forced to place it in the bagging area to be shouted at.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Automated till hell ...

        "Absolutely - I make use of the services of a trained operative every time."

        Same here. But the unfortunate thing is that this is a tech site, and it's people like us that built these things.. C'mon, somebody round here is responsible for this! Own up, and accept the good kicking you deserve.

        1. Khaptain Silver badge

          Re: Automated till hell ...

          " C'mon, somebody round here is responsible for this! Own up, and accept the good kicking you deserve."

          Have you considered the idea that it might have been the BOFH.

      2. Irongut

        Re: Automated till hell ...

        "trained operative"

        Don't make me laugh. Most checkout staff couldn't scan a barcode properly if you tattooed it on their forehead. I used to design automated barcode systems on assembly lines and regularly want to grab the checkout person and shout "waving the item randomly in front of the scanner won't scan the barcode because you've got your finger over half of it!" or similar. Where do they find these neanderthals?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Automated till hell ...

          it sounds like besco

          But it isn't.

          Its Tesco...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Shopping Hell... Never

      I like shopping, yes, married man, 2.4 children, leave wife and kids at home and shop on my own. It is highly therapeutic and peaceful.

      Ask politely 'excuse me please' to get past fat guy and fat girlfriend who have used their trolley to block aisle, smile as they move and say 'thank you' to which fat guy mutters under his breadth 'fcuk off'.

      How rude I thought.

      Turn on him as if I were Satan Himself and tell him in no uncertain terms that I would quite happily beat the bejabbers out of him and rip his nuts off and.... Get the picture. Finally said in quiet menacing tone 'don't ever tell me to fcuk off you fat fcuk'.

      Left said fat couple in isle to contemplate their mistake.

      Avoided self checkouts and self scanning to engage in conversation with lady at checkout. Advised by manager that I could use the self checkout and responded 'where would the fun be in that?'

      Finally smiled broadly at fat couple in aisle directly next to me and watched as they immediately avoided eye contact.

      Another successful shopping trip, I got a £2.24 savings voucher and 5p of my litre of petrol.

      1. Sloppy Crapmonster

        Re: Shopping Hell... Never

        And I thought I had it tough working with an autistic 6 year old. I can only sympathize for you and your 0.4 child.

    3. James Micallef Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Automated till hell ...

      I've used auto-till at the local supermarket and at Ikea. Worked perfectly every time. the biggest inconvenience was the random audits they used to have to make sure that all the stuff was scanned.

      Why on earth would such a system need to detect presence of items in 'basket area' or 'bagging area' is beyond me.

      Thumbs down for whoever implemented and tested such a crappy system

      1. Adam Foxton

        Re: Automated till hell ...

        I believe the bagging area is used as a sort of Checksum, so if you scan something that is supposed to weigh 500g and it weighs 2kg you've clearly got the wrong thing and are trying to pass off a 2ltr bottle of coke as a half-litre.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Automated till hell ...

        There is a scales under the bagging area which is not just used for weighing your fruit and veg. The scanned items are assigned a weight value and if there is a mismatch between the items scanned and that of the bag then the alarm is activated. The weight is tallied up as you scan more items.

        It is an imperfect system but an elementary bit of anti-fraud. This is why that ex-GB hockey player chose 'loose onions' when shop lifting, because the machine cannot be programmed to know how much of a fruit or veg is present.

        1. Brenda McViking

          Re: Automated till hell ...

          Did you know THERE IS A MUTE BUTTON for the checkouts. Just before you hit the start button, look at the bottom centre of the screen. HIT THE VOLUME ICON and it SHUTS IT UP!

          It doesn't prevent the rest of the pain of using it, but you don't have to hear it moan at you EVER AGAIN.

          Consider yourselves educated. You're welcome.

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Automated till hell ...

      Fix them? They're DESIGNED that way!

      Don't get me started on interface designers. Or their clients. It's Dilbert all the way down.

    5. Martin Budden Bronze badge

      Hi, my name is Jake.

      I hunt my own meat (while flying my hand-built helicopter), I grow my own selectively-bred organic vegetables, I make my own wine from my full-size hand-planted vinyard, and that's why I don't need to use the self-serve supermarket tills which I invented*. I have a real life.

      *yes I invented self-serve tills, and supermarkets too.

  2. TRT Silver badge

    I never use these things. They are the hell. And they are taking jobs away... etc etc.

    @ Gus. The UI is written in Okey-Cokey Code.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      You'll probably find they weren't 26 schoolkids, they were 26 ex-employees who have lost their part-time jobs to the damn things and are now reduced to hanging around them and gloating at their failure.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > I never use these things. They are the hell. And they are taking jobs away... etc etc.

      Halleluyah to that.

      I've never attempted to use these things partly because it seems to me that the trained and practised checkout operator would be quicker and more efficient than me and secondly because it is a blatant attempt to put people out of work and trim costs at the expense of making me, the customer, work harder.

      My wife says that she tried to use one of these things. Now, call me naive, but when I watch the checkout operators, they lift the things up, scan them and put them in a bag. Super simple and super quick (well not at Safeway since they're lazy as f*ck). I don't remember ever seeing them getting messages such as "unexpected item in bag area". It just doesn't happen. So why for love of $DEITY are these machine so fucking complicated? You scan the things, then you pay. It's not rocket science. If you wanted to nick stuff, you would tuck it into your coat and just walk out of the door.

      So, I queue up and wait my turn to get the usual personal service. And I *will* not use these satanic torture implements.

    3. AgeingBabyBoomer

      And the shops deliberately understaff the human checkouts to coerce you into wanting to use them.

      Free markets, choice - pah.

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge


    I do my weekly shop I can use a manned till without having to queue or fight the hordes of kids running riot when they can't get their latest sugar fix. (Early Saturday morning before you ask)

    Still the supermarket ones aren't as bad at those in my local B&Q. The voice is set to Max volume and when all 12 of them are blaring out 'Unexpected item in bagging are' each one slightly out of sync with each other it drives me mad. I really don't know how the staff stand it.

    ------------------------------->>>>> for the idiots who programmed the voice timeouts. They are far too short before it pipes in with some inane verbage

    1. Natalie Gritpants

      Re: Thankfully

      B&Q are the worst, seems that the machine is weighing the goods (which range from 20kg bags of cement powder to a 5gm pack of picture hanging pins) and complaining when it doesn't add up to the expected.

      1. stucs201

        Re: Thankfully

        The B&Q machines also have a problem that they sell things too light to register - in my case a bag of cable ties. Pressing down to force it to register doesn't work either, since then it thinks you've put something too heavy in the area.

      2. PhilBuk

        Re: Thankfully

        Ahhh B&Q. Sometimes they have no humans on tills so I just wheel my trolley to customer services, dump it and walk out.


    2. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

      Re: too short before it pipes in with some inane verbage


    3. Steve the Cynic

      Re: Thankfully

      "The voice"

      Sherman, set the Wayback Machine to 1983 +/- a year or so. The place: a Grand Union(*) store in Endicott NY.

      They introduced new barcode-scanning checkouts which announced the prices of scanned items in a pleasant if slightly synthetic-sounding voice, complete with odd stress-accent patterns because they recorded(**) numbers up to 99 and then played back the appropriate combination of numbers. The result being that the slight shifts in emphasis between "one dollar forty two" and "one dollar forty", and even "one dollar" weren't there. They disabled the voices after a few months, I'd guess because people (the employees, even) found the plethora of identical disembodied synthetic-sounding voices unnerving.

      (*) A supermarket chain much like any other.

      (**) They might have been synth'ed rather than digi-playback. It's been a long time since I heard them.

  4. S4qFBxkFFg

    Was it Morrisons? I get the same thing happening when I use theirs.

    Other things I've noticed the 1p/2p-disposal machines doing:

    Tesco have the amusing-the-first-time-it-happens quirk of the card readers being clamped left and right only, so when putting your card in they tend to slip out the top and clatter to the floor / basket area / behind the machine / any other inconvenient place the cable reaches.

    The ones in Sainsburys tend to "just work", apart from the one time it gave me a £5 instead of a £10 note as change (quickly sorted after I told the guy on machine-duty).

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Although until recently the Sainsburys ones had the interesting quirk that if you finished scanning and just jammed your card in without first pressing 'Pay now' and then 'credit card', it would get stuck in a loop of complaining about your card.

      They've fixed it now, but I can't see why they can't just assume that when you stick your card in then you've finished shopping and are ready to pay.

      1. Steve the Cynic

        "I can't see why they can't just assume that when you stick your card in then you've finished shopping and are ready to pay."

        The regulations issued and/or enforced on the retailers by VISA and Mastercard probably don't permit this option. That would require the card reader to transmit information about the card (e.g. "card is in the slot") to the POS terminal, and I'd expect they are only allowed to tell the terminal about success / failure of the card approval.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Pay by card" when insert card into reader

          This is my pet peeve as well.

          "The regulations issued and/or enforced on the retailers by VISA and Mastercard probably don't permit this option."

          Interesting speculation, but the Sainsbury's ones do work like this.

          The Tesco ones actually tell you off: "card inserted too early"!!

        2. bean520

          "That would require the card reader to transmit information about the card (e.g. "card is in the slot") to the POS terminal, and I'd expect they are only allowed to tell the terminal about success / failure of the card approval."

          The nature/presence of this glitch seems to suggest that the POS terminal (a very apt name) is already receiving this information

    2. sebacoustic

      I like the S'bury's ones: they even have the STFU button!

      Morrisons' have a problem in the Note acceptor mostly - I find myself shouting "just take my tenner already, B***"

      I rather like the machines because it means I don't have to relate to a human being. bliss.

      1. Alistair Dabbs

        >> I find myself shouting "just take my tenner already, B***"

        Baffling more than annoying. When this happens, I ask a shop assistant to help me agree upon an acceptable form of barter since they're not accepting money.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      I seem to get on fine with them. I always wait for the annoying voice to always finish what it's saying and then firmly press (not touch) on-screen buttons once and once only. Also if I've got veg or clothes I either head for a normal till or leave them to last.

      At first my theory was that knowing whoever roped together this bit of software worked in Bangalore and therefore playing a sound sample and detecting the touch screen or change in weight at the same time was too difficult a task, but I now my theory is that it was engineered by some expert team in Silicon Valley and they've managed to tell if you're getting flustered just by the way you touch the screen.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never once have I had issues with self-checkouts. You must have a disruptive energy field around you that weighs heavily on machine and bagging area.

