Surely one of the greatest advancements in technology over the past decade or so has to be the self-checkout thingy at the grocery store. They are great: a ten or fifteen item limit (depending on the store), very little, if any, waiting time and you can swipe your credit card or fire in a $20 bill and off you go. What’s not to like? Sometimes, when things are particularly busy, one can end up waiting a minute or two in line. That’s okay: the wait in the regular lines is horrendous.
So it was, recently, that I had queued up for the self-checkout at the local grocery store. Even though it was busy, things were moving quickly through the line. Now, we all know the feeling of irritation bordering on insane rage we feel when someone has more items than are allowed in the express checkout lane. That is not what happened on this occasion. No, the item limit was not exceeded. The cause of irritation for those of us yearning for a quick exit was an unassuming gentleman who had only three items to scan. He scanned them, perhaps a little slowly and methodically, but three items didn’t take too long. This is where the plot thickens: after negotiating the payment screen, this fellow did not swipe a credit card, nor did he insert cash into the appropriate slot. No, our new friend decided that the best thing to do in the express self-checkout super-fast lane would be to write a check (that’s “cheque” in every other English-speaking country in the world) to pay for his three items.
As many of you can imagine, the writing of a check (cheque) takes an extraordinarily long time in relationship to the target amount of time each shopper is supposed to spend navigating the self-checkout. An extraordinarily long time. A really, really extraordinarily long time. The tide of shoppers swirled around our new friend as he stoically tried to find a clerk to help him pay by check (cheque). The rest of us finally made it through. It took an extra four minutes, which is, as anyone knows, an eternity when spent waiting in a self-checkout queue. A small group of us followed our new friend out into the parking lot to help him confirm that all four of his tires were in desperate need of air.
Then, we all went home and carried on with our lives, not giving this incident a second thought.
“But while a Youtube video of a man tripping over a dog and falling headfirst into a toilet can become wildly popular, carefully orchestrated and well-funded online advertising campaigns for politicians or Hollywood movies can fail outright – making it seem impossible to predict what will get traction in the wilds of cyberspace.”—Gregory Levey