Saturday, July 11, 2009

Self Checking Out

People, I am still trying to decide if I want to beg off politics to the best of my ability for at least the next 40 years or so. Though that could involve moving to hermit mode... well, here's Edison for you again today. A cheeky economics lesson seems to me more entertaining than my vascillating over some weird dilemma.

Belt/Table Weight
On most modern check-out kiosks the weight of items placed on them is calculated and recorded. This allows a register to scan, weigh, and calculate the price of things like arrugula and pickled herring. If you are working with a register clerk, there isn’t much fun here. It’s hard to position your thumb on the scale at the right time. I have tried. Additionally, making something weigh more just isn’t in your financial interest. The fun here is at the self check-out kiosks.

Self Check-Out kiosks generally don’t weigh product for pricing. The weight function here is to note if something is placed on the register belt without being previously and successfully scanned. When you place something on the belt without first scanning it, you will get a happy, perky, and distinct message from the machine to the effect of “unscanned item on belt”. Then you need to rescan and sin no more. A couple of these perky messages will alert a floor walker, and you will get to meet them. They are also generally happy, perky, and distinct. They will instruct you on the use of a self check-out kiosk, and answer any other questions you may have about the store. I encourage open and lengthy diatribes with them, although most don’t seem well-versed in comparative spiritualistic topics. They generally can, however, tell you the location of important items like fruit loops, adult diapers, or for other things, about one might inquire with a straight face.

Self Check-out kiosks are nearly always designed to be approached from the right-hand side. Yes, I am aware that this is more ergonomically challenging for left-handed shoppers. The goal is to make shoppers step “more lively” by getting them to take items from the cart with their left hand, changing items to the other hand, and then scanning to their dominant or right hand. Yep, it’s actually quicker that way. They could add speed by placing a belt in front of the scanner so that the shopper wouldn’t have to dig back into the cart to pick-up each item. I suspect that equipment expense and equipment footprint are factors here. When I go to a self check-out kiosk after a WallyWorld “Coaching” session or a bad Elks Club Ritual, I often feel the need to ambulate like the village drunkard out of some early Irish novel. I often steady myself by placing my right hand on the belt to the left of me. If you do this too many times, you will be able to enquire of the perky and helpful floor walker about the “Unborn Pairs”, Advanced Alchemic Techniques, and Nilla Vanilla Wafers. They generally know where the cookies are.

Another really interesting phenomena (Rathbane, non, not na! Come on, man! Are you offending my grammatical OCD on purpose?) is the hybrid feature of scanning an item for its barcode, and then putting in a measurement other than weight for price calculation. I have found this most frequently at HomeboyDepot where they calculate lumber length. They also encourage you to cut your lumber in the store to “only the length you need”. They charge a little more if you don’t by straight lengths of the expensive trim woods, but I find it well worth the slight added expense. You do need to be a store employee to be allowed to use the big power saws; otherwise I would spend half the day making compound angle cuts on 2x4s just for fun. Didn’t someone want a new custom picture frame? They do, however, provide a hand miter saw and wooden miter box if you want to cut it yourself. This encourages me to several things. I like to test new hand miter saws before I even think about buying them. The provided hand miter saws are generally fairly dull from folks whacking through 2x stock and running the saw teeth across the metal frame of the miter cart. Dull saws are dangerous saws. ALWAYS inspect the saw first. If the saw, nearly always a cross-cut saw, seems dull to you, don’t use it. Ask someone for a replacement. They generally let you pick a “nice one” from the rack. If I don’t think the saw is quite sharp enough, I test its integrity but attempting to cut the metal miter cart. I have never seen one of their used saws than can effectively cut the cart, so when I’m done; all employees have agreed that the original saw was toast. Armed with this new high-end cross-cut hand miter saw, I go about cutting just the right lengths of wood that I needed. Last November I hand cut all of the pieces for a detailed Red Oak coffer including all of the detailed trim pieces at HomeboyDepot. It required three trips, to three different HomeboyDepots, just because of my time constraints. I also didn’t use any of the sections that had any imperfections. The register clerks weren’t sure how to measure the little pieces of quarter round trim pieces that were cut at 45 degree angles. They are trained, and recorded on security camera, to measure by feet and inches, and for calculations of straight cuts. I paid a little more for the materials, but had a flawless Red Oak Coffer. It was a true delight for the holidays. I may make some “Sugar Mold Candle Holders” for this coming holiday season.

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