    1. Frankee Llonnygog

      Haven't you ever worked in desktop support

      Disruptive energy fields are very common. The fields can easily be realigned if, like me, you're trained practitioner of axe-upuncture

      1. Random Coolzip

        Re: Haven't you ever worked in desktop support

        Indeed. I've found that simply approaching misbehaving hardware with a screwdriver (or, in extreme circumstances, a soldering iron) will often result in a spontaneous return to proper function. It also seems to help to exclaim in a loud voice that you have no idea what the problem is, but you're sure you can fix it.

      2. James Micallef Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Haven't you ever worked in desktop support

        "axe-upuncture" - my new word for the day

        +1 to you, sir!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Never once have I had issues with self-checkouts. You must have a disruptive energy field around you that weighs heavily on machine and bagging area.

      I beg (bag?) to differ. I have found that there is a direct correlation between the level of user "friendly" design imposed on an interface and my inability to get on with it. Technology has a certain logic, structure and sequence of events to it, until one of these so-called "experts" mess with it and make it only suitable for someone who is just coming down from a diet of coke, sugar and overexposure to banned pron. Or something else that makes you lose any touch with a normal sequence of events and rational logic.

      Personally, I think that whoever has designed these things should be forced to exclusively pay by using them for a year after installation. I know that is cruel, but so is the crap they inflict on others.

      1. Alien8n Silver badge

        I used to design them (in my defense I designed the cashier operated tills, not self service).

        My guess is that after a while the testing guys get so utterly bored of running the same tests for hours each day that they become immune to the error messages and just go "sod it, good enough". And yes, they do get tested, by real humans. Maybe what is needed is to hire a mixture of the brightest and dumbest people to do the testing as it always seems to be designed for one or the other...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My first self-service checkout at B&Q needed three interventions. One to get started - what was the problem with the "bagging area"? One to pay - the "pay now" by cash was not obvious. There was also one because I had a tube of superglue - that needed "adult" authorisation. It was also tricky trying to balance the metal rods in the bagging area to the machine's satisfaction.

    3. TRT Silver badge

      until you finally lose it and rip the bagging area from the machine...

      smashing it into the bagging area of the neighbouring machine. Only to be greeted with "Unexpected Bagging Area in Bagging Area".

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I can honestly say I've never once had difficulties with these self-checkouts, including the first time. I must have used them many hundreds of times by now. Occasionally I'll see somebody behaving like the author of this article, who just cannot use technology, holding everyone up, and needing the attention of the attendant constantly for every item. It's usually someone over the age of 40. I see 6 year olds using them first time without trouble. If you know you are this bad with them then just use a till. It won't be any faster for you to use self-checkout, so why put yourself (and others) through it?

      It's not complicated. The bagging area is a weighted area. The items you scan all have a weight associated with them. You can use your own bag. In fact you don't even have to bag your items. Just scan them; place them on the weighted bagging area; repeat. Then pay. It's very simple. Occasionally a very lightweight item like a birthday card might not be detected, and the attendant has to spend 5 seconds telling the machine that it's OK.

      1. DPWDC


        "I can honestly say I've never once had difficulties with these self-checkouts, "

        Agreed, and as you say, hold up are always by folks not using the tool properly (e.g., moving stuff out of the bagging area, on a recent visit onto the basket shelf of the kiosk next to them...).

        Perhaps if they renamed "bagging area" to something that says what it actually does (verification) people wouldn't get so wound up about it?

  6. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    There's a very simple cure

    You take your bag to the human manning the till, stand in the queue (sometimes for whole minutes!), let him/her do all the work, and pay them.

    You might engage in a little pleasant chatter. Remind them that they - and you - are human beings, naturally gregarious, and NOT TO BE CONTROLLED BY BLOODY ROBOTS!

    1. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

      Re: naturally gregarious

      Not all of us.

    2. blokedownthepub

      Re: There's a very simple cure

      I tried this.

      After having trouble with one of these, I went to a manned checkout. Whilst stood at the traditional conveyor belt, a 'helpful' Tesco droid enthused how good the new machines were. Before I could protest (it was late and I was tired) he took my stuff to the machine where he had the same problems I'd had. He went to get help and I walked out to without my stuff.

      1. M.D.

        Re: There's a very simple cure

        I always take a calm, diplomatic approach when confronted by shiny-smiled 'queue-helper' types. When they suggest I use the self-serve; I fix them with a manic look and tell 'em it'll be a cold day in Hell before I go near those infernal machines.

        They usually go away quite quickly...

        1. TheProf

          Re: There's a very simple cure

          "Can I get cashback from the self-service machine? No? I wait in this queue thanks."

    3. teebie

      Re: There's a very simple cure

      ugh, humans

  7. Anonymaus Cowark

    Where do you shop?

    Seriously, I would stay out of that shop if they do not bother to implement a proper fast checkout.

    The normal checkout is probably not much better and a real torture for the employees.

    At IKEA I prefer that Fast Self Checkout because it enables me to get in and out (with furniture!) in less than 10 Minutes. ... And nobody has time to stare at me or to look what I have bought.

    1. Frankee Llonnygog

      Re: Where do you shop?

      Embarrassing furniture purchases? Are you fitting out a My Little Pony-themed bachelor pad?

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Where do you shop? "My little pony"

        A boy in one of my teenage twins classes is a fan of those, He even knows the names.

        How sad!

        1. Suricou Raven

          Re: Where do you shop? "My little pony"

          Twilight is best pony.

          1. Lupus

            Re: Where do you shop? "My little pony"

            I think you'll find that Pinkamena is best pony.

          2. Rattus Rattus

            Re: Where do you shop? "My little pony"

            @Suricou Raven

            That's a weird way to spell "Rarity".

        2. cordwainer 1

          Re: Where do you shop? "My little pony"

          Why sad? Why shouldn't a boy like My Little Pony? Shouldn't children of any age be allowed to develop likes and dislikes and enjoy an imaginary and fantasy life without worrying about whether it meets with an adult's approval, or conforms to adult sensibilities and/or prejudices?

          Your comment seems either age-ist or sexist, or both, but certainly not logical, and definitely lacking in the compassion and open-mindedness one would hope a teacher would embody and exemplify. Rebuttal welcome, of course, if you feel it's defensible.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Where do you shop? "My little pony"

            Actually he is odd according to my boys, he is not picked on.

            And it is funny.

          2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

            Re: Where do you shop? "My little pony"

            @Cordwainer 1;

            No, just no. Boys don't play with My Little Pony. Boys get Skylanders, GI Joe or some other fighting-based plastic nonsense, girls get pink play-themed, let's-all-be-friends plastic nonsense. It's just the way things are; to pretend otherwise is to mess with the very fabric of the universe.

      2. S4qFBxkFFg
        Thumb Up

        Re: Where do you shop?

        You say that like it's a bad thing; who wouldn't want to live in Twilight's library/house/laboratory/observatory tree?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where do you shop?

      And nobody has time to stare at me or to look what I have bought.

      It doesn't matter how you wrap it up - an Andreas cross is just hard to hide :p

      1. John H Woods

        Re: Where do you shop?

        I had to Google Andreas Cross. I found a picture with an interesting dressed lady, and recognised the wooden structure behind her. Interestingly there is also a person actually called Andreas Cross on FB.

        1. Graham Marsden

          Re: Where do you shop?

          I think he means St Andrew's Cross. And Ikea don't sell them.

          They did, however, once sell a vaulting-horse style chest of drawers for kids' rooms which was a convenient height for someone to bend over *and* had lots of drawers for interesting "toys"...

          ... erm, allegedly...

  8. John 73

    Waitrose FTW

    Waitrose does the self-serve thing properly. You get your own scanner, which you carry round the shop and merrily scan each item as you buy it. At the end, you swipe your card and it downloads the info from the handheld scanner and Bob's your uncle. Very rarely has any problems, and no stupid 'bagging area' required. (You can put stuff straight into your own bag as you shop, which is great.)

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Waitrose FTW

      My experience of the scan-guns at Waitrose was quite good at first. Then they started doing a rescan on EVERY shopping trip. Having your entire weekly family shopping taken back out of your carefully packed bags (you pack em yourself) while everyone stares at you because you're clearly a shoplifter, then stuffed back in so that your vegetables are squashed, cereal crushed and eggs broken is not much fun. It's worse when they do it to you EVERY week. After six weeks of this treatment, we gave up and switched supermarkets.

      1. blokedownthepub

        Re: Waitrose FTW

        It was exactly the same when Safeway tried this in the mid 90's. It was quick and easy to scan my own items. We got let through without a rescan the first time. After that we got rescanned every time, despite never having errors, so it became pointless and I gave up with it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Waitrose FTW

          "It was exactly the same when Safeway tried this in the mid 90's. "

          Here too. But I've beaten the auto tills by going to Aldi. Much cheaper, most of the quality is well up to scratch, with a few exceptions. Nice small stores that you're in and out of in not time, rather than our local Tesco, which is so bloody big you can see the curvature of the earth along the till line.

          Interesting thing is that Aldi employ people rather than machines, and they're privately owned, so it's the owner's money on the line. Everything else about Aldi is done on the cheap, so this tends to suggest that self scan and robo-tills are sold by "retail consultancies" and EPOS makers to talentless big-corp retailers who can't spot how crap these system are.

          Mind you, we've still got a load of those green Safeway self scan crates, used for all manner of storage round the house.

          1. Triggerfish

            Re: Waitrose FTW

            Aldi staff used to beat EPOS software.

            I worked for a company years ago who tried to sell EPOS software to them. They lined a cashier up against the software saleman and he was beaten hands down by the Aldi cashier. Aldi also paid their staff way more than the other supermarkets did per hour, (dont know if they still do).

          2. AgeingBabyBoomer

            Re: Waitrose FTW

            Lidl is the place to be - aldi is just a little too dog-eared for me.

            Lidl has good fruit and veg and decent own brand stuff (so long

            as you avoid the junk food aisles) and the employ real, live human

            beings that can chat pleasantly.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: Waitrose FTW

      Really? That seems a great way to get three weeks shopping done for the price of one!

      "Oh sorry. I dont know why it only scanned one of the packets, I swear I tried to scan all 3 packets! Modern technology, eh?!"

      1. Cliff

        Re: Waitrose FTW

        Waitrose self-scan hand-thingies -

        I like it, although my local branch only has a checkout for self-scan at the opposite end of the store from where I am. Not worth the walk.

        Must take umbridge at their self-scan checkouts though - the slim basket-only ones where the basket and bagging areas are vertically aligned. They are designed for small shops, a few items, a sandwich and drink, that kind of thing - so why only accept cards? For under a fiver's worth of stuff (admittedly under a fiver is hard to do at Waitrose), cash is surely a sensible payment option?

        1. PerlyKing Bronze badge

          Re: cash is surely a sensible payment option?

