Do you avoid the self-checkout “service” lanes in your large grocery, department or home supply stores? I know I do. It’s not even a service, as some stores make it out to be. As I see it, it’s more of a lack of service or even a disservice on some occasions.

My snubbing the self-checkout lane is rooted in three very good reasons:

1. I’m an older guy who does not adapt well to new ways



Okay, I’m working on 2 and 3 because I’m sure my age-related reluctance to try new things has very little to do with it.

Self-checkout is obviously another ploy by corporate retail giants to get the customer to do the work. You do the work, they get the money. You don’t get a discount for the trouble (aka “convenience”) of checking yourself out, so guess who really benefits from self-checkout.

It’s like my car insurance company. They used to send me my proof of insurance cards nicely laminated and cut perfectly to fit into the “don’t panic if you are stopped by the cops paperwork packet” that we keep in the car where the officer can see our hands. Then, a few years ago, the company, which we will call “Stake Pharm” to conceal its identity, started sending me the cards on die-cut paper where you fold it back and forth (and forth and back, I might add) to release the cards. The process takes a full minute and it’s just a way the insurance company has me doing their work.

If they issue a million cards that take a million minutes to release, that’s like foisting off over 16 thousand hours of work on the customers and I guess it’s because they feel we don’t have anything better to do.

There are other examples: self-service gas stations, bagging your own groceries and bussing your own table. It won’t end there. I fully expect to be sweeping up after the movies and drawing my own blood for lab tests before the decade is out.

Then there is the suspicion component. When I get to the checkout with my cart, I wait in line for a genuine store employee to tally up everything I am purchasing. I back off just like I do when customs agents check my luggage at the border. I don’t want any more trouble with the night sticks and Tasers like the last time when I was just trying to be helpful.

Stepping up to use the self-checkout, I feel that the store automatically tags me as a potentially suspicious customer or as a suspicious potential customer in the case of more disenchanted retailers. I can just hear the security people watching on their video monitors: “No, he’s avoiding our clerks … he is going to check out himself. Let’s bring this suspect down. Set Tasers to ‘maximum tingle’.”

Self-checkout feels like an honesty test. A lot of people can’t pass an honesty test and have developed many self-scanning scams. The internet told me that self-scanning customers are five times more likely to try and cheat the system than those who are checked out by a clerk. Of course, the internet tells me a lot of things but this statement at least seems plausible.

People try to scam the scanner by entering the code for bananas when weighing the steak which, in case you are unsure or misinformed, is still wrong and contrary to our common sense of civilization and decency in spite of examples set by politicians.

Stores have been on alert for these scams; first they installed weight scales that match the item you’ve scanned to its weight when you bag it. Now they are implementing visual surveillance systems that can tell the difference between a cantaloupe and a handbag or “see” if you have a case of red wine on the bottom of your cart that you “forgot” to scan. Next, they may be employing check-out clerks to tabulate all your purchases. Hmm.

Eventually, we’ll all be checking out when the grim reaper comes calling. He will likely be keeping a close eye on the self-checkout lane as we transition into the afterlife.

Since you can’t take it with you, I’m sure you’ll be able to get your supplies for the next world at the Hereafter Mart. There will be no sneaking merchandise past the scanner on that final day of reckoning. Good luck and Godspeed. I’ll be over in the regular check-out line.