Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Meijer and the well-oiled machine

it's not that I don't like humanity...I mean, obviously, I am human.

it is obvious isn't it?

at any rate, I subscribe to the belief that if something can be automated and un-befouled by a human's lack of sleep, drunkenness, union empowerment, frustration with spouse, lack of brain cells, etc. then DO IT! (caps are harsh, but at times, needful.) everywhere I turn these days there's a big push for the notion that "nothing can replace the human touch."

paah-leeea-zzze! this whole site chronicles the absurd and even craziness of humans and their, well, touch-ness.

don't get me wrong, there are areas of life where having a human to interact with is definitely worth any potential human frailty frustration. for instance, when you have a problem with your bank--that doesn't fall nicely into the phone's automated menu (which has recently changed) categories--yeah, knowing you can press zero at anytime and get a live person is nirvana.

but that example aside, doesn't life actually flow better without a bunch of humans mucking it up?

ahhh, yes. true, true young grasshopper. but never forget, all truths are universally reversed when one steps through the inexplicable, mystical automated doors at Meijer--the superstore.

recently my Meijer has put in more u-scan check-out lanes. no, not the 12 items or less kind, these new u-scans are "no limit" u-scans. think on that a moment--no limit u-scans.

at the risk of looking completely foolish, I'll admit at first I was wowed by this new improvement. visions of swift scan-n-go automated simplicity made my mouth salivate. my toes began to tingle with the vibrations of a well-oiled machine coming to life. Meijer was taking the 21st century by the horns--automating, improving, updating, and every other -ing verb that means progress! be gone warm milk and melted ice cream, be gone human error! Viva la machine! that French revolutionary side effect was soon followed by a puffed up super-ego (again, French influence) that I was going to be infinitely faster than the typical lackadaisical union cashier.

in short, the no limit u-scan set me up for a whopper slice of a humble pie.

first u-scan wake-up call: produce. do you have all the produce codes memorized? me either, and guess what? the remaining Meijer associates do have something that machines do not; a sick sense of humor. apparently, Meijer policy dictates that 1 out of 20 plums have the appropriate produce code sticker on it. yep, I seem to have chosen all non-stickered plums.

next: conveyor belt pile-up. while I'm still inwardly waving my revolutionary fist, pleased with the downfall of humanity at Meijer, and whizzing the upc bar codes across the laser, I happen to glance at the end of the conveyor belt. I watch the purple topped Meijer skim milk--gallon size--travel the multi-roller section of the conveyor belt at the speed of light and topple onto my loaf of butter split-top bread.

finally: bagging minus a bag-human (no sexism here). to my surprise and consternation--more consternation than surprise really--the no limit u-scan has only room for two bags at the end of the conveyor belt. so, try to keep up here, while I'm scanning, my items are bunching up at the bottom of the conveyor belt. even if I were to stop scanning and go bag my items, I would have to put the bags either on the bubonic plague laced linoleum floor (you never know!), or walk them over to my cart that is still full of no limit, non-purchased items! and as I have recently discovered, heaven forbid you should have an over eager u-scan customer after you. They start whizzing their items down the conveyor and suddenly your world is higgeldy-piggeldy! my very meaty steaks are suddenly touching someone else's vegan burgers. "not cool man, not cool." in all fairness to the "minds" behind Meijer, there is a built in arm to put between two customer's merchandise, but I swear you have to have a degree in crane operation, a hard hat, big belly and jeans that show your bum crack to figure out how to use it!

so here I am with three packed bags of groceries on each arm while I try to look up the produce codes, swipe the upc bar codes, desperate to get groceries out of my cart and onto the grocery destroying conveyor belt so I can then put full bags of groceries in my cart and not on the e-coli laced linoleum floor (you still never know!).

now my revolutionary fist-waving is loaded down with the weight of mutilated groceries, I'm begging the computer screen to accept my coupons and near tears when I see the solid green light above my lane number suddenly turn to a pulsing red light.

humble pie accepted and swallowed whole, I ask the Meijer human for help.

obviously, I am human.


  1. I once thought that doing your own check-out was cool. I mean, who doesn't want to be a cashier? Holy cow. I get so flustered! And I'm forever getting the warning, "ITEM NOT PLACED IN BAGGING AREA!" and an associate is right there breathing down my back checking to see what I've stolen. So, yeah . . . I'm leaving it to the professionals these days.

  2. Anonymous6:32 AM

    I actually Love the self checkout lanes. I have an anixety disorder and have had panic attacks while waiting in line with all my grocery's already piled on the convayer belt. And wanting to back up out of there. Feeling trapped sucks for me! So with that said, I feel so much more free when I can have the controll. I have actually left carts and walked out when the self scan isle's are under maintenence. I Need help I know. Kristine in Michigan.