Sunday, August 21, 2005

Home Depot Mistakes Me for Someone Who's Not Lazy

I've never seen this before, but it looks like Home Depot is taking do-it-yourself to a whole new level. It used to be that, after hoofing it through that whole hardware city they've got set up there, you could relax while a minimum-wage employee ran all your purchases past the checkout scanner. But these days, with modern technology and all, Home Depot's implemented a new self-serve checkout, the so-called "Fast-Last Checkout," which is only nine or ten times slower than the regular checkout.

There's two problems. The first is that it seems like people who buy things at Home Depot have never seen the inside of a supermarket, and they're totally flummoxed by the concept of wiping a barcode across a laser scanner. So we've got this one guy there who's buying like eighty-five wrenches and can't figure out how to pay for the first one. And the second problem is that, as hard as this is to believe, the machine is actually dumber than the under-educated humans it's replaced. It also has an attitude, which I've generally come to expect from those whose lives are devoted to shitty jobs, and it bosses you around. "Remove item from bagging zone," it says, even though I don't have any items in the bagging zone.

Now, to be fair, Home Depot did have a human cashier, but he was all the way down at the other end of the store, which is in another area code. Not that there wasn't a whole batallion of cash registers between the self-serve and him either, but it's pretty clear that these big chain stores are weaning us towards this transcendentalist ideal of self-reliance, where we fork over loads of cash to some mega-conglomerate in thanks for the opportunity to live more like our forefathers, who didn't have automatic robot vacuum cleaners or fancy Chinese food delivery.

But the thing is, I like my current level of indolence. Yes, when I was like six, I fantasized about playing with the laser scanner at the cash register — what'll happen if I tattoo a barcode on my hand and scan it? How much will I be worth? However, now I have better things to with my life than spend it arguing with a fickle checkout machine. Or at least, I'd like to get paid for that.