#oneaday Day 976: An Open Letter to the Robot Lady Who Lives in the Sainsbury’s Self-Checkout Machines

Dear Robot Lady who lives in the Sainsbury’s self-checkout machines,

I’m sorry to write to you out of the blue — and so publicly, too — but no longer can I go on with my life and our relationship without saying something.

It’s not you, it’s me. No, wait, it is you.

I know you’re just doing your job. I know you’re just reading the things that the nice people who pay your wages — do robots get wages? — tell you to read, but seriously. I know how to use you by now. I know that I jiggle the things I want to buy over your scanny bit until you go “bip!” and then I put them in a bag, and then I repeat the process until I want to pay. Then I put my card in and type in my number and we’re all done. Then I go home and cook and/or eat the things I’ve paid you for.

This is all fine. You should know by now that I’m fine with this, as indeed are most of the people who avail themselves of your services.

So why are you so needy?

“Unexpected item in bagging area,” you say as I put the item I’ve just told you to expect in said bagging area. “Checking item weight,” you’ll retort as I put an item that isn’t sold by weight into the bagging area. “Approval needed,” you’ll helpfully inform me as I put an age-restricted product into the bagging area.

Why must you do this to me? I came to you because of your promises of efficiency; of not having to wait behind the old grandma who has bought fifteen thousand tins of dog food and a microwaveable corned beef hash; of not having to make small talk with a cashier who has to have a piece of paper taped to their console saying “SAY HELLO, THANK FOR WAITING, ASK HOW THEY ARE” in order to remember how to have a genuine interaction with another human being. I came to you because I thought you could help me and that you could ensure the whole miserable process of shopping in a supermarket is dealt with as quickly as possible. But you taunt me, you wound me by forcing me to stand around waiting for someone in a Sainsbury’s fleece to notice the big flashing red light above my head — that light that seems to imply ha! this person fucked something up! HELP!

Your lack of faith in me is disturbing. Why can’t you trust me? What have I ever done to you? I push all your buttons with loving care and attention and still you can’t trust me. I’ve bought everything from a big slab of meat to a basket full of blind-bag My Little Pony figures from you, so you know I trust you. At least I did. Now I’m not so sure. Now all I want to do as soon as I see you is press your volume button until your voice goes quiet. Still you mock me from your screen, but at least I don’t have to hear your voice any more. At least I don’t have to deal with you talking at me just slightly too slowly and calmly to be comfortable. At least I don’t have to put up with you telling me to do things I’m already doing. Your friends over at Tesco and Asda don’t patronise me anywhere near as much. So why must you mock me, you damnable machine? Why?

We could have had something. Something special. But no. I’m sorry. This is it. No more.

Oh, what am I saying? I know I’ll be back. I always am. I need you. I don’t want to admit it, but I do. Together forever, enraptured in a relationship of mutual disdain, our lives pressing ever onward until our inevitable demise. I might buy some sushi from you tomorrow, or possibly a muffin. It doesn’t really matter. Nothing really matters. Nothing except your cold, heartless slavery to the capitalist machine, and my ever-present need to buy food from you and then eat it.



Published by

Pete Davison

Southampton-based music teacher, writer and enthusiast of Japanese popular culture.

2 thoughts on “#oneaday Day 976: An Open Letter to the Robot Lady Who Lives in the Sainsbury’s Self-Checkout Machines”

  1. Haha. One of the grocery stores I worked at had self-checkout and it never worked. It also required someone to stand at a terminal constantly and approve everyone, but only when it was working, which as I stated, was never. The only time I’ve had a good experience with them is at the Home Depot, a place I seldom visit. But when I do, it’s usually for one specific item, and it’s nice to know that I can buy for that item quite quickly, and get out. Which is the point of these devices.

  2. We had 3 ‘approval needed’ incidents the other day. We had one basket of shopping an no alcohol. It was down to ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’ or ‘did you remove something from the bagging area?’ Had I been in a hurry, I would have been pretty peeved.

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