I hate self-checkout. I hate it so much that you’ll never convince me Satan himself wasn’t on the engineering design team.

My local market only opens one “manned by human” lane at a time. There are at least 67 people in line for the vacant-eyed teen cashier with the “I’m new and trying my best” badge on her smock. This forces me to self-checkout hell, because as much as I hate self-checkout, I hate waiting in line more.

Good people of Blogland, you don’t know me. I could give you some Fakey McFakerson malarkey about how laid back I am. Truth? I’m high strung (and that’s on one of my good days). When God passed out patience, I was bitching to management that He was taking too long. So, yeah, lines bring out my inner crazy girl, and let’s be real: my inner crazy girl doesn’t live far from the surface.

You never know where you’ll find writing inspiration. I spent 33 minutes of my life (I’ll never get those back) in line behind a graduate of the Michelle Duggar School of Fashion and her pack of small, unruly humans. As I stood there with my six-pack of melting Klondike bars and jumbo bottle of Chardonnay (which pretty much sums up my life right now), I watched her take her sweet ass time to scan 16 packages of cream cheese, four boxes of chocolate Ex-Lax and a large bag of Doritos, so I had plenty of time to catch up on my people-watching. As a result, I’m pleased to present brief descriptions and handling instructions for the four kinds of people you meet at self-checkout:

1. The Chatter
The Chatter feels obligated to engage in verbal tennis if he thinks you’ve acknowledged his existence. Don’t make eye contact. Awkward conversations with The Chatter usually start with something innocent like “nice weather” or “hey, your small human is ripping open those Little Debbies with his teeth.” In the event of accidental eye contact, respond with a vague “umm.” If you encounter persistence, sniff your armpits and loudly ask “is that me?” No guarantees your possible funk will deter The Chatter, so you might have to amp up the gross factor. If you can flatulate on demand, this may be the time to showcase your skills.

2. The Passive-Aggressive
The Passive-Aggressive has a PhD in Cashierology. Always behind you, she sighs loudly and rolls her eyes sky-high at the ineptitude of other shoppers. She’ll curse under her breath about those who take too long to locate the bar code on their ketchup. Those who dare to use the coupon scanner raise her blood pressure to the point where she needs medical intervention. And really, who doesn’t know to keep that coupon crap away from self-checkout at rush hour, hmm? Best tactic (if you dare) is direct eye contact combined with a frosty yet polite “is there a problem?” This will cause The Passive-Aggressive to retreat, although the eye rolling switches back on when you turn your back. Annoying but harmless, and she’s easily tuned out.

3. The Rebel
If the sign says “20 items or less,” girlfriend sneaks in at least 25. In her world, 16 yogurts are one item so she feels comfortable slapping 19 other things in to that basket. She possesses mad eye contact avoidance skills. She knows she’s breaking the rules but doesn’t give a rat’s ass. Attempts to confront the rebel are usually met with a sheepish but insincere “oops, I guess I miscounted.” That, or she’ll straight-up ignore you. Short of trying to find a store worker to deal with her checkout line sins (good luck with that) the best approach is to be able to correctly ID her in the first place and not get in line behind her. If that fails, make a fun game of uploading her picture to Instagram with a caption of #bitchcantcount.

4. The Novice
Always in front of you, The Novice has never seen a self-checkout. Whether or not she’s actually seen the inside of a grocery store may also be questionable. It will take 30 minutes and at least two calls for assistance from a live store employee to ring up two Lean Cuisines, a four-pack of toilet paper and a box of cereal. If she’s got produce in her basket, forget it and move on. Unless you’ve got unlimited time and patience to wait for her to figure out the “quick lookup” feature to weigh her bag of seedless grapes, you may want to consider your options. The drive through at McD’s might be looking good. Aside from suffering through the wait and resisting the urge to eye roll, maybe channel your inner Girl Scout and offer to help The Novice, hmm?

