Monday, November 26, 2007

You Have Purchased an Age-Restricted Item

She has a wonderful voice, that Nice Lady inside the Self-Checkout machine at the Purcellville Giant. A melodic voice, a mellifluous set of pipes. The fruity way she says "Welcome!" when you step up to the machine, a strange, slightly foreign-sounding lilt on the "l" that suggests hours and hours in the recording studio to get that "Welcome!" just right... Not sexy, not alluring, just...welcoming.


By this time I will have already scanned my Bonus Card, so it's always touchingly out of whack when she says, "If you have a Bonus Card, please scan it now." Way ahead of you, sister! But I love the darling, cheerful way she reassures me a second or two later, "Your Bonus Card has been accepted!" as if there had ever been any doubt, that I'm just so lucky today, I've just been accepted at the world's most exclusive club...

On she goes, the robotic nature of the prerecorded numbers being assembled inside the machine assuaged by that purring voice, both Mom and Not-Mom... "One...forty-two. Two...ninety-nine. Sixty...six...cents. Savings, thirty...two...cents." The word "savings" must also have been one they worked on for hours in the studio, to get just the right mixture of optimism tempered with congratulation that you -- yes you, you lucky, lucky bastard! -- have just saved thirty...two...cents! But it's not a cloying, phony-sounding congratulation, either. It strikes a perfect balance: Just great, great acting.

I have a definite order in which I scan things. If I'm buying beer or wine, I scan that first, to set in motion the pain-in-the-ass process of the ID check, which has to be done by the (human) attendant. Next, all the stuff with UPC bar-codes. This is the painless part of the process. I save the produce, which you can't scan in the UPC machine, for last. I do this for two reasons. First, looking up each item individually is annoyingly painstaking; you've been scanning 15 items a minute up till now, and tonight's salad alone will take twice that long. But I also save this task for last because the Nice Lady says some more wonderful things...

"Weigh your [Gala apples]... Move your [Gala apples] to the belt... Enter your [limes'] quantity and press 'Enter'... Move your [limes] to the belt..."

Some while ago, I was chatting with a youngster who was attending the Self-Checkout lines. A young man of obvious humor and intelligence, he allowed as to how he found Nice Lady's voice kinda sexy. I agreed warmly, and told him to wait just a second so he could hear her say my absolute, all-time favorite robotic Self-Checkout Nice Lady phrase. "All right, you ready? You listening? OK, here goes..."

"Move your [sweet onions] to the belt..."

We both howled.


Carl said...

Too bad you can't buy sausage that way.

Neddie said...

Yeah, I know! It's also a shame that she doesn't chirpily announce every product you buy that way...

"Move your [self-warming personal lubricant] to the belt..."

"Weigh your [prepackaged enema]..."

"Move your [pubic-lice insecticide] to the belt..."

Anonymous said...

It's odd. These automated checkouts haven't come to my part of California yet (the Bay Area). Usually the west coast is the trendsetter, but you're way ahead of us. Our check-out girls (rarely are they guys) don't always sound so perfectly rehearsed. By the way, are any of the recorded voices male?

Anonymous said...

Here in Western Mass, we get the same service at our local flop, Stop-N-Shop. I rarely use this place as the prices are way too high. They have a bit of a monopoly in our town because the next closest is 10 miles away.

Jarrett and I get a kick out of the self help line because of the warm welcome and the high we get when it's announced that we too have saved thirty two cents!! We have to restrain ourselves because the tone of her voice certainly makes you want to high five or jump in the air and do that crazy chest bump thing. My youngest is my grocery shopping buddy. He is truly the one that knows what remains in our cupboards because he's the one that eats everything! He also does a better job at bagging and doesn't smash the bread!

While continuing to provide the congratulatory slap on the back for being an experienced shopper and saving money, I'd like to hear something when it goes the other way. "Congratulations Ass ... you could have saved $2.50 on the $4.00 box of cereal if you'd gotten off your ass and driven to Amherst.

