Shopping At Sainsbury's

YESTERDAY I did it again. I convinced myself that going through the self check-out aisle in Sainsbury's in Barnstaple would be quicker than queuing behind a granny who wanted to pay her £25 bill in coins of the realm and the woman in dungarees with enough lentils and soya bean curd piled into her trolley to feed a field of people at Peterborough Green Festival.  

Will I never learn. 
For those of you who have given this facility a wide berth, let me explain. It sounds quick and easy. You take your packet of turkey twizzlers, 3lbs of lard and giant pack of oven chips and scan them through yourself. Insert your own bank card and, hey presto, you're done. 

Not so. 

I was told to place my bags in the bagging area. I placed them. A disembodied voice comes from the screen "unexpected item in the bagging area".  A loud voice. I felt like a shoplifter, except anyone could see that I had nothing at all in the bagging area except a few miserable looking carrier bags. I think it was trying to humiliate me because my "bag for life" (which incidentally, is what the Dearly Beloved sometimes calls me) was from Tesco.

An assistant comes and presses a few buttons and I'm away.

All goes swimmingly until I have the temerity to move a bag in the bagging area so I can reach another. Off it goes again: unexpected item in the bagging area. Back comes the assistant who presses those buttons and all is well. This happens three more times. By the third visit, the assistant's smile is beginning to fade and she starts to look sideways at me. Do I have a packet of frozen peas secreted about my person?

I'm scared. Will I have to submit to an intimate body search from a 25 stone security guard with dirty fingernails? But she gives me the benefit of the doubt and  I'm doing my impression of a checkout girl once more.

Now, occasionally you have to have an item verified. I've always assumed this is to check you are over 18 if you are buying alcohol, for example, or to stop a 14-year-old with a glazed expression on his spotty face from buying a pump action shotgun.

However... I had the temerity to buy a packet of teaspoons. Yes. Teaspoons. And I'm told to get the item verified.

The assistant who formerly had been giving me the once over, was now smiling.

"Goodness," she said. "I don't know what they think you're going to do with teaspoons. Maybe make a shank!"  Both of us look like respectable (-ish) women, well past the first flush of youth and have no business knowing anything about shanks (knives made in prison out of any bit of metal an inmate can lay his hands on, as I'm sure the less respectable of you will know).  

While she's 'verifying' my teaspoons/shanks we have a little chat about America's Toughest Prisons on Sky.  TV can be soooo educational!

So I finish my shopping at last, complete with the raw material for a shank or two. I wouldn't mind, but the teaspoons weren't even for me. They were my for my mother who is in her 90s. I don't think she'll be filing them down and sharpening them up. Not with her arthritis.

Bookmark and Share


  1. I've watched people on those scary self-serve scanner tills... I think they're a compromise between managers who thought they could save millions by getting us to do our own checkout work, and staff who could see the writing on the wall for their jobs. Result: a self-service system that requires twice as many staff to keep it moving as the old-style checkout ever did.

    I didn't know about shanks, though - thank you for that vital bit of information!

  2. I've seen them in action at Boots and , here in Holland , in the bigger supermarkets . The Boots variety already looked indicipherable enough for a bright young computer geek-y boy buying one bottle of Head And Shoulders ..... I won't attempt it all in Dutch .
    Shanks ? When did they supercede flick knives ?

  3. Those self service checkouts are great - when they work properly! ;)

  4. Don't have time to read your latest post right now. I love them so much that I keep them as the last thing I do because I know before I read it that I'm in for a TREAT!! Silly really. I'm dealing with the loss of my favorite site - Our Canada. They are taking it offline and all of us who love this site are really UPSET!!
    Read you later...

  5. I hate those self service tills. I always think they are there to do people out of a job but am intrigued by rachel's suggestion that this whole idea has been sabotaged by undercover staff. Anyway I have been tempted once or twice like you but never again. Took twice as long and made me three times as cross.

  6. As promised, I just read your FUNNY (at least 7 laughs) "Shopping At Sainsbury's". I sure wasn't disappointed this time either. I avoid the self-checkout stuff too. I tried it a few years ago and decided it was NOT for me! My particular store with the self-checkout had its own flaw - credit cards would never work unless you wrapped them in a plastic shopping bag, tried it at least 3 times, etc. This all happened about 5 years ago when I was "retired". I decided that I SHOULD LEARN how to use these machines or I'd be left behind in the 20th century. Now that I'm working again and don't have time to do anything but chores, I don't feel that I have to prove myself; so I just stand in line - suits me.

  7. Self-serve checkouts are a conspiracy to make me feel OLD!! I just had a bad experience again with these sinister things. I was at a huge Canadian chain trying to buy some vacuum bags. Easy? Hardly. There were lots of self-serve checkouts but were there any check out PEOPLE??? I stood in a line for ages only to find out just as I was getting close to the actual person that this line was for returns, nothing else. I would have thrown the bloody vacuum bags at the checker if I were not a nice polite Canadian.

  8. Too funny, been there, done that. Try the self check out at Boots, that will put you off for life. It is loud and never works.

    I have given you a tag for a Liebster award :) Not too much involved, don't worry.

  9. all that incredible action, work and effort and you have to pay for it! amazing.

  10. I've used them about 6 or 7 times now and last time I finally managed to get through on my own, without any assistance from a member of staff. I have never felt so proud!

  11. This is precisely why I refuse to use those self scanners. I always get the dinger...