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Self-checkout madness

I love a chat. I guess that's one of the reasons I've been a radio presenter for the best part of 22 years. I can make small talk with the best of them, much to the irritation of my wife Sofia, who really isn't a fan of empty platitudes about the weather and the price of olive oil. I suspect one Uber driver felt the same way about my witty asides at some stage, as my customer rating sits at a less than perfect 4.91 out of 5. If you're not familiar with the taxi app, drivers can rate you as a passenger, meaning one of them has marked me down and ruined my unblemished score.. Outrageous! I hope it wasn't someone I tipped.


Anyway, back to the burgeoning self-service  tills that are taking over, and I see that the Boots stores at Leeds railway station and White Rose Shopping Centre have recently ditched the quaint old-fashioned notion of serving their customers, and your only option now is to self-checkout. It's the same at a fair number of stores now, and in large supermarkets, there's rarely more than a couple of staffed tills open if you're lucky.


Last weekend, Sainsbury's had a huge IT issue which meant the majority of stores could only accept cash, and I witnessed one woman in my local store almost having a meltdown at the notion of having to walk to the cash machine and withdraw some money to pay for her shopping. The absolute horror that she couldn't tap her phone to pay! I had to stop myself intervening, as I really can't stand rudeness towards retail staff. I don't know how they stay patient with the general public barking at them all day, which is probably why I've never worked in a retail environment.


With so much reliance now on technology, I worry that more of these outages could occur in the future, and many people are losing the art of manners and civility. I put this at least partly down to our use of machines for everyday transactions. There was another report recently saying that robbing banks is going out of fashion. I'd hazard a guess that the getaway vehicle would run out of fuel before you found a branch that's open in the majority of town centres these days.


I recently cancelled my AA Breakdown Cover, after being left stranded in the middle of nowhere on a freezing cold Sunday night for over two hours, slowly turning to ice with no updates on the whereabouts of my knight in high-vis armour. I ended up having to get an Uber home (hopefully he wasn't the driver who marked me down, as my teeth were chattering too much from the cold to make any annoying small talk). Anyway, the AA website led me to a 'chatbot' and I ended up cancelling after almost a decade with them as a loyal customer, without ever speaking to a human being. This felt bizarre to me.


I wonder if people making online restaurant bookings and then not showing up for them is also linked to feeling less guilt when it's a machine, not a human, that's taken the booking. I also think social media should probably be switched off for a month, just to see how life feels without it.


Perhaps the conclusion of all of this is that I'm just a bit of a luddite who needs to get with the times. I'll never pay for anything with my watch, and I certainly have no desire to use Bitcoin. I don't even know what it is, to be frank with you.  Bring back more tills. And sorry to read that Booth's Hale Barns is closing on April 7th. Its real ale selection has always been terrific, and the staff lovely too.


End the self-checkout madness, and let's bring proper checkouts manned by people. Unexpected item in bagging area. Please remove this item before you continue.


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