          KISS. If the tills accept cash, they have to store it somewhere secure and know how to give the correct change. And someone has to take away one lot of cash and replenish the other (are these things smart enough to use the cash they take to give change?). Replace all those moving parts and human labour with a card reader and the whole thing gets a lot simpler and cheaper. And the store / card issuer / government / Dr Evil get to know more about your shopping habits.

        2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

          Re: Waitrose FTW

          Our local Tesco has just introduced this, so it will be interesting to see how it goes. Not used it yet, but have done when away in France and it worked quite well (at least once I'd translated the blurb on the display so i could work it right).

          Given how much the shop often comes to (in # of items and in total outlay) it could be a very good thing unless it ends up needing to be done twice. Quite how the coupons etc will work for it may be interesting though (given their normal tills seem to spit back about 20% of the valid ones anyway and need to be "forced" by the cashier or supervisor).

    3. getHandle

      Re: Waitrose FTW

      The kids love zapping things with the Waitrose laser guns as well!

    4. rurwin

      Re: Waitrose FTW

      We started to do that at Sainsburys. But you get rechecked randomly, and it's frequent enough to be a real pain. You've packed all your goods, now unpack them and pack them again. See, that saved time.

      1. Sloppy Crapmonster

        Re: Waitrose FTW

        We have that at a few self-check places here, too. "No, fuck off and call the police if you care to" in response to "may I check your receipt please?" at the door is enough to shut that conversation down.

      2. paulf Silver badge

        Re: Waitrose FTW @rurwin "Sainsburys"

        I had this problem. I signed up to the JS self scan gun system about 7 years ago. It is pretty funky and nice to shop and pack all in one go without the conveyor belt at the checkout.

        I was rescanned the first time (fair enoug) and not the second time, but then three times on the trot. Each rescan means unpacking everything so it takes twice as long as just shopping normally. I gave up and went back to normal shopping. The only reason I didn't walk out and leave it all in the trolley was because it was in my bags.

        When ever I'm told to use the self service checkouts in some chirpy manner I always ask for a 20% discount because I'm doing the work myself and it always takes about twice as long as normal because of the "bagging area" shenanigans. They skulk away again when I say that.

        That's why I hate B&Q they only ever have one normal till open (sometimes none) and insist on you using their self service checkouts. We hardly shop in B&Q as a result.

    5. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Waitrose FTW

      Here in .nl Albert Heijn uses the exact same system, and on the occasions I've used it (my regular store doesn't have them yet) it worked smoothly. The running total on the scanner is a nice extra. Haven't had any exit checks yet.

      BTW, you also have to scan your loyalty card to be able to take a scanner. And as far as that's a loyalty card: you just ask for one, handing over personal data is entirely optional.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Waitrose FTW

        Another upvote here for Albert Heijn's system. Works faultlessly most of the time, the only disadvantage is that you have to register your Bonuspas loyalty card before you can pick up a scanner so they can track your shopping habits. I solved this one by using a bonuspas I found lying on the pavement.

        I used to occasionally get rescans and it's a pain in the arse, but the frequency is determined by how honest you've proven to be. If they rescan your shopping and you've made no mistakes, the rescan frequency is reduced as you build up your honesty rating. I started out being rescanned about once every 3 shops, and eventually it was once every 10 shops. I made a mistake on a bottle of wine once though and that's a big no-no; if they think you're trying to nick alcohol you're back to being Public Enemy #1 in a heartbeat.

        There will always be those that try to abuse the system, however I suspect that the costs of shrinkage through abuse are outweighed by the savings associated with self-checkout.

        1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Re: Waitrose FTW

          While I shop at AH a bunch as it's just around the corner, and apart from the bakers is the only thing open before 8:30am if I missed breakfast on the way to uni, I'm not 100% about them.

          Maybe it's just my local store, but it's fairly frequent that the price on the shelf is less than what it scans as. At least with the portable scanner you see what you'll be paying. It's annoying when to get the price that is advertised, you have to pay the wrong price, then go to the customer service desk. At least a couple have started just correcting the price when it's me, since I just tell them I don't want it, and they get more guff to deal with.

          As for being rescanned, hah! Every time here. I have long hair and a beard, which apparently means I'm a petty crook, so l get followed by store detectives. Not that I mind, it's just funny to watch them try and act natural when I wonder around randomly. Actually, the funniest was when one got asked by another customer where to find x product, the security chap claimed he didn't work there, and the customer didn't believe him.

          Never really understood plainclothes store detectives (or at least the way they do them here). I'd either have to be blind and stupid not to notice I'm being followed, so they may as well wear a uniform.

          Been a little while since I was at the sharp end of retail security, but back in the day the majority of shrinkage came from internal sources, certainly all the regular and large cases. A lot seemed to be abuse of processes (noting two broken bottles instead of one etc) or fiddling/fake invoices/picking slips.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's the future... automated tills, automated petrol pumps, automated everything which saves them having to pay a real person some kind of wage...

    Isn't technology great... enhancing our lives and making all those mundane activities so much easier.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Covered this the other day...

  10. Stacy

    I have never understood the English system for unmamnned tills

    Here in NL you pick up a scanner as you enter the store.

    You pack your bag as you shop, scanning each item when you pick it up.

    You drop your scanner in a machine at the end and pay.

    So simple, and so quick. Rather than having to unpack your trolley after you are done, scan everything, repack it again and do all of this in a tiny space and a machine that does not work!

    If I need to nip to the shops for one or two items that we may have forgotten in the main shop I can be in and out of the store in less time that it takes one person to go through the ordinary till. Perfect.

    OK, not always - you occasionally have the 'I need to scan 5 items to check that you are scanning them all' checks, and sometimes the hand held scanners crash - but i have had both no more than a few times a year and even with them it's normally easier than the pain the UK ones seem to be when we come back to visit!

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: I have never understood the English system for unmamnned tills

      Personally I'm more enamoured of the coin handling systems I've come across in the Netherlands. You just throw a handful of coins in it and it counts it quicker than any human could do it.

      It makes it actually *fun* to be preceded by someone with a lot of small change, which is a game charger as far as I'm concerned, mainly because I have the patience of a hamster on acid when it comes to shopping.

      1. PC Paul

        Re: I have never understood the English system for unmamnned tills

        We can't have those on the tills because it's been snapped up as a separate 'business opportunity' by Coinstar: give the machine all your loose change and it will deduct 8.9% then print you a voucher for the rest.

        8.9%!! If anyone has a ton of small change to handle I'll count it for them for a measly 8%. Can't say fairer than that!

      2. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: I have never understood the English system for unmamnned tills

        "coin handling systems"

        I've seen them in Denmark, really nifty. bunch of coins in, counted really quickly, change in coins also dispensed this way, really easy

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: I have never understood the English system for unmamnned tills

          They have these in the States too - I've seen them in the company cafeteria, presumably in other places too. You get bills handed to you, small change is kerchunked into a small tray where you can either take an age to pick it up from the shiny slippery surface with your fingernails, or leave it as a tip.

    2. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: I have never understood the English system for unmamnned tills

      I think the thing that you are missing is that England has a lovely culture involving a significant percentage of the population, which we collectively like to call "chavs". A self service system tied to people being honest about their purchasing would quickly lead to corporate bankruptcy for any supermarket trying that system out.

      I guess you're just a bit more honest in the Netherlands...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I have never understood the English system for unmamnned tills

      "I have never understood the English system for unmamnned tills"

      That's because there isn't an "English" system. There are simply a number of different systems used by different supermarkets in different places. As others have pointed out are several supermarket chains in England that use the hand held scanners.

  11. WaveyDavey


    Local asda mini often has NO manned tills (except ciggy/booze 9 deep in oiks buying buckfast), so I'm forced down auto-till hell. I'd rather be served by a human bean, even in Flanshaw. Nasty scam to lose more workers.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Blergh

      Te-He Serves you right for being part of WallyWorld.

      My Local ADSA is inhabited by the rejects from the Walking Dead. Add to that that you have to pay to park outside then it ranks below Tesco's in the ranking of places to shop. A mile down the road is a Morrisons with free parking and a mile the other way is a Waitrose.

    2. Jim Carter

      Re: Blergh

      Flanshaw? You poor sod! The Sainsbury's auto-tills near where I live in College Grove are very useful for getting rid of the small change that inevitably builds up at the end of the month.

    3. AgeingBabyBoomer

      Re: Blergh

      Vote with your feet/wallet.

  12. kbb


    In my experience the Co-Op ones seem to be set up to give you about 0.27 seconds from scanning "beep" until it tells you to place the item in the bagging area for every single item.

    And often the "unexpected item" issue can be sidestepped by pressing the "I'm using my own bag" button, even if you're not.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Co-Op

      Supermarkets round here have dropped the "own bag" option, purchases now have to go into the output tray directly, and it must be empty to begin with. Probably to avoid the "unexpected item" errors.

      So, after scanning all your items and placing them into the bagging area, and paying, you then have to pick them all up again, one by one, and transfer them to your bag which has to be on the floor since there's no shelf, and if you set it on the bagging area the alarm will sound, while the person behind you is waiting impatiently to scan their single pint of milk.

      Online shopping, it's the only option.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Co-Op

      "In my experience the Co-Op [...]"

      The last time I shopped regularly in the Co-op the assistant served you with everything you wanted. Then your money was put into a little container on an overhead cable, The cables from all the counters converged at an eyrie where the remote cashier sorted out your change - and it returned down the zip wire. Our family "divi" number was ingrained in our minds. That seemed like hi-tech - as did the similar pneumatic tube system in the big department stores.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Co-Op

        "The last time I shopped regularly in the Co-op the assistant served you with everything you wanted. Then your money was put into a little container on an overhead cable"

        My god, you must be old! Have you transitioned to an Elder race, or even Sublimed? What are the supermarkets like in the sublime?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Co-Op

          I always go through the real-cashier line, even if I only have a single item and am behind someone with a full cart and 3 weeks worth of food stamps/EBT vouchers.

  13. Amonynous

    Easy solution...

    Move far enough to the country so that it costs more to drive to the nearest supermarket than the delivery charge. Do your shopping online. Lie in bed on a Saturday morning until some minimum-wage-o-naut has done your shopping for you and brought it to your front door.

    Bonus upside is that you aren't tempted to buy 30 quid's worth of extraneous crap that you don't actually need. Minor downside is that you get the odd unsuitable substitution. Major downsides are you are reliant on your countryside broadband connection and may starve to death due to the length of time it takes to navigate the shopping site.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Easy solution...

      +1 for online shopping. But then MrsPage uses a wheelchair, so shopping is already a chore.

      Tesco ran (are running) an offer where you pay £10/month (IIRC) and you get as many deliveries over £40 as you want Tue-Thu. Which kinda cancels out delivery charges if you play it right.

      Also there is an option to say "don't substitute" you can set if you like. Although IME it's no problem to reject a substitution on the doorstep if you like.

