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PHOTO COURTESY SHUTTERSTOCK


I headed out to pick up some groceries last Friday at a local conglomerate who proudly guarantees, via a large outdoor banner, that on weekends, all cashes would be opened. Well silly me, it wasn’t the weekend. And while I stood waiting in a long line for the cashier to tally up my purchase, I glanced behind me – there were easily eight shoppers with full carts waiting – some patiently, some not so much. With only four cashes opened, shoppers had the choice to either wait in line or head over to the automated checkout, something I – and apparently a few other people – still refuse to do.

It’s no secret that store owners want people to use the self-checkout machines – we’re constantly being reminded by the public address system as we walk through the aisles, spending money in their establishment, that we should use the automated system. I’m making it a point not to. If the store owners would funnel some of those cashier salaries saved from self-checkout into lower food prices, I might consider using them but so far, I haven’t seen that happen.

I like dealing with people at the cash. I like the fact that this is a starting point for many young people trying to get some work experience. And I like keeping folks employed.

Besides groceries, I don’t spend a lot of time in retail outlets – I’m big on thrift stores. But I did venture into a certain Swedish home furnishings giant last Sunday to buy my son a bookshelf. And while I appreciate how automation keeps their inventory and day-to-day operations up to speed, I’m still not going to ring up my own purchase at a machine who really doesn’t care that I’m upset they’ve run out of vegetarian meatballs.

My bank recently implemented an automated system ‘in order to serve me better’ whereby instead of punching in a number for a wanted service, I’m prompted to just say what service/question/department I want. This is where another line is firmly drawn – I will not talk to a machine. My service fees alone should pay a real person’s annual salary. I default either to mumbling or swearing in Czechoslovakian until the machine gets fed up of asking me to repeat myself and transfers me over to an actual human.

The internet is full of helpful suggestions on how to reach a real person when you’re navigating your way through automated phone hell. I haven’t thoroughly vetted these tips but they make sense and are worth giving a try:

Dial 0. If that doesn’t work, hit the 0 key a bit more, up to 20 times. Or, hit the * or the # key four or more times to bypass the system, a trick created for some companies’ sales reps and technicians.

Swear. Drop a couple of F-bombs. Apparently the computerized system can’t take verbal abuse and will transfer you to a human.

One of my favourites is pretend you have a rotary phone. Don’t hit any keys at all, just wait in silence; someone will be forced to answer you.

I may be fighting a losing battle. Retailers seem to be embracing the automated checkout and some shoppers like its convenience and actually appreciate not having to interact with, yunno, people.

Implementing technology and automation is undeniably changing the way we spend our shopping dollars and I know the push towards self-checkout at my local grocery store has had an effect on me – because I won’t be shopping there anymore.