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grain of salt not included...
Fully-automated grocery shopping: not for old farts, or shoplifters...
Stop n' Shop in Madison installed several self-checkout cash registers some time ago. I haven't used them until now, because I didn't quite understand the appeal of doing something myself that ordinarily was done for you. I think you should get a discount for doing the scanning yourself if anything...

Today, however, I went grocery shopping at 5 pm, which on a Sunday is about the worst time to go grocery shopping. The store was completely packed, with carts lying all over the isles and lines ten carts long on all of the normal (human) checkout lines. Mostly because people are not yet comfortable with the technology, the automated registers did not have nearly as long of a line. I decided to use one, and was mildly interested in trying this new method of grocery shopping that required zero human interaction.

Here is what I learned about the future of grocery technology.

  1. This technology is incompatible with people over the age of 65. - For whatever reason, seniors seem to be very interested in trying out this amazing new technology of the future, but prove quite inept when trying to use it. The people in front of me, for example. They seemed to be quite baffled by the concept of a touch screen, were hard of hearing, and to make things really bad, they were attempting to buy enough groceries to last them for the better part of a year.

    Things started OK when the couple in front of me successfully scanned their Stop n' Shop Card but went downhill rapidly from there.

    "Thank You for using your Stop & Shop Card. Please scan your items and then place them on the belt."

    "What did it say, dear? I can't hear a dam thing in this place."

    "I think it told you to get a hearing aid and stop holding up the people behind us...."

  2. Artificial intelligence and human stupidity make a winning combination. - In order to check out items that don't have a bar code, like fresh produce, you are supposed to select the item from the touch screen menu and place it on the scanning glass, which also serves as a scale. As I waited for the couple in front of me to finish scanning their winter stockpile, I had the opportunity to observe the customers to the left of me, who had apparently missed this fact. There was a man desperately trying to scan a bundle of bananas, as he explained to his wife why it wasn't working.

    "Computers are stupid. These bananas aren't ripe enough. It doesn't know these are bananas because they are too green and it only knows yellow bananas."

    It was really amusing when the wife pointed out the "Fresh Produce" option on the display panel.

  3. If your going to be stupid, you deserve to get caught. - Some people think they can take advantage of the automation to get free groceries. Not so, or at least, you have to be somewhat smart about it.

    First, this person tried to put a twelve pack of Coke on the belt without scanning it first. The belt rolled the item backwards, and a polite but stern female voice announced, "If you would like to purchase this item, please scan it first."

    Still determined to get the twelve pack for free, he tried something a little more clever. First, he scanned a pack of gum, and then placed the 12 pack and the gum on the conveyer simultaneously. They must be checking the weight of items on the belt, because the system immediately detected the attempted fraud and paged a clerk for help. "Please stop scanning items. Someone is on their way to help you.," it said. I don't think I've ever seen someone's face turn red so quickly before...

Conclusion: On the prospect of a future war between man and machine, the smart money is on the machines.

Current Mood: frightened for the fate of humankind

2 comments or Leave a comment
daylami From: daylami Date: October 6th, 2002 10:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

oh DAMN that was funny!

Dude I first saw those machines at a Price Chopper near Binghamton and I couldn't help feeling like there was going to be some major trouble, but I didn't see them in use. AWEsome commentary, Larsson!

If people are really that thick-headed, they should have to deal with the humans that these places stock. I myself was a Price Choppist cashier, and got promoted to office detail within a month because I was the only person there who wasn't a total idiot and didn't steal anything. Me mum once brought a bag of hazelnuts to the register, which was being operated by a really dim chick I knew from high school. Mom sees a problem and decides to avoid it - she places the bag on the scale and tells Becky "These are hazelnuts. They're also called filberts." Becky goes through her list of codes at least three times and finally concludes, "I don't see 'acorns' on this list anywhere."

I also like the idiots who pick up a piece of obscure produce and then forget what it is when they get to the checkout. That must go over well at the auto-cashier. How does it know the difference between cheapass CABBAGE and the more expensive RADICCHIO? On the other hand, it looks like they've covered quite a bit already. If this technology can get total fools to ring up their own groceries correctly, then I maintain faith.
celaeno From: celaeno Date: October 7th, 2002 01:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Dood that ruled - those automatic scanners haven't made their way out west yet... but definitely sounds like a good place to just sit and people watch :)
2 comments or Leave a comment