      For me, the next step forwards should be supermarkets targeting households that are geographically clustered, and try and see if they can arrange a "neighbourhood drop" system. Free delivery for 10 households in the same road. I say this, as every day in my little cul de sac *someone* has a delivery from Tesco. Given the cost of fuel, if they could combine those into a single journey ...

      Also the supermarkets could hook up with Amazon* and eBay* and offer to deliver stuff with the online groceries.

      *Other online retailers are available

      1. Stacy

        Re: Easy solution...

        This is an area that Holland does need to improve. When on my run earlier this week I got back to my own street to see two delivery vans from AH (Dutch supermarket) delivering to two houses within 5 front doors of each other at the same time.

        What a waste!

      2. Wensleydale Cheese

        Re: Easy solution...

        "Free delivery for 10 households in the same road. I say this, as every day in my little cul de sac *someone* has a delivery from Tesco.*

        And woosh, back to my childhood when many folks didn't have their own cars and the butcher and greengrocer did their own deliveries.

        1. AgeingBabyBoomer

          Re: Easy solution...

          ...but their profits didn't retire to a Caribbean tax haven.

  14. tempemeaty

    Those machines suck

    I don't use those damn things except in an emergency like the need to buy the pink stuff when sick. I even went as far as to yell at the store manager once for shutting down the normal people operated registers at earlier hours in the evening forcing us to have to use the automated ones. I just don't take that stuff and I refuse to see people become less employed because of automation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Those machines suck

      "I refuse to see people become less employed because of automation."

      I assume you work in IT; for a company that still has a typing pool?

      All the Luddites complaining about the jobs being automated out of existence here are, I presume disenfranchised ex-till jockeys who've reluctantly had to give up that dream job for a far less fulfilling one in IT where they can slurp coffee whilst pontificating over supermarket technology from the comfort of their office chairs? Thought so.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Those machines suck

        > for a company that still has a typing pool?

        I think that you'll find that typing pools were a very efficient idea whose time is over because their advantages are now not relevant.

        Automatic checkout machines are nothing to do with efficiency. They are all about walking the dodgy line dividing pissing off customers and cutting costs.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Those machines suck

          For a couple of items, the volume of self-checkouts that can fit in the same floor area as a standard one means that I queue less than I would otherwise; that's a benefit to me. In terms of Scan & Go, the efficiency of packing my shopping bags once as they sit in the trolley, having a running spend total, a highlight of special offers, and then no queue at all is most definitely an efficiency to me.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Jediben

    Tesco are the worst

    Their machines have been designed by complete retards and the UI is a shambles.

    DO NOT GIVE ME FEEDBACK THAT YOU HAVE RECOGNISED MY TOUCH IF YOU THEN DO NOT RESPOND! You aren't my bloody girlfriend, that's her trick.

    The number of times I have tapped the screen to use my card, or begin the shop and had the damn speaker perform the obligatory 'boop' sound, but then absolutely NOTHING occurs afterward is astounding. Repeated tapping will give you matching 'boops' but still no functionality. This is major fail.

    The slowest part of this system once I've pressed 'finish and pay' should be ME getting my card from my wallet - not YOU printing my goddamn receipt or calculating Clubcard points either.

    Worst of all is the restricted items. Invariably, the person who wishes to purchase that litre of Famous Grouse will also be purchasing 3 age-rated DVDs (in protective boxes), a set of steak knives and a blouse from the upstairs 'fashion' area, as well as a WHOLE TROLLEY of food. At the same time their 4 childen (who they have just picked up from school because supermarkets are the ideal location for such screaming shits, and doing the shopping BEFORE collecting them would be far too much effort) will do their best to 'help' their poor retard of a parent, who cannot locate the barcode on any item nor correctly identify a banana from an orange.

    I have taken to utilising the newer 'scan and shop' facility for even the tiniest purchase. A hand held scanner and the threat of a 'random search' when buying a bag of crisps and a drink are minor inconveniences compared to queueing up for 'self-service' where 3 out of 8 checkouts are closed ("We haven't got enough staff" - Buh?!!) and of the 5 that remain open, one is for some reason "card only".

    WTF? Why use the one that is card only when there are 3 others that are clearly functional but are just turned OFF?

    I hate shopping.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Tesco are the worst

      Oh, yes - the complete lunacy of taking children to supermarkets! What idiot thinks this is a good idea? OK, I appreciate that single parents might occasionally have to do this (but see above for delivery options). However, when I see a family (i.e. more than one adult with child/ren) I always grumble (to myself or Mrs Potsherd*) that one of them could have come shopping whilst the other stayed somewhere else with the younglings. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by the parents**, the children, or the rest of the shop users by this activity.

      * I need to do this more often again - she has started coming shopping with me too often, making a 20 minute weekly shop into at least 40 minutes. The previous conditioning is obviously wearing off.

      ** or whoever it is with responsibility for the children at the time.

      1. swampdog

        Re: Tesco are the worst

        @Intractable Potsherd

        "There is absolutely nothing to be gained by the parents**, the children, or the rest of the shop users by this activity."

        Yes there is. They can park in the Mother & Child spaces. Meanwhile I get to park half a bus ride away in the Mordor section. Worse the buggers make multiple attempts to run me over while I'm walking past. You'd at least think when it's quiet I'd be able to reverse into a space in the deserted part of the car park, be gone for 10 minutes & *not* come back to find some tw*t has parked so close behind(*) I can't get to the boot.

        (*) There ought to be a word created for this "clumping" behaviour. When I drive a van I make a point of parking in the middle of nowhere. It's only a matter of time before all the adjacent spaces have been filled by badly parked morons. Yet the surrounding spaces remain empty. It got so bad I got to parking diagonally across six spaces. Trouble is the car park zombies threaten to clamp.

        Back to the plot. I like the automated tills. Every now & then I stuff a bag full of shrapnel into my jeans & tip the lot in. Shrapnel in, larger coins out.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tesco are the worst

          "(*) There ought to be a word created for this "clumping" behaviour. When I drive a van I make a point of parking in the middle of nowhere. It's only a matter of time before all the adjacent spaces have been filled by badly parked morons. Yet the surrounding spaces remain empty."

          Strange, isn't it. There's that unwritten urinal etiquette that everybody (apart from the mad) know innately, and follow precisely without complaints. Why can't people do that when parking?

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Tesco are the worst


            2 incidents remain in mind, both so closely parked I had to squeeze in

            1, I parked in a carpark in a retail park, very few cars, came back 2 in car park, mine and a van parked so close I had trouble getting in my car. yet it was almost empty!

            2. Parked in a space, came back to 6" gap to car next to me, my passenger door next to a lamp post. I had to dent their door to get to my door to open it, then open window, then lean in to get handbrake off, push car put of spot then get in it. They had dents from my bum and my door and if they had come back their face would have been next.

            I should really have called the Police but I was in a hurry.

        2. John Arthur

          Re: Tesco are the worst

          It always amazes me that people reverse into supermarket parking slots. It is always easier to drive forwards into a narrow parking space and reverse out into a large open area than vice versa. And that is apart from the disadvantage of returning with your shopping and finding someone, probably me as I have a long car and supermarket parking slots are short, has left insufficient room for the trolley to access the boot or the boot lid/hatch to open.

          A quick poll at our local Tesco last week gave the reverse-in parkers a majority over the forward-in ones. Weird!

          1. Squander Two

            "It always amazes me that people reverse into supermarket parking slots."

            > It is always easier to drive forwards into a narrow parking space and reverse out into a large open area than vice versa.

            Look up the accident statistics. For "easier" read "far far more likely to hit something". Although I'm not sure whether that's because reversing out of a parking space is inherently more dangerous or because it's more likely to be done by people who refuse to reverse into spaces because they're shite at driving.

      2. Squander Two

        Children in supermarkets.


        > supermarkets are the ideal location for such screaming shits, and doing the shopping BEFORE collecting them would be far too much effort

        Has it ever occurred to you that the parents might be at work while the kids are in school? Or that parents might generally have quite a lot of stuff higher up their list of things to do than arranging their lives around your aesthetic preferences? Which is it: do you have a total lack of empathy or a team of nannies?

        Intractable Potsherd,

        > one of them could have come shopping whilst the other stayed somewhere else with the younglings. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by the parents**, the children, or the rest of the shop users by this activity.

        Really? And you'd know, would you? You know everything about everyone's lives and what they can or can't gain from performing any activity. Right.

        I work away from home and only see my family for two days a week. What our family gain by doing the shopping together is being together. Also, my children have fun while shopping. Also, I live in a small enough place that we run a high chance of bumping into friends at the shops, which is nice. Also, my children need to learn about shopping and prices and advertising and so on -- last thing I want is to raise those ignorant morons who impulse-buy everything they're told to because they've not developed any immunity to advertising and who literally cannot comprehend why sweets are more expensive in the cinema than at Tesco. Also, we can discuss, as a family, what we want to buy and eat. But, hey, you can't think of any reason why we should be shopping together, so we should all fuck off.

        Why is it that so many analyses by tech people go this way? "I have been thinking about this for a minute and cannot see a reason for it SO IT CAN ONLY BE COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY AND MUST BE STOPPED." A bit less of that sort of psychosis, and the automated tills would be usable.

        1. Corinne

          Re: Children in supermarkets.

          "Also, I live in a small enough place that we run a high chance of bumping into friends at the shops, which is nice."

          Ah so YOU are one of the self centred prats I come across regularly chatting to your neighbour/friend/sibling in the middle of the aisles at the supermarket, trolleys scattered casually nearby at awkward angles, children running riot around you while you are oblivious to the total blockage you are causing right by some staple product almost everyone wants to buy (like milk or bread). And when your ill-mannered child runs headlong into someone patiently waiting to get to the aforementioned staple product, giving them a dirty look for not getting out of the way of your precious darling.

          I'm not a tech person, just someone who would like occasionally to be able to shop without coming across what appears to be a town hall meeting blocking a passage or having a small child run straight into my bad leg.

          1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

            Re: Children in supermarkets.

            "'m not a tech person..."

            With such powers of telepathy, why would you need to be a tech person? The poster to whom you are replying seems to have a due sense of responsibility for his children. They are probably far better mannered and under control than quite a few of the commentariat.

          2. Squander Two

            Re: Children in supermarkets.

            Er, yeah, that's precisely what I said. Almost verbatim.

            Have you ever had a conversation? Have you managed to do it without being antisocial, obstructive, self-absorbed, and moronic? If so, why the assumption that no-one else can? If not, you are the problem you describe.

            And where on Earth did this idea take hold that all children are antisocial hoodlums? Does it just come from people who spent their own childhoods being utterly appalling little shits and can't comprehend that not everyone's as bad as them? You know, just asking.

