I love Kmart, I love the reasonable prices, the kids’ craft, toys and clothes. But when it comes to paying, I absolutely hate Kmart. I walk out there shattered and mentally bruised and feeling like a criminal who has just barely escaped jail.
About two years ago, the powers that be, decided it was a good idea to shake up the entire Kmart layout. For some hairbrained reason that I will never understand, the discount department store shifted the cash registers to the middle of the store (why, oh why???) and moved everything else around too. After having a map of the Kmart layout ingrained in my brain, I was left lost and confused and bewildered by all the changes.
Gradually, very very gradually, I have been able to get to know which product is where, although I do sometimes walk around aimlessly trying to find that elusive item. But for the life of me, I just can’t get used to the whole process of paying.
Battle At the Checkouts
Firstly, there may only be one real person behind a checkout counter and unless you want to stand in a long queue for personal attention, there is no choice but to go into battle with the self-checkouts.
Now, I’m not altogether opposed to self-checkouts. I use them all the time with no issue at Woolies. But the Kmart self-checkouts are evil, housing vindictive robots, with the sole aim to send frazzled mums into an abyss of anger and frustration.
Firstly there are about 20 checkout machines stuffed in a tiny square, so before you even begin to beap your products, you’ve been jammed by at least two trolleys trying to squeeze by and knocked out by a passing basket or two. So nursing my throbbing shins, I take a deep breath and steel myself to start the laborious process of paying.
0.0000001 Of A Second
To kick off the process, you need to find the location of the bar-code, then make sure you get your product in the exact position so the infrared picks up the code. Then you’ve got literally half a micro-second to place the beaped item on the bagging shelf, before it starts yelling at you for not doing what you clearly should be doing. Faster…faster…faster!!!!
Once you’ve managed to successfully appease the machine, you continue the process. Out of nowhere, the machine starts yelling “Unexpected Item in the Bagging Area. Remove Item!” it threatens. The red light starts blazing on and off and I’m just waiting for a siren to start blaring. I look around – what the heck???? Ah, it’s my toddler son leaning on the bagging area platform. I scream at him to “STOP TOUCHING!” and then vow to never go shopping at Kmart with a child in tow…ever again!
After this mini-breakdown, I’m getting more frazzled and I accidentally scan a bunch of socks twice!! YEESH!! I madly signal for the assistant. She does all she can to ignore me (seriously!). I pretty much have to go up to her, grab her by the arm and bring her to my checkout area. She darts a suspicious look at me and my fidgety child and takes a long hard look over my goods, before voiding the extra item. Victory (well, at least a small one!)
By now there’s a delicate pyramid of products balancing precariously in the bagging area. Damn, I forgot my own bags again but I can’t even transfer my items to my trolley out of fear of self-checkout harassment. So the game of Jenga continues…. And then to my horror, I discover a big storage box which I clearly should have beaped first. I look at my mountain in the bagging area and look back at the box and just want to burst into tears with frustration.
But no, I am not going to be beaten!
I somehow manage to maneuver the box onto the scanning ledge, beap it and then with the precision of a snake stalking its prey, I very slowly place the box onto the hill of items on the bagging area. Pshew, I’d done it!
But then, as if in slow motion, the tower starts to topple and I watch in horror as my goods start spilling all over the ground. Disaster! I will the linoleum floor to open up and swallow me…but no such luck. The other shoppers avert their eyes or gaze at me with a mix of sympathy and “Thank goodness that’s not me!” looks.
That one single attendant was now attending to some older lady who was having major issues figuring out the system. I would have just picked myself up and started again, but the machine was going nuts. It thought I had escaped with all its beloved gear without paying and was about to alarm the armed guards.
Eventually, I get help from the somewhat grumpy helper and what felt like hours later, I managed to complete the transaction.
Run the Gauntlet Of the Kmart Gate Keeper
So all that remained was running the gauntlet of the suspicious Kmart gatekeeper at the exit who will release all sorts of hell if you don’t have your receipt on hand. Seasoned Kmart shoppers suggest that you don’t even make eye contact and walk out confidently before the staff member can even blink. But this time, my toddler had had enough and was having one of those mega tantrums as we made out way towards the doors. The gate guard targeted her infrared vision on me and I knew I was toast.
She demanded my receipt, ignoring my crazed kid, and dutifully counted each product before dismissing me with a nod. I was just about to let rip, at her, at the %$^%* self-checkout machines and the out-of-touch management team who came up with the ludicrous idea to make the payment process so torturous. But instead, I smashed my way out of the shop and wrote this article instead. I reckon my written words would have more power than screaming like a banshee.
Ok, vent over!
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