stepford check-out girls

I know I’m not the only person who argues with the woman behind the automated check-out. You know the one. In Tesco and Morrison and most mainstream stores now: the disembodied voice that rattles off: “put the item in your bag” – or similar.

It is strange. I know that the staff who work at my local Tesco have gone the anthropomorphic route, imbuing the “person” behind the voice with a personality of her own and accusing her of being stroppy when she blatantly refuses to recognise a bar code, or claims I’ve not put an item in my bag when I have.

Still, I was going to write about how annoying the Morrisons voice was by comparison with Tesco. Was going to, that is, until a day or so back, when it seems that the Morrisons lady has been given a stern lecture and is now being decidedly more polite at her job.

The problem? Well, mostly it’s the timing. In Tesco, the voice – the lady – is slow to respond. If you rattle through scanning your groceries quickly, you’ll hardly hear from her. Or alternatively, you’ll keep shutting her up in mid-sentence: “Put the item in. . . ”. “Put the. . . “. “Put. . .”.

She must get very frustrated.

On the other hand, the Morrisons lady was just the opposite. No sooner had you scanned something than she was nagging at you. “Put the item in the bag”. I know, I know, I’d mutter – and sometimes speak out loud. Just shut up!

Definitely irritating: like having a demented maiden aunt hovering behind your shoulder as you tried to check out.

And the member of staff who was there to help knew it too – was often embarrassed by the pace.

Does anyone check such things? I’d like to imagine that Morrisons has an operational team somewhere researching customer attitudes and determining the optimum pace at which to time their mechanised voice. Though if that is so, it leaves me with a very low view of the average Morrisons customer.

Apparently so dim that, if they are not constantly badgered, they will forget what they are about. Er (caveman style): item go beep. Now what? Oh. Put de item in de bag. Thanks, lady!

Nah. Not even Morrisons customers…

And besides, I was heartened, a few days back, to discover that the Morrisons lady had now chilled. . . had cut her pace back to a far sensibler rate and even turned the volume down. Perhaps someone in Morrisons ops finally twigged and she got dispatched to the precincts of “Ladette to lady” for a few much-needed elocution lessons.

We shall see – though tis definitely improvement.

That, though, now leaves the Tesco lady the villainess of the piece. Not most of the time, but towards the end of the process, when her slow-on-the-uptakeness is a constant irritant.

“Put your card in the reader”. I have!

“Now input you PIN number”. FFS, you dozy bint! I did that five seconds ago.

“Remove your shopping”. {sigh!}

Isn’t supermarket shopping exciting?



8 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    bobette said,

    The women in our lift used to be very strident, but is now quieter and really quite resigned. I guess she has finally realised the awful futility of ‘lift going up’ and ‘lift going down’. Those checkout voices have a lot more fun..

  2. 2

    Rebecca said,

    You’ve not yet found the button to turn the voice off, then?

  3. 4

    Jenny said,

    The Morrisons lady was very bossy this morning, especially when I didn’t put my shopping in promptly “please take the item out of the bag”. Just to annoy her I didn’t and waited until the assistant came over.

    The most annoying I’ve had to listen to though is one of the lifts in Bristol Children Hospital which has Wallace and Gromit telling you which floor you’ve arrived on. If I have to listen to Wallace tell me that we’ve arrived on “the yellow floor, the colour of cheese” once more I’ll scream!

  4. 5

    Lois said,

    I constantly answer the flaming things back. I also know of a lift who I’m sure is voiced by Marvin the paranoid android of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame. He always sounds terribly depressed!!

  5. 6

    Lois said,

    see, they drive you mad!! I just referred to a lift as ‘who’!!

  6. 7

    Jenny Kirk said,

    I always hated the excitement with which the man somewhere in the black box gubbins of Securicore vans would belt out “Caution, Securicore vehicle, reversing!” I mean, he sounded like it was the highlight of his day saying it and that he was really chuffed that this vehicle was choosing to reverse and let him say it.

  7. 8

    Angela Davis said,

    The android at our B&Q must be related to the ones at Tesco as she’s easy to beat and cut off in mid-sentence. Last week I confused her…

    “Put your item in the bag”
    I already had, so I threw in my purse to shut her up. Big mistake. When I came to pay I tried to recover my purse and was soundly told to return it because I had not completed my transaction.


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