            Some (not all) children are utterly dreadful, but I'd still rather spend time with them than the reflexive child-haters who take such perverse pride in their psychosis.

  16. HamsterNet

    You Sir

    Have such low technical skills, you can't not even use a simple checkout till!! Please use the manual tills to purchase your condoms, as your reproductive rights have been removed.

  17. Rogue Jedi

    express lane

    Sorry for the wall of text but I needed to get this out of my system.

    I only use the so called "express lane" or other supermarket equivalents if there are at least 2 trolleys waiting at each manned till (unfortunately my usual supermarket has recently replaced about 2/3 of its tills with unmanned ones. it is ironic that the “express lane” frequently forces you to wait for attention from a shop assistant because it is “verifying item weight”, often causing it to be far slower than waiting 5 minutes to use a manned till.

    The supermarkets all have signs up saying please bring your own bags, I always bring my own bag, a large backpack which also contains tools and other equipment required to strip and repair a Bicycle or Computer which I frequently require but is plenty large enough to hold my shopping as well, and strong enough to hold 20 kilos without problem. You cannot place a bag like this in the bagging area without assistance because the scales detect that it weight a few kilos and decides you are trying to steal something from the shop (ignoring the fact that if you wanted to steal something you would simply not place it on the scales), you cannot place your shopping loose in the bagging area then transfer to the bag without complaints from other people waiting to use the checkout so the supermarket obviously wants you to use the disposable carrier bags, if the supermarket is busy (and if it was not I would wait for a manned till)I place my shopping in the carrier bags then move to a seating area and transfer the shopping to my backpack before placing the carrier bags in the bag recycling, a waste of time and the energy used to recycle the bags.

    Conclusion, the so called “express lane” is a conspiracy by the major supermarkets designed to reduce labour costs and annoy paying customers by forcing them to waste much more time than if there was a real human (or other well trained primate) at the till(how else can you explain all supermarkets starting using them within such a short period). The trend of one person to 6-10 unmanned tills is way too low, at most it should be 3 tills for every person, preferably 1.

  18. ukgnome

    Ahhh the glow of modernity

    I remember when you could have a fag on as you pottered around a filth strewn shop. How things have changed. Now we are in the clutches of modernity. But this shouldn't make us complacent, the drones that work there are bad enough. However......the automated tills of which you speak are just windows XP boxes running an ill-fitting touch screen. Although having said this, ED-209 was once a mini cooper....

    What I am trying to say, is get used to the robot rebellion..

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Over here

    Over here, in the northeast corner of the USA, the self-checkouts seem either to be out of order or to work fine.

    Ironically, self-checkout is also the only time you bag your own stuff.

    Walmart's machine is better because when you are done and want to pay you don't have to select "Finish & Pay", it assumes that if you scan a card it means you are done. Also, they don't ask you to select your language. They cleverly have "Start" and "Espanol" so as to not poke you with a 1st World Problem.

    (The not-quite-as-big-as-English Spanish messages that are so common in the USA are very ironic in this state because (a) it's very non-hispanic white (b) there are more native mangled-French speakers than Spanish speakers. Hell, I think we have more Somalis.)

    1. swampdog

      Re: Over here

      @Over here

      Our doctor's automated arrival system has an initial screen with flags of the world on it yet you can guarantee someone will be flummoxed by it. How few brain cells do you need before it becomes a real teaser to touch a flag that matches a language you know?

      1. Death Boffin

        Re: Over here

        Which is fine until you ask for Polish and end up with Indonesian.

    2. Corinne

      Re: Over here

      "Ironically, self-checkout is also the only time you bag your own stuff."

      I NEVER trust other people to bag my supermarket shopping. Too many incidents in the past of eggs, cakes, bread etc being packed under heavy items, or the times where some moron has assumed that a typical supermarket flimsy bag can take 3 x 2 litre bottles of soft drinks - yes they do fit in, but then try to carry the bag without the handles first sawing through your fingers then breaking spilling the bottles down the steps you've just struggled up. Even with the new "bags for life" there's a limit to the weight they can take, so some idiot packing them to the brim with all heavy items isn't to be recommended.

      1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: Over here

        Ah, the ancient art of bag packing. My wife teases me about it, but will admit that we actually get to eat all the eggs and have bread that doesn't have huge dents in it if those items get put in the "right" place (ie on top with the squishy delicates).

        Always confused me how bag packers can mess this up. I know supermarkets employ anyone (well, get them to stack shelves on workfare, employ implies paying) but surely heavy on bottom, squishy on top, so you can carry it for more than 10 meters isn't that hard to figure out.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hate those machines

    I used to use three different supermarkets on a regular basis (all depending on where I had been working that day). Sainsburys has the best ones, or at least the ones least likely to drive me into a rage. Morrisons' ones have improved, they used to break every time I used one (I hardly touched them, honest!), how they are more reliable, but when they do screw up, its waiting around for the staff to stop talking to each other) and at Tescos its a constant stream of error messages.

    I finally gave up and just order online for delivery.

  21. breakfast

    Just going to buy some apples

    Most of my shopping has gone through now, but I have these apples. No bar code.

    Luckily we can add things from the nice list of pictures, but these aren't on the "popular items" page so you get to play the "guess which letter the creator of this list thinks this item begins with" game...

    "A" for Apples? What is this? Playgroup? Far too easy.

    "B" for Bramley Apples? Of course not.

    "C" for Cooking Apples maybe? No.

    After a long slog through the alphabet I find them under "Loose Apples ( Bramley)" because "L" is the OBVIOUS LETTER for this product. Fortunately this ridiculously poor usability will be fixed by my next visit. Unfortunately it will be with a swap to another totally incomprehensible letter.

    Thanks "Fast" checkout. Really living up to your name there.

  22. Dan Paul

    Don't use these evil things ever!

    Maybe we all need to consider the larger consequences of using automated checkout tellers at grocery or other stores.

    There is not enough employment to begin with. All of these merchants are a bunch of cheapskates who deliberately change the rules for their employees at the drop of a hat, converting them to part time, taking away benefits, arbitrarily adjusting scheduled hours etc.

    Kids need part time jobs but with the economy being what it is now, the breadwinner may be working two or three of these type jobs just to keep from sinking. These merchants could give a damn.

    Giving those bastards the benefit of lowered employee expenses will never decrease YOUR prices, only theirs. They never pass on the savings. Ask yourself did the cost of food ever decrease after the cost of fuels dropped?

    Insist on using a real checkout teller for purchases with the probable exception of banking and gasoline as those jobs can never come back.

    When the lines backup at manned checkout terminals and are not staffed properly, complain loudly. If they don't call another teller or two, leave your cart of groceries there and walk out the store to another place explaining that if they don't want your business, someone else does.

    If 20 to 50 people a day do this, they WILL begin to get the message.

    The fact remains that you won't get, what you don't ask for; and that these bastards are so cheap that if you don't rub their noses in it they won't ever get the point.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't use these evil things ever!

      "Maybe we all need to consider the larger consequences of using automated checkout tellers at grocery or other stores."

      Where do you stop on that road? Will you ban ATM's for putting bank clerks out of a job? Computers for making HR administrators and accounts clerks surplus commodities? Car factories for making artisan customer builders unemployable (and them in turn for reducing the employment prospects of grooms and stable boys)?

      You are Ned Ludd, and I claim my five pounds.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't use these evil things ever!

      Utter pish, OP; food has become massively cheaper since the supermarkets introduced their efficiencies and economies of scale. In actual cost to you the customer as well as the cost in time it takes you to make those purchases; hell, you can save even more of your own time by shopping on-line. And that has the added benefit of giving a job to the supermarket drone who has to fill your basket. Not sure what they'll swap your hair shirt and brown lentils for if they're out of stock though...

    3. Squander Two

      Let's not blame the supermarkets.

      Think about when these tills appeared. Was it when the technology became available? Nope: apart from the touchscreens, which are hardly a vital part of the whole thing, they're pretty old tech and could have been rolled out easily in the late Eighties, early Nineties. No, they appeared with the advent of minimum wage legislation. The supermarkets preferred for many years to employ people to do this work. It was the government that pushed the price of that labour up, making the automated tills economic when they had previously not been.

      This is not a point about whether the minimum wage is nice or how much we might like people to be paid. One might well decide that, on balance, the minimum wage has more pros than cons. But this is still one of its cons.

  23. KPz

    Funnily enough, the quality of the software used on these things in directly proportional to the quality of the store you are in.

    The Waitrose one are fine; rarely have an issue with them, decent software, responsive, easy to use. Same with M&S.

    The Sainsbury's ones - less so. They like pulling the 'Unexpected item in bagging area' trick.

    As for B&Q...sheesh. I hate them. Totally useless and take you longer than going to a normal till.

    1. Calum Morrison

      Yep; B&Q have the worst.

  24. Charles Osborne

    I also refuse to use 'em

    When prompted to leave a long line, where a fleshie will eventually cash me out, to go to the underused "self-serve" zone I usually loudly ask, " How much of a discount will I get for taking away the jobs of these [theatrical sweeping of arm] cashiers?"

    If I'm feeling extra cranky, I'll add in my stage whisper to the other patrons, "Are any of you coming to my place of employment to take my job?"

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: I also refuse to use 'em

      You obviously don't shop at Kroger's @ Riverexchange. The put the old guy with one hand on the express lane.

      Speaking of express lanes (15 items or less): I think the cash register should add $50 to the bill as a stupidity charge for each item over 15.

  25. MJI Silver badge

    They are evil

    Take too long to use, too bossy, get on my nerves.

    I prefer a manned till and a polite and friendly person to scan them.

    First rule of supermarkets. Always be polite to till staff.

    1. Darryl

      Re: They are evil

      Wait, you actually found a supermarket with POLITE and FRIENDLY staff??!!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They are evil

        "Wait, you actually found a supermarket with POLITE and FRIENDLY staff??!!"

        Speaking for myself I don't go to the supermarket for social contact, so they can be as rude and miserable as they like. What I draw the line at is excessively foul BO, or worse still BEING FUCKING SLOW.

        In fact, I'll revise my views on the fly: Never mind the pong, the wise shopper picks the till with the smelly, surly faced ADHD sufferer who is standing up and fidgeting. He won't engage with you or other shoppers in front of you, and he'll whizz your stuff through quick as shit, not regarding the risk to your eggs, and give you tons of bags without the sniffy "I'd prefer to look after the planet" look some cashiers give you when you ask for your five hundreth bag.

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: They are evil

        Actually if you chat to them a bit you get extra bag points ect.

        Why make their job harder.

    2. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

      Re: They are evil

      Yes. End bossiness soon!

