• Alex

The 100m Self-Service Sprint

Updated: Jan 15

13 seconds.


I’m quite proud of that number. I’m prouder of it than I have any right to be.


The reason for that pride?


13 seconds is the fastest I have managed to purchase a meal deal at a self-service checkout.


Please hold your applause. Honestly. I know that you appreciate the fact that when faced with a simple interface and a bar code scanner I don’t turn into a confused idiot vaguely stabbing at a touchscreen.


I’ve never had trouble with self-service checkouts. In fact, when they were first implemented, I was overjoyed. An excuse not to have to interact with people? Sign me up!


Yet over the years of using them I have become strangely, almost intensely, competitive when it comes to completing my purchased in the quickest time possible.


There’s a reason why I mentioned the time in relation to a meal deal. A meal deal is probably the perfect purchase when it comes to measuring self-service speed: Three different items, with varying barcode positioning, and of various weights. Anyone can buy a single yoghurt quickly, but it takes true finesse to speed-scan a meal deal.


I’m convinced with Tokyo 2020 on the horizon we are missing a trick here. Competitive self-service scanning is the Olympic Event we’ve all been waiting for.


Think about it: the drama, the emotion, the unexpected items in the bagging area.


You’d be surprised how tactical a self-service scan can be.


The older Tesco NCR machines need time to complete deals after you’ve scanned. Those extra few seconds are precious, especially when you’re jabbing at the “finish and pay” button.


Most newer machines don’t require you to press the “contactless” button to make your payment, which can shave valuable time when you have a queue of irritable builders trying to buy 1 litre bottles of Lucozade behind you.


For a time, the single-monitor self-scanners were a dream. Without the scales you could breeze through the buying process, knowing that an unexpected weight or light breeze wouldn’t set off that dreaded unexpected item alarm.


I imagine they started installing scales again because people were nicking stuff. Which is just utterly thoughtless. Why don’t people think about the repercussions on the competitive self-scanning communities when these decisions are made?


You also start subconsciously judging other peoples’ purchases. “Oof, they’ve gone for a lime, that’ll be hard to find in the fruit section” or “is that a mini-baguette? Good luck trying to differentiate between that and the full size one mate”.


If you’ve made it to the bottom of this post without losing what small respect you had for me then I recommend you give it a go. It certainly makes those 10 minutes of your lunch break fly by. Soon you too could be an amateur self-scan Olympian. Make your country proud.


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©2019 by Alexander Hamilton.

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