Self Serve Checkouts

24 08 2010

I read this amusing article in the Graudian today in defense of self serve checkouts

I, for one much prefer using the self serve checkouts. I don’t drive a car or have a family to feed (marvel at how sustainable my life is without even being aware of it) so I only have a basket to take and I prefer to be lost in my own little world with my headphones on rather than suffer the banalities of other people’s overheard conversations concerning which products they wish to purchase. Interacting with strangers isn’t on the high on my list of activities when I go shopping, there are times and places for taking the plunge and conversing with unknowns and a supermarket is not one of them. I don’t kid myself, it’s not a social occasion it’s a big warehouse full of things we need or desire.

I also like to be master of my own destiny, I don’t like other people interfering in my business, manhandling the things I’m buying or, judging me for the amount of reduced items I’m buying or the amount of lube so while I appreciate that some might like to have some subservient drone serving them I don’t.

If I could afford such a luxury I wouldn’t have a butler, I’d have a robot. When I drove a car I’d pump my own petrol rather than have some poor soul waiting out in the elements on the off hand chance the lord of the manor drives past in his Audi. I used the automatic car washer or the hose rather than the hand car wash because I don’t get off on having immigrants and prison leavers polish my beemer to inflate my ego.

I feel uncomfortable when being served food in a restaurant because deep down I know the waiter isn’t doing it because he wants to, like I was a guest around a friend’s house but because I’m paying him. Like a food prostitute.

So then I read the comments after the article, baring in mind your typical Guardian reader is supposedly a liberal, ethical individual (aside from all the ring wing refugees from the Time paywall who hate everything including life itself.)

What a bunch of whinging, incapable, stuck up little bitches they were!

Complaining of the challenge of having to use a self serve machine like it’s the most complex task that Man has ever faced yet referring to those who do the same thing for a living as grumpy teenagers who can’t do anything but shuffle their food in front them. Commentators wailed that they should be paid for having to scan their own damn shopping like it was the greatest indignity in the world yet in the same breath wanted worker drones to accept their lot in life and “serve” them like the good old days. They sounded more and more like Telegraph readers than those supposedly concerned with the well being a dignity of others.

They threatened to boycott supermarkets that had these infernal machines for the vile capitalists are taking away the jobs of the lesser classes whose simple minds could now only dream of the dignity that wearing a day-glo tabard and moving your arm repeatedly for eight hours would afford them.

Here’s a thing, many of our ancestors spent their whole lives toiling away in fields for the upper classes but then machines came along to do all that work. Yeah, it sucked that they didn’t have that job anymore but people were still needed to work those machines and there were jobs elsewhere which were better than being a peasant.

The history of employment has been one of machines taking over the backbreaking and soul destroying jobs that people have had to do and then moving upwards to more skilled jobs and having more free time to be a human being rather than a biological automaton. These transitions are never easy but does anybody really want to clean toilets or stack shelves all day? Wouldn’t it be more better for machines to do that instead and then for those people to do something more dignified that is worthy of the attentions of the human intellect?

I would reckon that very few of the anti-self serve commentators haven’t actually worked behind a supermarket till. I have and I can tell you that it’s a shit job which is both demeaning and pointless, not worthy of the attention of the miracle of nature that is a fully conscious human mind. If a machine can do it then so be it, the Machine doesn’t have hopes and dreams to be quashed by decades of repetitive mindless toil. Everybody needs something to do during the day but (most) people are capable of doing something more than moving objects in front of a laser for a living and than knowing their place beneath more “succesfull” people who stand over them with disdain,pity or complete indifference  while their purchases are scanned.

If you’re too lazy,simple,bad tempered or self important to use a self serve checkout don’t blame the machine or the company that put it there, look at the reflection in the display screen and blame that fool!