  26. returnmyjedi

    If only the unexpected item truly was unexpected

    If I was a self service checkout, a loaf of bread or pint of milk would be par for the course and perfectly acceptable.

    Were I to place a decapitated head of Bear Grylls or a sub machine gun on the bagging area, then fair enough: that would be expected.

  27. tomban


    My local M&S Food:

    'Please follow the instructions on the Chip & Pin device' it then displays a prompt for cash-back on the main screen, C&P just says 'please wait...'.

    'Please take your CASH, CASH is dispensed below the scanner' No, the notes come out below the scanner, the coins come out (and onto the floor) above the bagging area.

  28. wbaw

    Maybe you shouldn't use computers.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      >> Maybe you shouldn't use computers.

      Well, there it is. Nothing more to add. Voted up.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These machines drive me insane. If the supermarkets are going to pass on their overheads to us (the customers) by making us do all the work instead of them employing more staff, then the least they can do is trust us. The whole "unexpected item" thing seems to be to try to stop us cheating by moving items across without scanning them. Well, it doesn't work does it...

    The law abiding majority get treated as criminals in a failed attempt to catch the few people who actually are.

    So why use them? Well, in the supermarkets I frequent, there are now so many of these machines that the queues at the normal checkouts are getting longer and longer. Urghh!

  30. blokedownthepub

    Depressingly familiar

    I’ve worked in IT for 20 years, I enjoy technology, yet I loathe these machines. The article describes my experience with them every time I have to use them.

    It wouldn’t be so bad if the stores manned them properly. But that would defeat the point, for them.

  31. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    "Please insert more cash"

    Even when I have put exactly the right money into the coin sorter, or posted a note for more than the requested amount.

    The Morrisons fast-pay tills appear to take about 30 seconds to count the coins you've inserted, whilst asking you for more every 10 seconds. All the time, the rest of the people behind you are urging you to put more in to get out of their way.

    I'll swear that they employ more people sorting these things out than they've saved in shutting down the normal tills.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Who visits shops anymore... Delivery people!!

    Why even venture out when you can have everything delivered to your door.

    You have to put up with PFY shelf fillers with gormless blank expressions, that are about as useful as a chocolate teapot.. A some scary cat lady coughing all over you, who’s not contempt until you have her illness. The annoying old people who insist on talking to you in the queues / isles even thou you try your hardest to ignore them.. Screaming kids / parents that can’t cope ..

    Life's too short to be wasting it doing mundane things like 'shopping' .. IMO

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: whah???

      You should shop early (3-5) in the morning. That's when the strippers shop.

  33. rurwin

    I actually like the auto-tills and use them in preference to the manned tills. It is true that they are not truly un-manned; an operative is necessary every so often, but the shops generally know this now and the wait is only short. I am an expert at avoiding as many automated voices as possible. (Never hit start.) So I use them easily and generally enjoy myself while doing so... Except in one important case -- when I'm shopping with my partner. She forbids me to use any self-checkout, and if I do have sufficient saved brownie points to go against her wishes and still avoid the spare room, the self-checkout ALWAYS fails. It does so in the most obscure and un-fixable manner I have even seen. One time the card machine failed during the secure handshaking, forcing the operative go to the office in order to cancel the transaction . To recover that one we had to rescan the entire shop... which my partner had already taken off to the car in high dudgeon.

  34. Mike Brown

    they are annoying but

    id rather those than the overly friendly moronic robots you get serving. "sorry for making you wait" "do you need help to pack your bags" "any plans for the weekend?" then they try to hand you a plastic chip to help decide which of 3 stupid charties should get that months tax deductable gift. dogs? children? lesbian midgets with dyslexia?

    I truly hated when they started trying to give lectures on why i shouldnt be using the free plastic bags as it was bad for the evironment, my responce that the earth had reveresed poles at least 3 times in its history, had gone thro numerous ice ages, survived massive meteor and volcanic disruptions and still stood, was met with a blank vacant stare. bah!

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: they are annoying but

      " then they try to hand you a plastic chip to help decide which of 3 stupid charties should get that months tax deductable gift."

      It's a shared pot, so when you put your token into the bucket you are actually taking from two charities to give to one.

    2. kraut

      Re: they are annoying but

      I don't think companies' charitable donations are tax deductible.

  35. Daedalus Silver badge

    Which is worse...

    ...using your engineering skills to navigate a buggy self-service till, or standing behind a woman buying 50 fiddly objects who finally realizes she actually has to pay for it all and proceeds to dig through a bag the size of a duvet for a purse containing dozens of cards that she carefully peruses to choose which part of her ballooning debt load will get added to?

    1. Jediben

      Re: Which is worse...

      Those situations are not mutually exclusive! I've been in a situation where that woman was populating all available self-service machines simultaneously.

      My take on the use of self service:

      If you couldn't comfortably catch all the items you wish to purchase should they be thrown at you by irate staff, then you should sod off to a normal checkout. No trolleys!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Which is worse...

      " or standing behind a woman buying 50 fiddly objects who finally realizes she actually has to pay for it all and proceeds to dig through a bag the size of a duvet for ...."

      They all do that. But if swimming pools can do "ladies only" sessions, then maybe those expensive bastards at Tesco could do us "bloke shopping Thursday". No kids, no women (and no old blokes - sorry, if you're over 60 you're not wanted unless you pass a test of basic bloke shopping competence).

      And then we can all wander round not speaking to each other, getting what we want quickly and efficiently, cursing and swearing to our hearts content. Bliss.

    3. swampdog

      Re: Which is worse...

      Ah, that would be standing behind that woman whose with her mother & they've seperate shops. Having paid for one shop she returns her purse to that bag so the exercise can be repeated at the end of the second shop. In both cases she will have a fistful of vouchers. Just pray she doesn't drop or mix them up.

  36. Peter Simpson 1

    Most fun I ever had

    When I bought a $6 item and was issued $40 in change!

    They had apparently mixed up the $1 and $10 cartridges in the base of the machine.

    // yes, I told them, but I think they were more worried about how many previous customers hadn't...

    1. Yet Another Commentard

      Re: Most fun I ever had

      ...and that is one reason why having differing sized notes is such a good idea...

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Most fun I ever had

        Wouldn't they jam?

  37. auburnman
    Thumb Up

    Auto tills had some redeeming features...

    ... back in my student days, a mate of mine who worked at Big Supermarket Chain TM discovered that the job destroying tills would accept ANY money off vouchers from the free magazine, regardless of whether they applied to the items in your shopping basket or not. Vouchers on toilet roll, Shampoo and crisps would give a bill reduction on a basket of Vodka, toffee and Super Noodles. If I recall correctly there was a brief period where he could do his weekly shop for £1.

    1. John Arthur

      Re: Auto tills had some redeeming features...

      Accepting any vouchers provided that they were for items that the store stocked regardless of whether they had been purchased or not was a deliberate attempt by several of the UK larger supermarkets back then to undermine the whole voucher system as it obviously added overheads to check out times. The attempt failed but, yes, you could get a lot off your weekly bill by collecting coupons from magazines.

  38. Tanuki
    Thumb Up

    I don't see the problem.

    99% of the time, the supermarket self-scan checkouts work fine for me. At least using these means you don't feel obliged to engage in vacuous smalltalk with the droid - and you also get to choose the order you scan things in so you can then put squishy stuff like eggs, bread and peaches in one bag, heavy stuff [Tonic-water, sugar, Toilet-Duck] in another.

    Only thing they seem to have issues with is when you buy something that's been marked-down and the barcode on the yellow "REDUCED" sticker won't scan. This problem's not unique to the self-scan checkouts though: a crappily-printed and smudged-when-stuck-on "REDUCED" barcode has on occasions even baffled the checkout-droids.

    [At least they've wised up and have stopped using heat-sensitive "REDUCED" labels on the too-hot-to-touch spit-roast chickens now].

    The self-scan checkouts in B&Q, OTOH, seem to have been programmed by a team of decerebrate sloths and 'voiced' by a woman who lives in a fantasy-world and believes herself to be Rosa Klebb.

  39. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik

    Other than a few random mishapes always get through this fast localy. They are made by IBM running windows xp and some form of db2 at the backend. Though usually they seem to snif either the employees or IT people(of any sort) and will stubbornly get annoyed at us.

    But more often than not they have just worked.

  40. James Gosling

    You should be ashamed...

    Call yourself techies! I avoid human contact at all costs when shopping and always head for the computerized checkout, unless I have a trolley full (that's frowned on it seems).

    But why oh why they use a sh*t OS like Windows on these things I don't know, always makes me chuckle when I see a crashed checkout being rebooted with the Windows logo showing. Linux clearly would be a better choice, and maybe some do use it, I'm not sure. I particularly like the checkouts at B&Q with their more human voice with a hint of a regional accent.

    Wondering off topic slightly I do remember after a very long day troubleshooting IT issues getting to a cash machine only to be greeted by a DHCP error at which I let out the words "Oh ffs! You can p*ss off!".

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: You should be ashamed...

      "Linux clearly would be a better choice"

      why? wouldn't it just lead to more shoplifting?

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: You should be ashamed...

      >> Call yourself techies!

      Is this an imperative? OK, "I'm a techie". There.

  41. NomNomNom

    I quite enjoy the self service tills. I often walk into the supermarket during my weekend stroll to have a play on the machines.

    I move the same items between various bags, baskets and bagging areas. When possible I split large items apart to defeat the machine. The staff try to help the machine. Why have I removed all the individual toilet rolls from the mega pack they ask? Oh I thought I had to do that for self service I say, lying. Really it's just a neat trick to expose the flaws of the machine.

    Maybe I can put all these toilet roles into a plastic bag and it'll weigh the same I say? That is unless the machine is smart enough to know the bag is different I remark wryly. Of course the machine is NOT smart enough to distinguish different bag types and staff have to admit this and so I win again.

    I put different fruit into a clear plastic bag and tie it up with a tight knot. Can I put this mixed bag of fruit through I ask the staff? No, the staff tell me. Apparently I can't because the machine is not as clever as me. The bag contains 5 apples and 4 grapes but the machine cannot see that. It can only work off weight. So I cut a little hole in the bag with a pencil to feed the grapes out. The staff are getting impatient by now. But I need a separate bag for the four grapes, I am not putting them naked on those dirty scales. Maybe I can just eat them? Well no not without paying apparently. So I say I give up and put all the food down and walk out the shop.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm sure after you leave the general consensus is "Thank god that pretentious twat is gone."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        and I second that sentiment.

        It sounds like humanity would benefit from him self checking out at Dignitas.

        1. NomNomNom

          actually for your information last time I left the store one of the staff said something to the effect that they just couldn't wait for me to come back again next week.

