Unexpected item in the bagging area. Approval needed. Approval needed. Approval needed. Approval needed.
I decided a few months ago to shun the so-called fast lanes in supermarkets because they’re not fast, and they do people out of jobs. But then some people deserve the sack anyway. In No Ideas, I made clear my feelings on ubiquitous newsagents WH Smith. After a long tour, heading for blessèd home, I was completely ignored in one of their Heathrow outlets. I wrote:
Cup of tea. I’m home.
Before I could truly relax I had a thought to purge: WH Smith cunts.
That was 2012.
Now just the other day I was in Terminal 5, heading to LA with Bloc Party. Despite the little voice in my head telling me to avoid them, I entered WH Smith and grabbed a packet of crisps. There were three automated checkout robot things, and one proper till. Naturally of the three robots, only one was operational, and the till was unmanned.
There was one guy.
And he just stood around making sure everyone used the single functioning robot.
Beep I scan my crisps
Beep No I’m not using any of your bags
Beep No I haven’t brought my own bag
Beep Seriously no bag it’s a packet of crisps for fuck sake
Beep Please scan your boarding card
I’ve read about this. WH Smith want to know my destination so they can determine whether or not they can claim duty back on my purchase. They don’t pass any saving on to me, so screw them, they’re not getting my boarding pass. But how do I tell the robot I refuse to conform? It’s not letting me skip the request.
So I turn to the human.
I’m trying to be nice, holding back feelings of revulsion for this soulless monetary exchange.
I roll my eyes at the machine. I say to the guy ‘Do I really have to give it my card?’
He says ‘You tell me.’
He actually said that. He needs the sack.
I said ‘Well I know you guys don’t need it, so uh…’ and I swivelled my wrist as if to say Get on with it.
He taps the screen and things happen, and he says ‘Are you travelling inside or outside Europe?’
In my head: Fuck you.
Out my mouth: ‘Outside.’
More screen taps, and I remain a cog in the wheel.
They can’t let it go. The machines have taken over.
I can confirm I still hate WH Smith.
You know who else I hate?
Game. The place that sells video games.
They’re doing a 3-for-2 deal. My son picks out three used games and joins the queue. At least they have actual people at tills. Son pays. THEN the till-guy goes in search of the discs. One’s missing. The transaction is already done, so now he needs to refund my son for the missing game.
He says to me ‘What’s your name sir?’
‘What do you need my name for? It was a cash deal.’
He answers something but it sounds like rubbish.
In my head: Fuck you. You take the cash first, THEN go looking for the merchandise, and now you want my details?
Out my mouth: ‘Leif Bodnar….’
I hate shopping so much now. You can’t even hand over cash without giving your life story. If this is the shape of retail today, you’re all getting nothing for Christmas. Or maybe it’s a good reminder to buy local and shun the corporate identity vampires.