Thursday, January 31, 2008

Self check

“Have you seen these things?” asked Jay Leno in a recent monolog on The Tonight Show. “Self-check scanners at the supermarket? You check out your own groceries.”
They call it sharing technology, he said.
“We used to call it ‘a job’ -- what are they going to do next ‘Breakage in Aisle 7 – everyone grab a mop, come on …’”
I have seen the self-checks -- they’ve been around for a while now. I’ve even used them. They are nifty little check out stations where the customer is permitted to scan the barcodes on their own items, and manually identify items such as fruits and vegetables (usually with a touch screen display), which are then weighed. Early on, I found them a boon -- when I had just a few things to buy, I’d be in and out of the store in no time at all, but Jay raises an important point: The shopper gets to do the work, but there is no pay.

The supermarket didn’t have to hire additional staff; just one monitor oversees about six self-check out stations in my store. So they save on salaries and benefits. The tradeoff is that I am willing to take time as a reward – a very important commodity, except the savings in time is disappearing.

This is a technology that has become a tad too popular. The lines for the self check are often very long, and even when they are not they can be deceptive. A short line to get at one of the machines may require a long wait when a novice hits a glitch and requires the monitor’s assistance.

So, I’m wondering why, if the supermarket wants me to do the work, why it isn’t time that I be given a raise – say in the form of an incentive. Perhaps shoppers who use these machines could get some cents off some of the products scanned, or a few percent off the overall amount of the order.

Surely, a worker is due his pay.

Patricia Mack

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