I think my Duggar Mom wannabe was in The Novice category, but she took it to a whole new level of weird. Not only did she stumble with the scanner, she’d hold up each one of her items and do a 360 degree examination. She appeared confused about why she was buying so much cream cheese and seemed genuinely flabbergasted that this stuff was in her basket in the first place. She’d stop periodically to give halfhearted correction to her unruly darlings who were making mincemeat out of the candy display and stuffing Cheerios up each other’s noses.

Ordinarily, I’d be mighty tempted to go Passive-Aggressive (either that or postal) on “she who rocks the prairie skirt and macramé vest,” but I was too busy wondering what the hell kind of concoction one would make with a boat load of cream cheese and chocolate laxatives. Now that’s gonna keep me up at night.


Jill writes about adoption, motherhood and midlife on her blog Ripped Jeans and Bifocals. She has a degree in social psychology that she uses to try and make sense out of the behavior of her husband and three children but it hasn't really helped so far. She enjoys dry humor and has a love/hate relationship with running. Her writing has also been featured on Huffington Post, Babble, Scary Mommy, In the Powder Room, and Mamalode. Jill is a BlogHer 2015 Voice of the Year and willingly answers any questions that end with “and would you like wine with that?” Hang out with Jill on Facebook. and Twitter.


  1. Amazing. Only when I’m out of my mind do I ever opt for the DIY Grocery Option. I do my very best and stand in front of those check outs and get sweaty as it robotically and repeatedly barks at me to “put item in bag.” GIVE ME A MINUTE, HELL MACHINE.

  2. I hate self checkout. the crap never scans for me, or I am too uncoordinated to get it to scan so I feel like an imbecile holding up a line. If I could make it work then it would be ok if there isn’t a big line since I hate dealing with real people at the cash register since most don’t give a poop about their job (or at least it seems that way)

    • I feel exactly the same way. I always dork up the scanning or some technical detail. I’m truly impatient, but my own bumbling with the equipment probably accounts for a lot of the time spent at self-checkout.

  3. I’m a #2 but I can’t stand other #2’s. So it’s usually best if I just avoid the self check-out altogether. That, and the fact that son pulls everything off the counter confusing the crap out of the machine. I’ve got the machine yelling at me, the employee who is paid to sit there and watch-but-not-help yelling at me, and my toddler ripping open a box of cereal. So, unfortunately, I’m just gonna step over to the long line and wait there like a sucker.

    • Yep. I find myself waiting in the long line more often than not. I might be a #2 but I got an F in Cashierology…

  4. Whenever my husband and I shop together, he suggests that we do self-check out even though it always ends in nothing but grief and I remind him of that fact every time we use it. Something inevitably can’t be scanned (even by UPC number) so the manager has to come and enter her code to clear something. When any weight shifts in the bag after we set something inside, the computer yells “PLEASE REMOVE THE LAST ITEM FROM THE BAG AND SCAN AGAIN!” in front of everybody. So we do, over and over because the weight is still not adding up correctly, until a manager has to come over to help us. Again.

    I swear, we’re not stupid people. He’s got a degree in electronics and we’ve both worked registers with scanners before, yet the self checkout beats us every single time. When I’m alone, even if I’m running into the store for just one thing, I’ll stand in line behind 3 people in the regular checkout before I’ll attempt a self-checkout.

    • Oh Alison, this sounds just like us. This IS us. The registers at the store we shop at spit out “self-checkout is easy to use” when the sensors register you’ve gotten a little bit close. I always want to yell “no it isn’t, bitch.”

  5. Jill, seeing that I was a professional bagger at Trader Joe’s for nearly five years, I really liked the self check-out. I mean, I’ll be honest, I’m bit of a show-off…but when you have a skill that unique/special/sacred, who doesn’t want to advertise to the world that you can not only scan and bag a cart full of groceries in less then three minutes, but also manage to NOT crush the eggs and bread? Yeah, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: PROFESSIONAL BAGGER. I’m a badass. Let me know if you want me to mail you one of my old TJ’s shirts for your next self-checkout adventure. xo Smash

Write A Comment

Pin It