I've always gotten a kick out of using this serivce. Now I'll think of you everytime I hear her warm welcoming voice. I'm a proud card carrying member of their elite club.

Boldly Serving Up Wheat Grass said...

Here in Pittsburgh, the Giant brand is called Giant Eagle. I'm not sure if there's any kind of corporate relationship there. However, I'm fairly certain, based on your description, that the exact same superlatively friendly woman handles our self-checkouts.

The only time she's a bit of a bummer is when the bagging area gets congested and she says, "The bagging area is full..." You then have to go clear out the conveyor belt problem before continuing to scan. But I don't blame the nice lady; it's simply bad bagging-area design.

ps I've never bought an age-restricted item. Pennsylvania's a particularly vile example of what's known as a "nanny state." We're not allowed to purchase alcohol in grocery stores.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I'm thinking I need to change stores. The Self-Checkout Nice Lady Robot at my Safeway ain't so nice. In fact, she's quite the bitch; constantly nagging about the damn "bagging area".

'Please place item in the bagging area'

'Remove item from bagging area'

'Customer assistance needed'

Man, somebody shut her up

Neddie said...

Usually the west coast is the trendsetter, but you're way ahead of us.

Yes, and, come to think of it, it's quite possible that Cali hasn't gotten these things yet because your local grocers' unions are more powerful... Those things put people out of work...

By the way, are any of the recorded voices male?

Interestingly, no. I'm absolutely certain that a whole lot of careful market research went into the choice of the Nice Lady.

Congratulations Ass

I can hear her saying it! "Congratulations [Ass]..." You'll notice that you don't get the savings if you don't swipe your Bonus Card; I've started shopping at Bloom for the very reason that they don't keep a record of every purchase of booze or medicine.

Pennsylvania's a particularly vile example of what's known as a "nanny state." We're not allowed to purchase alcohol in grocery stores.

I get badly confused when I go across the Potomac to Brunswick, MD., another "nanny state." You have to buy any alcoholic bev. at a licensed liquor store. Very strange.

Anonymous said...

I hate those things! I figure if I'm going to do the cashier's job I should be getting a steep discount. No such luck.

But then I'm a cranky old guy. My twentysomething son loves them. He'd much rather deal with machines than people anyway.

Linkmeister said...

You neglected to mention that putting your produce last also means it's on top of the bag, thus avoiding the dreaded crushed banana.

Neddie said...

Boy, don't you just hate it when you banana gets crushed?

Jeremy said...

The one time The Squeeze and I tried this thing at the Harris Teeter in Crystal City, neither of us could get the stupid system to do anything sensible. We went back and forth between machine and man several times, giggling like skunked out teenagers at our ineptitude when confronted with the modern world. Reminded me of the old Groucho joke:

Why, this is so simple, a four-year old could understand it. I can't make head or tail of it. Get me a four-year old.

Will Divide said...

Ah, Clem! Ah, Firesign!

Sweet onions?? It must mean something fun, but I am old and someone has to tell me exactly.

Anonymous said...

...then it all changed on the day that Neddie walked up to the self checkout and, in between the normally cheerful tones, he heard, in whispers: " me... I don't know how I got here... someone turned me in to the Homeland Security people... I can't feel my body... if I don't sound cheerful I get a stimulation direct to my brain's pain center... let me out... help..."

Also relevant: Voice of the London Underground canned for blogging funny fake announcement audio. Killjoys.

Anonymous said...

the "Move your [Red Bell Pepper] to the belt" thing annoys me enough that i avoid, or grit my teeth while using, the self-checkout at Lowes. Harris Teeter's self checkout doesn't announce any of your items as you scan them, so i don't mind it, there.

but the age restricted stuff at Harris Teeter stalls the process until someone verifies your ID, so it doesn't matter when you scan your [Fat Bastard Merlot] - you can't do anything else.