    2. Stratman

      Those long winter nights

      must fly past in Nomland.

  42. James Gosling

    A watched a TV program where...

    A scammer described how he would go into a supermarket and peel the barcode off a cheap bottle of bubbly which I'd laminate into a little tube so he could hook it over one of his fingers. He'd then go round each branch of said supermarket and load up his trolley with expensive champagne and head for the computer checkout. He'd covertly cover the barcode of the actual bottle whilst exposing the laminated barcode on his finger to the scanner as he swiped the bottle over the machine and put them in the bagging area. An assistant would look across to check his age and clear his purchases briefly. He would then head off to his car and add these bottles of champagne to the boot full he already had. Oh and he would deliberately dress flamboyantly because he felt this made him look convincing, after all what criminal would want to draw attention to themselves!

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Re: A watched a TV program where...

      Slightly related, but we bought the FiL a bottle of premium whisky for Xmas a couple of years ago. One that comes in an aluminium lined presentation cylinder. Wrapped it up without checking it inside.

      Come Xmas day, opens pressie, takes out bottle, it still had the anti theft tag on. It dawned on me that some genius in the BWS section hadn't worked out that putting the radio-transmitters in a Faraday cage *might* just stop it working.

      I wonder how many shoplifters hit that store ?

      I did email head office like a good citizen.

    2. Spleen

      Re: A watched a TV program where...

      Wouldn't recommend trying this. And not just because it's wrong to steal, obviously.

      I was wondering why the staff at my Sainsburys had stopped coming over as soon as they heard the machine say 'approval needed', and started doing it at the end instead. (It annoyed me slightly because it meant having to catch their attention.) Fairly obvious now I think about it - it lets them check that the list of restricted items that flashes up on the screen matches what's in my bag.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A watched a TV program where...

        I just can't begin to imagine how you are so backward that you fail to understand the word "I".

  43. sandman


    I'm just guessing, but I'll wager a small bet that many of us on these forums are indirectly responsible for creating joblessness on a major scale. I've been training (mostly) various brands of business automation software for many years and I know that I've helped put many hundreds of people out of work. Sadly I have a conscience - even more sadly I ignore it.

    The Fast Checkout machines could have been invented to force people like me to do penance - a sort of satanic version of saying several hundred "Hail Marys".

    1. James Gosling

      Re: Karma

      Sandman I wouldn't worry you will eventually computerize yourself out of a job, we all do eventually!

  44. Cyberelic

    I used to thump them

    I used to thump them (automated tills) when they didn't work properly. A good hard side of the fist type thump. It didn't make them work any better, far from it, but did attract the attention of the uniformed nazis who threatened to ban me from the shop.

    I have since discovered that a good slap can be enough to break the machine properly requiring it to be replaced.

    I no longer slap the ones in my favourite local Sainsbury, but I still do so anywhere else I think I can get away with it.

    BTW You do know that in Sainsburys you can elect to 'use your own bags' and enter up to 9 'own bags' to gain 9 extra nectar points credit.

    I will usually will take a few extra bags whilst they are clean and flat to keep my stocks up with rubbish bags. They are much easier to store before they have been used.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I used to thump them

      "I no longer slap the ones in my favourite local Sainsbury, but I still do so anywhere else I think I can get away with it....BTW You do know that in Sainsburys you can elect to 'use your own bags' and enter up to 9 'own bags' to gain 9 extra nectar points credit."

      You are a vandal and a fraudster. And on that basis I have upvoted you.

    2. NomNomNom

      Re: I used to thump them

      "but did attract the attention of the uniformed nazis who threatened to ban me from the shop"

      Seriously there are still shops in the UK hiring nazis? in uniform as well? haven't they heard of a little event called world war II? I despair at this country sometimes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I used to thump them

        "Seriously there are still shops in the UK hiring nazis? in uniform as well? haven't they heard of a little event called world war II? "

        People get far too hung up on WW2. Surely instead of remembering the bad things that went on seventy years ago, we should just remember the good things. Obviously there's not that much that the nazis did that was good, but autobahns, uniforms and Volkswagen must be high up on the list. And rallies, they did them well too, although best not to dwell on the speeches. And standing up in the back of open top cars, long before the pope got round to doing it.

  45. Luke McCarthy


    All the ones I've used have old-fashioned resistive touchscreens.

  46. Rol Silver badge

    What chance, when all around seem befuddled by the obvious

    I use a bus to get to work and sometimes think I'm suffering from tinnitus.

    When someone presses the button to indicate they want the next stop a bell dings and a sign illuminates to say the bus is going to stop.

    but no, if six people are intent on getting off at the next stop, the button gets pressed four times at least, as if by not pressing it they will have to remain behind.

    What utter dolts we live with, what chance of getting through the automated checkout when you know at least a quarter of those in front couldn't fathom the bell on a bus.

  47. BenM 29

    "Please put the items in the bag"

    Why does that phrase create such a "road rage" like temper in me?

    I have put the sodding items in the bag you daft machine, if you would just give me slightly more than 1ms to move them from the scanner to the bag.

    In my experience... Morrison's are the worst - the daughter and I have a deal of fun breaking the machines in new and interesting ways. Once they upgraded the software and the daft machines stopped the incessant chant, however the next update restored the lost "functionality"

    Waitrose have two systems - one where you do the whole checkout think yourself (Godalming is one store with that) and the other where you scan everything then take it to a till where a person handles the payment. Hardly ever have a problem with the Waitrose machines and only been checked about 3 times ever.

    B&Q - I never have a problem with and their hand scanners are the easiest to use.

    Ikea - meh - about average I guess. I will try them out tomorrow.

    Tesco/Asda equally likely to utter the eldritch ire inducing words... but usually quicker than queuing behind someone who insists that 112 items are fewer than 10 in the express lane.

  48. Tom_

    My approach

    1: Don't use the self-checkouts. If they want me to do it myself, it should be cheaper, as I'm not paying for the cashier.

    2: If there's no other option, try using the self-checkout.

    3: If it doesn't work at any time, just leave all my shopping on it and walk off.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: My approach

      What a novel idea. I think I'll print up a bill for $500 ($120/hour, 4-hour minimum) and go buy groceries and then ask to see a representative from accounts payable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My approach

        Who'll tell you that you can't add.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "theodore"

        Not only does he fail at basic arithmetic (I'd be more inclined to class that as multiplication) but he also fails at writing his own name.

    2. PhilBuk

      Re: My approach

      Have an upvote - a man after my own heart.


  49. P.Nutt

    Sounds like Tescos. Another trick these self service monsters like doing is providing any change below the £3.50 threshold using only 10p, 5p, 2p and 1p denominations. I now walk to customer services and get the shrapnel exchanged into something which wont drown me in the event of me falling into a body of water.

  50. Dangermouse 1

    "Unexpected Item in Bagging Area"

    According to Viz, this is a euphemism for having pooed your pants.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    it's all for your convenience

    to learn the rules of what is done "for your convenience" (read: supermarket profit enhancement).

    And don't forget to take a deep bow towards the camera and say loud: yes master, thank you master

    Little by little, you shall learn. And if you don't... well, you shall die trying, eh?

  52. James Gosling

    Unexpected item in bagging area....

    Maybe we should leave unexpected items in bagging areas.....

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: Unexpected item in bagging area....

      Why can't they make machines that are able to expect the unexpected?

  53. Fihart

    just as these tills are driving us mad.......

    ....they look like bankrupting the supermarkets. See case of man who consistently, for months, told the machines that everything he bought was loose onions and (eventually) got nicked on a specimen charge of stealing £145 worth of groceries.

    As you've observed, half the time they are playing up or totally blue-screened, other times not enough staff to man them so whole banks are closed.

    There was a time when local Sainsb had a selection of Bangladeshi lovelies on the tills. Now I usually have to deal with machines.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Re: just as these tills are driving us mad.......

      I doubt it will bankrupt the supermarkets. They calculate very carefully how much "shrinkage" they can bear.

      After all you could achieve 0% shrinkage if you put all the goods behind a counter and customers had to ask for them. You know, like in the 50s ? But that costs waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much in staff. And also doesn't give you an arena to tempt customers to buy something on impulse.

      Supermarkets have long ago figured the price of profit is a little shrinkage.

  54. Paul Wells

    I thought it was 2013

    Ranting about the self service lanes was ever so slightly amusing when they first came out, but that was at least five years ago.

    1. raving angry loony

      Re: I thought it was 2013

      The fact people STILL have to rant about them means that the stores and till designers haven't learned anything in the meantime, have they? I'd say that says a lot about the bastards right there.

  55. Scott Broukell

    Noooo no no

    Shhh will you or you'll give Steve Ballmer ideas about where to use his touch-screen OS magic next ! After all, he'll have a bit more spare time on his hands now won't he.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some of the manuals are online for american ones

    They plug into the existing store IT systems so managers can see sales and speed etc. They also have options of leeway in weights and timing delays so if the attendent doesn't get there in 30 seconds it ignores the item and lets you carry on while waiting for someone to verify it or if the item is 5% over it will let it through.

    The store managers in areas with high shoplifting can set it to be as extreme as they want, stopping to verifiy coupons and a three strikes lockdown.

  57. BeerTokens

    Too slow!

    My major bug bear with them is they (witnessed in both sainsburys and tescos) are too slow and will forget to add any multi buy discounts. you need to go back to select payment twice before it has added the discounts.

    btw I recall a time and motion study stating that it is far quicker to go through a manned till but we all knew that anyway.

    I only use them when no on is at the till or the queues look too long or full of people who need to chat to the cashier.

    1. Spleen

      Re: Too slow!

      Multi buy discounts: it will actually discount them when you select the payment option (i.e. press 'card' or 'cash'), you don't need to go back and then go back in again. (I also used to go back twice - it's not the best design.)

      Quicker to go through a manned till - well, obviously, that's not the point. The point is that it's quicker to get TO a self-service checkout - they can fit more of them in and the queues are much shorter.

  58. Andrew Jones 2

    Our local ASDA has just upgraded it's self service checkouts to new ones with a conveyor belt. When the shop is particularly busy a metal tray is placed over the "bagging area" which sits at about the same height as the conveyor belt and the self service terminal suddenly becomes a manned till. I almost never have a problem with the ASDA machines and if it ever says "unexpected item in the bagging area" I usually just pick said item up and place it back down again. I've had a few problems where an item I am attempting to scan doesn't exist in the database and requires an assistant to swap into cashier mode and enter some random text for the item, drop it into the bagging area, have the machine complain that the item is unexpect (as it weighs more than 0), swipe his card thingy to authorise it anyway. On the whole I find the ASDA checkout machines to be a joy to use - though you need to watch the assistants because they haven't learned yet that a voucher is considered payment and while scanning a voucher will give you a nice beep, suggesting the machine has accepted it - it won't actually do anything with the voucher unless you hit "finish and pay" and then hit vouchers and then scan it.

