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Self-Checkout Self-Help

by Jane Wangersky | July 27th, 2010 | Shopping Secrets
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The self-checkouts that have appeared in the local supermarkets caught me at an awkward age — too old to get the hang of new technology quickly, too young to be unembarrassed when I needed help. I’ve lost track of how many times I had to push the help button on these gadgets, or the machine itself somehow signaled to the store staff and a clerk, usually very young, appeared to straighten things out.

Yes, it was embarrassing. But on the upside, every time it happened I learned something about self-checkouts. For example:

  • Go slowly the first several dozen times. It’s your best chance of getting it right, and it’s not as if people are usually lined up for these checkouts.
  • Don’t scan points cards or anything else before you’re prompted to.
  • If you’re paying with a gift card, save it till the end — don’t scan it in with your coupons or whatever.
  • Yes, you can weigh and price your own produce. Just put it on the scanner, find the keypad, and key in the number on the produce’s sticker. If it has none (it’s hard to put stickers on cherries, after all), note the PLU code on the produce’s sign when you first pick it up.
  • The machine will decide there’s an “unexpected item in bagging area” even if the strap of your purse just rests there for a moment.
  • Some, but not all, self-checkouts give you the option of paying with debit and getting extra cash at the same time.
  • If you’re getting change, you may have to hunt around for it. The machine may dispense your bills right under the scanner, but coins into a holder way off to one side.

Take it slowly, and soon you’ll know everything you need to.

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