Place Your Item in The Bagging Area

by Lisa Scottoline

In these difficult times, it’s important to savor the victories.

And folks, we won!

What am I talking about?

That self-service checkouts are going to be scrapped at Walmart, Costco, and Wegmans.

We did it, gang!

We defeated Big Machine!

According to a news story I read, major chains are beginning to phase out self-service checkouts.

I’m declaring victory for all mankind.

Or at least people who never got the hang of self-checkout, like me.

There’s not a single time I’ve used self-checkout that I have not had to call over a cashier.

And believe me, I try to do it myself. I swipe my barcodes and look through twenty pictures of oranges to figure out the produce code for the ones I got, but it never works. And I get cranky, but try to hide it from the people in the line who are getting cranky but not trying to hide it.

They’re mad at me, and so am I.

Self-checkout breeds self-loathing.

Sometimes I avoid buying produce so I don’t have to look it up.

The day Bartlett pears grow barcodes, I’m in.

Plus I always wonder why we don’t just type in what we bought?

Like why give produce a number code when it already has a letter code, which is what we used to call a word.

After all, I can type ICEBERG before I can find 1928290.

Then nobody would have to remember anything.

But what do I know?

I’m just glad it’s over.

Goodbye to all that.

Because I always struggle with self-checkout, and in time I’ll give up and hit the REQUEST HELP button.


I wish life had a REQUEST HELP button.

I’d REQUEST HELP all day.

And then I wait for the cashier, always a ponytailed high-schooler trying to deal with middle-aged women who have plenty of agita but are dangerously low on estrogen.

Nowadays, I beat the system.

I hit REQUEST HELP as soon as I pull up.

It’s just more efficient.

I know I’ll need HELP, so why wait?

I eliminate the middle man.

Or the middle robot.

And then I slow-walk finding the code for broccoli rabe until the child cashier materializes and rattles it off.

This is why she has estrogen.

She needs to memorize produce codes.

Me, I have better things to do.

Netflix isn’t going to binge itself.

In the news story, it said that the stores are phasing out self-checkout because it has increased theft.

That’s surprises me.

If I’m going to shoplift, the shop is Cartier.

Tomatoes, I’ll pay for.

Reportedly, the reason they started self-checkout in the first place was because of Covid and also not everybody liked interacting with another person.

I don’t get that, either.

I love talking to people in stores.

My entire social life is Wegman’s.

At Costco, I hang out at the samples and pretend I’m at a cocktail party.

And the other day at CVS, I struck up a conversation with the guy at the self-checkout next to me.

I will not be defeated.

And neither will you.

We win!

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2023

Column Classic: You Say Tomato

by Lisa Scottoline

Did you hear about this?

I read in the newspaper that somebody noticed that red tomatoes sell better than greenish ones, so food engineers started changing the genetic makeup of tomatoes to make them redder, except that it also took out the taste.

I learned so much from this that I don’t know where to begin.

Number one, food has engineers?

I thought trains had engineers, and food had cooks.

I just went from choo-choo to chew-chew.

In fact, I thought you had to have an engine to have an engineer, but no.

If you ask me, this opens new job opportunities for engineers. For example, I see a lot of trees that could use a good engineer. They aren’t green enough, especially in fall, when they turn a lot of crazy colors that don’t match.

I mean, let’s be real. Yellow and red? Nobody looks good in yellow and red, except Ronald MacDonald.

He’s single for a reason.

Worse, in winter, the leaves on the trees actually fall off. That’s definitely an engineering problem. I feel pretty sure a tree engineer would fix that, no sweat.

Also, the sun. 

Don’t get me started on the sun. It’s supposed to be yellow, but it’s too bright to tell the color. In fact, it’s so bright that we have to buy dark glasses to even be around it.

Also, the sun is hot, which can be a bummer. It makes us feel listless and uncomfortable, then we have to turn on the air conditioning, or at least decide whether or not to, which can be a problematic choice for certain people, involving money and self-esteem, oddly intertwined.

Not that I know anyone like that.

And also in winter, the sky could use a good engineer. There are times when it changes from blue to a very boring whitish-gray, then actually breaks up and falls to the ground in tiny, cold pieces that we all have to clean up.

Needs work.

Sky engineers should get on it. It’s like the sky doesn’t even stay up, which is a major engineering defect. Cantilevers, buttressing, and scaffolding may be required, and lots of it.

Really, lots.

Or worse, sometimes the sky loses its blue color, turns gray, but doesn’t break up and fall to the ground, right after I spent hundreds of dollars on a green machine to help me clean up the pieces.

That’s a lot of green, even for a green machine.

Who knew that colors required so much engineering? If you ask me, green is the color most in need of engineering. I wish those engineers who were trying to fix the tomatoes would fix the economy, but never mind, what do I know?

Let’s move on to my second point.

Having been astounded to learn that tomatoes have engineers, I was also amazed to learn that they had genes, too.

Who knew tomatoes were so busy?

I grow tomatoes, and I haven’t given them the credit they deserve for their rich inner lives.

To be honest, I had no idea that food had genes, at all. Just like I thought you needed an engine to have an engineer, I thought you needed, like, blood and a heart to have genes.

It’s hard enough for me to remember that a tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable, but now I’m expected to know it has DNA, as well?

Bottom line, I’m bad at biology. Anyone who’s slept with me will tell you that.

But now we know that tomatoes have genes, this opens up new job opportunities, namely for actors. Think of all the new TV shows this could create, like CSI: Tomatoes, where they collect tomato DNA to catch the killer tomato.

In fact, we could have murders for every fruit, then spin it off to vegetables, too.

To Catch A Salad Shooter. 

© Copyright Lisa Scottoline