The Thrill of the Checkout|Yuriko Mikami|KnowLedge World Network|Activities|KNOWLEDGE CAPITAL

  • 2016.12.13
  • The Thrill of the Checkout
The tedium of waiting in long lines at Italy’s post offices, banks, and government offices is an experience that has to be lived to be understood.

Almost all of these places have a number system nowadays, but twenty years ago, if you wanted to visit city hall, you’d have to gear up for a battle that was sure to take half a day. Stepping into an unairconditioned office in the hot summer to see a line to the desk even longer than you had imagined—and how nice if it actually were a line, more like a crush of people—the sight alone was enough to make you break into a sweat. I don’t know if it was the body heat rising off the people of Milan who had gone numb in the unmoving line, but the office only seemed to get hotter and hotter as you got elbowed by people who had lost their patience and snapped, got pushed and pulled and jostled, and repeatedly saw those who had come after you jumping ahead in line.  

Now, this same country has come up with a groundbreaking new system: self-checkout registers at supermarkets.

When you arrive at the entrance to the supermarket, you’re greeted by rows and rows of handheld terminals. Hold up your point card, and one of the terminals will be selected and respond. Grab it to start your shopping. Use the terminal to scan the barcodes on the items you select and then put them in your bag (there’s no need to use a basket). When you’re finished, take them to an unstaffed register and have it read your terminal to get your purchase information. Once the data is transferred, you go straight to the payment process.

    There are the occasional surprise inspections. Sometimes, when you get to the register to pay and go to upload your terminal data, you’ll get a message on the screen that says REREAD. When that happens, you have to go to the staffed register. There, the cashier re-scans all of the items in your shopping bag to make sure they match the data in your terminal. If your purchase data matches the register inspection, the cashier gives you an encouraging “Perfect!” and add points to your card.

You’re probably wondering what happens to people whose shopping data doesn’t match the cashier’s data from the register inspection.

Is there a penalty? Point reduction? Buzzer sound?
Nope. Nothing makes it particularly embarrassing at all.

The cashier doesn’t even give you a warning—they simply point out the discrepancy. You, don’t, however get the encouraging “Perfect!” or points on your card.

And the next time you shop, you’ll get a REREAD message again.
If you have a discrepancy on your second or third inspection, the supermarket confiscates your point card so that you can’t use the terminals to shop anymore.

Paying at the supermarket without having to wait in line at the register is like a thrilling game of Russian roulette. You have no idea when the inspection screen is going to pop up, so it adds a bit of excitement to the shopping experience. Just kidding—it’s actually no thrill at all. You just don’t want to get hit with the REREAD message when you’ve got a ton of purchases.

The new supermarket system lets you buy items and put them in your bag yourself, check out yourself… it’s an entirely self-driven shopping experience. Just don’t forget to wave goodbye and say “thank you” to yourself on the way out! 

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  • Yuriko Mikami
  • AgeDog (INU)
  • GenderFemale
  • JobMusician

A cellist based in Milan. Performs solo and ensemble concerts, as well as produces multi-style stage performances that combine theatrical shows, images, dances and live music.

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