    The only issue I have with the ASDA machines is that I go a lot a quicker than they do - for instance by the time I have hit "finish and pay" and placed my card in the reader - it's only just starting to tell me about payment options, by the time I have hit "credit/debit card" and entered my pin number - it's only just telling tell me "insert your card into the card reader" I then get held up because I don't want cashback - but I can't go any further until the machine stops speaking and then asks if I want it :/

    Tesco on the other hand.... if you hit "start" or scan an item and it takes more than 5 seconds to respond... you are in for a long arduous shopping "experience"

    Still - after all that's been said - look on the bright side.... they could be worse..... they could be voice activated.....

  59. StephenH

    It's extra special if you can combine fast checkout with those near-field card readers. Without them you put the card in the slot . With them you wave or tap the card, wait and then repeat several times before putting you card in the slot.

  60. Fred Bakunin

    I want to hack the voice box...

    ...on one of these checkouts. Splicing the beginning of:

    "Unexpected item~ in the bagging area"

    onto the end of:

    "Note~s will be dispensed below the scanner"

    (with the ~ denoting the edit point) should produce an acceptable:

    "Unexpected items will be dispensed below the scanner".

    Considering that "below the scanner" is roughly at knee height - Eggs. Yup, eggs would be about the best; singly would do nicely and they wouldn't need to be wrapped or anything, just coming out at reasonably high speed, and with sufficient variation on the trajectory to make for some interesting slip fielding.

  61. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Yup terrible

    Yup they are terrible. I've used one at one store that worked right and it was nice. The other times I've tried to use it there, or anywhere else, it always has enough problems to not make it worth it.

  62. jake Silver badge

    For the record ...

    ... I've never had a problem with this option.

    In fact, I quite like it. Much better than being sandwiched between two mothers/fathers with three or four squalling kidlets pushing over-flowing shopping carts for 15-20 minutes after heading to the till ... .

    In, out, 5 minutes total, max.

    All y'all so-called techies who can't handle the (so-called "easy") interface? Look within.

    On the other hand, perhaps Tesco's software sucks rather more than Lucky/Raley/Safeway?

    I dunno ... I'm on the left side of the dampish bit of solid ground on the left side of the pond ... Anyone in the San Francisco ElReg Office care to speak up?

  63. Jim Lewis

    I can only assume that these machines were designed with input from the till workers union. They certainly seem designed to demonstrate how bad an idea it is for us to check out our own shopping rather than have a human do it for us.

    I won't use them and watch with gleeful anticipation when people behind me in the queue ask me if I will and then pass me to attempt to use them.

    They're usually experiencing exactly as Alaistair describes long after i've left after being served by a human.

  64. stragen001

    unexpected item in the bagging area.... it the Spanish Inquisition?

  65. raving angry loony


    I simply refuse the using the fucking things. If they want me to do all the work of a cashier, they can give me a discount for doing someone else's work. Even better, they could provide machines that were designed to be something other than torture machines. Fucking things NEVER worked when I tried to use them, and had the worst user interface I've ever seen on any machine, anywhere. And I count 1980's VHS machines in there. I'd rather wait in line at the one till they still have open - it's usually faster anyway.

  66. and-job

    The checkout part is the best part of shopping

    I've got to disagree here!

    The checkout part is positively the best part of the ordeal of shopping. It means an end to the torture of being run over by shopping trolleys pushed by old ladies that need better glasses. Trying to get to something on a shelf blocked by those same old biddies.

    The hell of walking round in circles looking for an item because someone sees fit to put it just one column wide on the very bottom of the shelf with the packaging all turned so that you cannot see it.

    Or go to take a package of razors from the rack only to find that the store has such a bad shoplifting problem with them that they actually security clamp them onto the shelf and you then spend 15 minutes trying to get someone with authority to get you a pack.

    Then when you get to do the checkout yourself, you don't have to grudgingly reply with a smile and a witty comment to a checkout operator that has made the same conversation several times over. Yeah I know you don't really have to answer back except for one time in a Walmart store where the checkout operator got really mouthy because I didn't respond to her banter, or flirting or whatever.

    If I see a self checkout don't get in my way. I'll punch and kick my way to it so that I can pay for my stuff and get out of that living hell!

  67. dshan

    Supermarkets? Seriously?

    How amusing to know that people still go to supermarkets and endure "checkout hell". I have only very rarely entered such establishments in the last ten years, ever since I discovered that you can do your supermarket shopping online and have it all delivered to your door. It saves massive amounts of time, the need to queue up with other sleep-deprived and often tetchy citizens and makes doing the food shopping almost a pleasure.

    A well-designed (or even reasonably designed) website running on my desktop or iPad beats the hell out of battling with the crappy stupid tech these self-serve checkout systems employ. Once every four to six weeks I sit down and knock out my supermarket shopping online in less than 30 minutes while sipping on a home-made coffee and sitting in my most comfortable chair. The next day a nice chappie lugs it all up three flights of stairs and wheels it into my kitchen for me to unpack and store in the fridge, freezer and various cupboards. The only things I usually need to physically go out and buy are fresh fruit and a loaf of bread now and then. The internet's not just about pr0n you know...

    1. emmanuel goldstein

      Re: Supermarkets? Seriously?

      i generally take well under 30 minutes to knock mine out when I sit down in front of the computer.

  68. Erlang Lacod

    Valco, serves you right

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Déjà vu

    Loved the story;

    I hate those damn things - not that i'm a technophobe but the usability of those things is just sh%$e. I'm sure it just an excuse by the supermarkets to reduce checkout staff.

    The next thing they will do to lower cost will be to get the customer to collect their items from the warehouse area - just think of the savings they will make on all that space in the front of store filled with shelves and wide isles.

  70. Squander Two

    The advantage of automated tills.

    When I go to a manned till, this happens every single time:

    "Would you like help with yoru packing?"

    "No, thank you."

    And then they bloody do it anyway, pointedly going out of their way to avoid bagging stuff in the sensible order I've carefully arranged it on the cvonveyor belt, putting tins on top of fruit, anvils on top of chickens, cats in the same bag as dogs, etc.

    And don't get me started on the kids from a local "charity" offering to pack your bags for you, emotionally blackmailing you into having your packing down by fuckwits because saying "No" makes you look to everyone around like a tight-fisted bastard who doesn't care how many moppets die of cancer or (more frrequently) how many teenagers go on holiday to Florida.

    Automated tills are a pain in the arse in many ways, but they have successfully solved these problems, and for that I thank them.

    I do wish they'd say what they really mean, though, and replace "Unexpected item in bagging area" with "STOP! THIEF! STOP! THIEF! HELP! POLICE! HELP! HELP!" That might embarrass the shops' managers into a UI redesign.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: The advantage of automated tills.

      When I load the trolley onto the conveyer belt I always group stuff

      It gets messed up

  71. Spleen

    Ah, an article about automated checkouts. The "Hey guys, what is UP with airline food?" de nos jours.

    Strange, I thought this was El Reg, not Saga magazine or the Mendips Journal. All the article was missing was something about it being "a wry look" in the subheading.

  72. Stuart Halliday

    Personally anyone who uses these autotills should be ashamed of themselves.

    They are promoting the demise of a person's job.

    I never use them and hopefully never will...

  73. Sheep!

    Dear Mr Dabbs

    I wish to complain about your blatant stereotyping of gay men. I know several gay men who are absolutely dreadful at shopping, and it's not true that straight men are awful at shopping. I know of a guy in France who's apparently quite good at it, or so his wife Brian says.

  74. AgeingBabyBoomer

    One word: norovirus

    'Maybe the capacitive screen can’t register my touch through the greasy smears that partly obscure the display.'

    I foresee a Douglas Adams style epidemic, possibly preceded by the creation of teams of automated checkout sanitisers.

  75. flilotuk

    Fun times.

    "Unexpected item in bagging area."

    Had a girl say this to me once. Not verbally, it was just the look on he face.

  76. Parax

    self checkout

    Is something every man of a certain age should be doing, but usually in the privacy of your own home...

    None of us really want those 10 stone testicles...

  77. SirDigalot

    In the land of the free...

    or more accurately overly free waistlines...

    I have never had issue with them, most of our local stores have them and are really useful for quick buys, however if a cartfull of groceries it is better to see a real person, or, if you have contraband..erm...alcohol, which is pretty much every store trip for me (why they cannot simply scan my drives license... oh wait yeah I could have used someone else's silly me!)

    Even the large bulk stores like Costco have them, and can be really quick, though it is fun when your purchase falls backward on the conveyor and breaks the magic eye thing again then the machine gets confused and the red light of shame flashes above your station.... there is usually a happy chappy (or chappette) to fix it fast though..

    Home depot (B&Q) have the same things and never give me grief I think they disable the weight thing for a good reason, though there is often a "loss prevention officer" present to check your receipt if they think you are doing a number on them, I tend to glare at them while clutching the 3ft long receipt it spits out for a bag of screws...

    as for the human operated machines, I always scan my card and enter appropriate pin well before the person has finished ringing up my inventory, then all I need do is smack the green button at the end and I get on my way (I hate the people who either wait till the end and then rummage for the card in a purse or bag, knowing full well they will be expected to pay at the end of the whole thing, or those who do this, then decide to get out their bloody chequebook! I mean c'mon! you have been standing there for 5 minutes watching this person scan your shopping and only at the end of it do you think "oh my! I need to find the method from which I am to pay this hardworking person, now where could I have put it?"

    S.W.M.B.O when she used to pay with a check had it out and ready ( and before the days of the cashier being able to fill all the necessary "pay to:" crap in she had it waiting for a total... though she mainly paid in cash.(.A method of payment that can flummox most under the age of 30 when you give them pocket shrapnel to make the change a whole number like $5 )

    maybe it is the way America does it, but they seem to be more together than the shopping hell that the uk seems to have now

    btw what happened to the Sainsbury scan while you shop thing? I thought it was quite cool myself

  78. MJA

    Sometimes it's easier than facing up to a real person.

    Better than handing over a tube of KY jelly or Johnnies at a manned till. I'm never sure whether buying other items on purpose is better or worse than owning up to the fact you only entered the store for some lube. The best one I conjured up was buying one single windscreen wiper blade with the KY. Surely no assumptions could be made from that? It wasn't the right size for my car though but for all they knew, the intention was for me to get the wiper blade and the KY was purchased on a whim.

  79. TRT Silver badge
  80. lunatik96

    must be the brits

    I find very little of your posts relevant in the US, except at Kroger. But the flaming hoops and platforms are not consistent from one retailer to the next.

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