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The Periodic Table of the Middle Class
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    « “It got trapped in my drafts folder” and other inglorious internet-based excuses | Main | The three hypocrisies of the supermarket car park »
    Monday
    Feb112013

    Unexpected existential crisis in the bagging area  

    So, if you’ve only got a few things, you choose the self-service checkout. At least here you can take the plastic bags if you want, without a discussion about it. Of course you’ve brought your bags for life, but you’d like to make the decision yourself, without scrutiny. It’s a matter of civil liberty.

    But, standing at your self-service checkout point, and pressing ‘start’ on the touch-screen, you think to yourself that it’s such a shame machines are taking over the jobs people are perfectly capable of doing – and how sad that we’re losing that sense of community friendliness. Is this what we really want, you think, looking around you at the rows of silent shoppers poking zombie-like at screens, their machines bleeping and talking back at them about “unexpected items in the bagging area”? Is this what we’ve become?

    And then it beeps and calls over a member of staff to check you’re old enough to buy that litre of gin you’ve just tried to put through. A moment of human interaction that pulls you back from the brink.

    Reader Comments (2)

    I don't buy this whole 'what a shame we lose that precious human interaction' thing. A huge part of being MC is awkwardness around people in low-paid srrvice jobs. We feel guilty about their status, we want them to think we're good people, and we fear, deep down, that they're judging us. We don't quite know how to pitch the informal chit-chat.
    All this is just too much to process when you've just popped in for a bottle of just-adequate Rioja and a jar of Sacla pesto. Human interaction is the last thing we want. Which is why - even when the manned tills are completely free - I will actually queue to use the automatic till instead. And then feel the re-assuring hot glow of guilt for colluding in a system thst is putting nice, hard-working underpaid people out of work. Because for the the MC, class-related guilt is the only absolute constant.

    February 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichardB

    The staff really don't buy all that either - it still requires staff.. There will always be problems to solve. For me it's the point at which they press the button marked "customer clearly over 25"..... The "clearly" is the bit which gives me most grief.

    February 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSimon p

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