The salad bowl, scanner, service issue

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People ask me how I come up with a new column each week. I tell them I’m always looking for some crazy thing that happens around me so that I can tell the story. I hadn’t thought of telling this one, until my neighbors approached me in the parking lot after the small incident. They suggested I write about how we often talk to check out machines and computers in general.
Since I’m always looking for a good story, maybe this would be one. See what you think.
If you read this column regularly, you know that I often struggle with events in retail stores. There were the plastic produce bags in the grocery and numerous customer service issues in other stores. This one involved a machine and me.
Let me start by saying that I was in a hurry one day when I was in a local store trying to purchase a salad bowl. I chose it in record time, to get in and out of the store fast. That didn’t happen.
I quickly went to the self-checkout lane and touched the screen – “start your purchases.” Then it said, “Scan your items.” You know how you look for the barcode sticker – the little symbol with lines on it and some numbers – that will tell the machine what the price is. This time the sticker to be read by the scanner was located in the inside at the bottom of the 10-inch deep bowl.
I immediately could see this was going to be a problem. The machine kept saying scan your item and I kept trying to turn the bowl over enough to be read by the scanner. That was crazy. It wasn’t possible. Then I noticed the message on the screen of the self-checkout machine, “Ask for help.” Perfect, I touched the button and it said, “Help will be here soon.”
I waited and waited. I was in the front of the store. You would think someone would be coming right over. Why does this always happen when you are in a hurry? Fortunately, no one was in line behind me.
I waited to see if the light on my checkout would blink, but that didn’t happen. In case you don’t know, I am an impatient person. It is probably my worst trait and I’m always trying to work on it, but this wasn’t a good time to do that. I touched the button again for help. It again said, “Help is on the way.” Another five minutes went by and no light was blinking and no person arrived. Now, we have a small customer service issue.
I noticed a young man at a podium facing all the self-checkout lanes and thought he might be the one to help, so I had to raise my voice to get his attention. He seemed surprised – I needed help. Seriously, I had been there nearly 10 minutes trying to check out this one salad bowl.
He finally came over and turned the bowl facing the machine, just as I did with the same result. Oh my gosh, I just wanted to buy this one bowl. He looked for a manager. When he arrived he informed us a hand scanner was needed to reach down in the bowl. He would go get one. What?
Finally that was taken care of and the sale was completed. Now you have to wonder what that person was thinking about the bar code located down in the bottom of the bowl. Maybe it was done at the factory. Most prices are usually on the outside bottom of an item, which can be difficult, also. If it’s heavy, you have to lift it up to look at that price. I always wonder why they do that and now I see – so you can easily scan it.
My neighbors were watching this episode, apparently for a while. They saw the first incident where I had been talking to the scanner, asking how can this be done? Then after the price scanning issue was resolved, they saw me eventually insert my credit card causing more issues. I was wondering at this moment, why didn’t I just put some cash in the machine? It would’ve been so much faster. Why didn’t I make this purchase when I didn’t need to be somewhere? How could buying one thing take so long?
As usual, the machine wanted my pin number and I entered it, but nothing happened. Remember, I’m impatient and I was still waiting. It seemed frozen. After a few minutes it came back on and said, “Complete your purchase.” Apparently I was supposed to have touched that before I put in my credit card. Now, it wanted me to insert my card again. There’s no way I was doing that. I was probably saying to the scanner, “I already did that!”
I was now talking to the machine and apparently my neighbors were chuckling watching me. Eventually I pushed enough buttons, even though I did not insert my card again, that the transaction was completed and I got out of there.
I was talking to myself all the way out, thinking how difficult this purchase was for just this one little salad bowl.
As I approached my car, my neighbors approached me and said, “Isn’t it strange how we talk to the checkout machines?” Oh no, I didn’t realize anybody was watching me, but I was there a long time. Guess we should always assume others are watching.
My neighbor said that a scanner said to her, “Have a nice day,” and she said, “Oh, thank you,” to the machine. We are so programmed for speed. It’s amazing how we can even think the machine can hear us.
So that’s my wacky event for the week. Actually nothing bad happened. It just took forever for the transaction and that made me a little late to my event. Note to self: when I’m in a hurry, don’t try to squeeze in a quick purchase!
(Melanie Behrens – melb@marysvillejt.com)



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