I like to try new things, stretch myself, experience the unusual. And, in the absence of something much more exciting at the moment, today I did try something for the first time. Grocery shopping needed doing, and I'd always wondered what the Scan and Shop devices that loads of people people seem to use were all about. The supermarket wasn't that busy so I decided to give it a go.
With no one around to ask, I watched another customer register - swiping in her 'loyalty card' and then picking up the scanner which lit up on a rack. So that was how to do it. Simple.
With no obvious big signs to tell me what to do next or what to expect, I just followed my instinct. After a few false starts I got the hang of the scanner device, which sat neatly in a specially devised cradle at the front of the trolley. I'd always thought that was there to hang my handbag on! The scanning and shopping went well. I felt quite proud of myself, and more importantly I could keep track of what I was spending. Excellent in these economically straightened times.
There were a couple of items which could not scan - loose fruit and so forth - but the little scanner device kindly informed me that these would be scanned at the till. Marvellous.
Trolley loaded, I approached a till. Unloaded all my items, as usual, onto the conveyor belt, and waited. Okay, so I should probably have been more observant at the front of the store by the Scanning Device Storage Unit and what I later discovered was a specially designated Scan and Shop area, but my excitement at trying this 'new' technology was rather overwhelming. I must have missed it.
I waited for my turn at the till. On approaching the very helpful staff member, I explained that I had one of these scanners and wondered what to do next. He wasn't quite sure - he doesn't often do the tills - so he turned to a colleague.
'Oh you can't pay here!' the woman said. 'There's the Scan and Shop area at the front. You have to go there!'
As all my shopping was on the conveyor belt by this time, all neatly ordered as usual for packing - fruit and veg, dried goods, cold stuff that needs going in a cooler bag, I asked the obvious question.
'Could I not just pay for it here?'
The woman at the next till, who by this time had ambled over to my area, was insistent. Absolutely not, my purchases were in the computer and it would all go horribly wrong if I didn't follow through with the system. I'd have been better off asking to alter the Space Time Continuum!
Now, it wasn't that I felt foolish - I was, after all, a Scan and Shop virgin. How was I to know how the system worked? But the woman who delivered the devastating news that I would have to pack up my little trolley again and trudge down to the Scan and Shop special area, obviously took me for a fool. No, a moron. How had I not been born with the knowledge of how to Scan and Shop? Somewhere something had been missing from my education.
Fortunately Michael, my original till person, was terribly apologetic and helped me restack my trolley.
So now I was back at Scan and Shop. First I checked to see what signs were actually up there. Yes, there were warnings displayed, although not prominently, I would say.
I entered the Scan and Shop area to discover that what I had let myself in for was actually 'self service' payment. But it wasn't as simple as that. It was self service with a twist! First, my scanning device needed 'priming' as this was my first time as a Scanner and Shopper. Then, of course, there were the loose items which I had not been able to scan - my single lemon, a bunch of bananas and some fresh broccoli.
So I did need assistance, after all. The staff member who helped me was very encouraging. She could, I believe, feel my frustration and pain. Well, actually I told her I thought the system was a bit mad and pointless ....and I quickly exited the store with all my items in a trolley, in no order, no bags packed, feeling rather inept. Apparently the idea is that you pack your bags as you go along! How was one to know? I've been grocery shopping all my adult life and this experience left me feeling like a novice!
How could the excitement of trying something new turn so disastrous? All I had wanted was a little difference in my life.
I darted to my car, where I surreptitiously packed my bags under cover of my boot / trunk. It was while doing this that I realised that there is a fundamental flaw in the system. What was there to stop Scanners and Shoppers popping a few additional items into their trolley without scanning? In my Tesco store it would have been easy to get away with an item of two unpaid for - not much checking was done at all on the number of items I had with me when I departed ever so quickly, head bowed in shame. Not that I would do that of course.... but ..... some might.
At least there were few people in the supermarket at the time to see my anguish and humiliation. Imagine the horror if I tried this for the first time on a Saturday when the shop is heaving with people, kids screaming for sweeties, parents getting hot under the collar with all the stress. They would have hated me in the Scan and Shop payment area, not knowing what I was doing and holding everything up!
So, despite the encouragement of that final assistant who helped me make sense of the Scan and Shop payment system, I have to say I think that I may go back to my usual practice of throwing items randomly into the trolley and standing in the queue for a till.
NO MORE SCAN AND SHOP FOR ME!
And if I want to keep track of the bill as I go along, perhaps next time I'll just take my handy little old-fashioned calculator !