December 15, 2006

The tills they are a-ringin'

This is the cheerful chappy who helped me spend my last 50p last night at the Tesco on Bishopsgate. He is the resident whipmaster for the self-service checkout that now greets shoppers at the newly hi-tech store.
I only wanted to buy a newspaper so, being something of an old fart, chose to queue at the tobacco counter because there happened to be a human being behind it.
Unfortunately she was dealing with one of those city oiks (probably one of those £2m Xmas bonus recipients) who was trying to buy a box of matches with his American Express card. It would have been quicker to buy a house.
In the olden days, I would have waved my paper at the human(s), plonked the correct change on the counter, and scarpered. Bear in mind I was eager to move quickly to catch the last Vomit Comet train from Liverpool Street Station, so speed was of the essence.
Waving my 50p extravagantly at the tobacconist earned me a tap on the shoulder from the whipmaster, who directed me to the till. Too impatient to work out how to use the wretched device (this was straight after the agency Xmas party), I uttered a phrase in Greek in order to pretend I was not of this nation and couldn't read English. The whipmaster efficiently passed my Evening Standard through the brains of the machine and, three minutes later, I was on my way.
Is this progress? Tesco is the UK's biggest retailer. For every £7 spent in the high street, Tesco takes £1, such is its power. It has been blamed for the demise of the small independent retailers that used to be present on every high street and, not content with that, is now targeting the very people who work for it by replacing them with these machines.
If there were a rival, human-operated supermarket alongside this Tesco, I would have gone there instead.


Jetpacks said...

Got into town late yesterday, traffic hell, wife and I wondering what to eat for dinner. Stopped at the local Albertons's (not quite a Tesco, but making a dent in the supermarket market) and self-checked some sushi.

Getting in the car, we grudingly accepted the notion that in ten year's time, self-check will be the norm. Seems you Brits are always ahead of us.

Whipmaster. Excellent.

greencan said...

I confess, I have more than once rang up my own groceries. Unless I had fruit/veggies that had to be weighed, then you have to stand in line. Oh, and if you have liquor, you have to stand in line. And if you have a coupon, you move your bag too soon, or it doesn't read your card, you have to wait for help from someone who is not yet a high-school graduate, who looks at you like you're an idiot. It's great, isn't it?

FishNChimps said...

But it ain't convenience. It may make life easier for the retailers' beancounters, but I reckon that it may (ironically) help the little stores.