This morning in my local supermarket I was approached by a woman who wanted to demonstrate the new scanner gadget which allows the customer to scan their own goods instead of waiting in the queue for the cashier to do it at the checkout.  I’m afraid I was rather hostile and said, “But what about the workers?”  The woman said, “Ah, no – no-one will be losing their jobs as a result of this.”  I said, “But they will eventually, won’t they?”  I’m afraid I didn’t stick around to hear more.  I felt a bit guilty for being short with her – after all, she was only doing her job – but other people were ignoring her completely, which was worse.

As I did my shopping, I pondered why I was so against these particular gadgets when I had just quite happily used “pay-at-pump” at the petrol station.  But the two are, I think, sufficiently distinct – at the petrol station, there’s only one guy behind the counter anyway, and he still has a valid role serving those customers who buy sundry goods from the shop or who want to pay by cash.  But at the supermarket, surely some cashiers will lose their jobs if these hand-held scanners take off.

Another reason for my unwillingness to embrace this new technology is a mild sense of resentment that, as a customer using the scanner, I would being doing the cashier’s job.  I recognise this as an opinion my father would probably hold, which is depressing in itself – it’s no use, try as you might, you can’t help turning into your parents. 

But I think what really depressed me about the whole thing was the way the woman said it would save me time.  Granted, I would be the first to admit time is precious, and spending it in the supermarket is to be avoided where possible, but honestly, shaving off the odd minute or two doesn’t sound like much of a deal. I hope time is never so short that it becomes impossible to stand for a moment in a queue and pass the time of day with other shoppers or have a joke with the cashier.  After all, isn’t that the sort of thing which makes us human?

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