The most annoying thing in the world?

Okay, so I’ve written about this subject before (twice actually) and I apologize if this just sounds like an grumpy old git whinging about technology, but it infuriated me and this is my blog, so I’ll write about what I like.

This is a plea to WH Smith, for the love of any deity you want to go with, please, please, please get rid of the self service check outs.

I went in to Smith’s today to do some buy myself the latest Total Film and an iTunes voucher as a Christmas present, and there was quite a line for the human operated tills, probably because of people buying lottery tickets to try and snag the £44M EuroMillions jackpot.

So, I thought to myself “Sod this I’ll go against my principles, mistrust of technology and common sense and go on the self service”.

Here’s the thing, I can serve myself at a normal till, we all can, but they’ve made self service ones that make it needlessly complicated. I don’t mean to do anyone an insult but I’ve worked a counter before and I think for about 70% of the time I was there a brain scan would’ve shown I was technically asleep. It’s not a job that requires the keenest minds of our time, and given our current unemployment statistics there’d be no shortage of till jockeys out there.

But instead Smiths has ploughed money and wasted space on these self-service tills which just flat out don’t work. I mean, sure technological advancement is kind of a good thing, but this is an avenue that clearly isn’t working and sooner or later you’ve got to cut your losses.

They had four human tills, which were staffed by two people, meaning the lottery queue was getting pretty long, exacerbated by the fact that every three minutes RoboClerk would run into a problem and one of the staff would abandon their post, sort out the glitch and then hurry back.

Just open the other two tills and the queue would have vanished, two cats would’ve had a job and everyone’s happy.

As it was, I was punished for abandoning my principles by running head first into a brick wall of technological incompetence.

First of all, I scanned the voucher card and was told it couldn’t be put through on RoboClerk. This is when I should have cut my losses, but like Macbeth (thanks, Mrs Flowers!) I’d waded in too far and decided to just keep going, even though it meant that I’d have to join the mammoth queue anyway.

Why didn’t I? Because I’m an idiot.

So I scanned my copy of Total Film and it flashed up that I needed ID verification to prove I was old enough to read about The Hobbit.


I should have seen this coming, as I’ve been snared by this ridiculous age thing before with TF but I worked last night so I was a little frazzled.

The red light over my RoboClerk (I’m going to keep using that because I was rather pleased with it and want it to catch on) and I waited for one of the staff to hurry over and help me out.

And I waited.

And I waited some more.

Now, I already said that it was busy so I knew I’d need to wait but after a while I decided not to bother. So when it asked me if I wanted to abort I did and then it nagged me about needing to wait for assistance. At this point I was just about ready to rage against the machine, but instead I contented myself with a Kurt Russell style “Yeah, f**k you too!”

It took a few more minutes to finally pay and I had to deal with my cashier breaking off half way through to sort something for his colleague without so much as an “excuse me”.

So, here’s what I think WH Smith and other shops should do about the self-service checkouts.

  1. Get rid of them.
  2. Hire more staff so you can man the human tills, and train them a bit better.
  3. Stop Total Film from needing to be age verified, there’s nothing shocking in it and you’re depriving young film lovers from the best movie magazine. Also, when it asks for verification it makes me look like some kind of pervert.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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