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Two weeks ago, celebrity ‘chef’ Antony Worrall Thompson was arrested for stealing.  “Ready, Steady, Crook” said The Sun.  As the story gathered momentum, we learnt that ‘cheese and wine’ were his must-have items and ‘Tesco’s’, the scene of the crime.

AWT owns four restaurants so it does beg the question – why not just steal from one of them?  Surely the face of “Gluten Free Beef Instant Gravy Powder” and “Organic Yeast Free Gluten Free Vegetable Stock Cubes” (not a joke) can afford to buy his own Dairylea and Lambrini?

The story continued to fox me – until I read this sentence: “staff saw him slipping goods into bags in the self-checkout area without paying for them.”

Ah, Antony.  I may think you’re food is filthy (and I’ve never particularly liked your beard either) but on this point, I sympathise.  For what can possibly push someone to within an inch of their sanity more so than a self-checkout machine?

Granted, it’s not always been this way. Back at the beginning, I defy anyone not to have taken a small amount of pleasure from scanning their own shopping.

‘Look at me,’ we thought, ‘I’m playing at shops!’

Yes it was all a bit confusing – a bit nerve wrecking – but we can’t deny our earliest experience of the self-checkout wasn’t just a little exciting. 

That was Day One – the honeymoon period.  Day Two – we were filing for divorce.

Mine came about like this:

I was late.  I needed cheese and well, since I can’t remember the other thing I needed, I’ll just say it was wine.

Earlier on in the day, supermarket staff had decided to play Product Tetris, a thrilling game where the shop’s layout is turned upside down for no apparent reason.  I am human, and like most, feel comfortable when I know where things are.  This sort of change is unsettling.  I think I’ve gone crazy when I discover the dairy section is now full of fish.  I then frantically start scouring the shop, in manner of crazed contestant for imaginary game show: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest Meets Supermarket Sweep.

I tired of this pretty quickly, so gave up and asked someone.  I then asked someone else as, again being human, I hadn’t actually listened the first time round.

Wares in hand, I headed towards the ‘Pay This Way’ and joined a long queue.  Normally I’d pick the shortest one, but in supermarkets, I just abandon all reason.  20 people had opted for the self-checkout, which clearly means they know something the others don’t.

Crawling my way to the front, I stared at the random selection of snacks strategically placed en route to ‘tempt me’ along my way.  ‘A bag of dried fruit dipped in bird shit, for you?’  No thanks.

And so I arrived at my allotted self-checkout.

 [Press Start]

Please scan your item. 


Please place your item in the bagging area.

Hurriedly, I tried to ‘de-static’ a plastic bag – a ferocious battle which requires you to abandon all propriety and basically spit on everything, but once that was over, in went the cheese.

Please place your item in the bagging area.  Please place your item in the bagging area.

‘It is in the bagging area.’ 

Against the clock now, I retrieved the wodge of chedder and dropped it down again with force. 


Unexpected item in the bagging area.  Remove this item before continuing.

‘Fuck it,’ I thought.  It’s already been scanned, so I shoved it aside.

Unexpected item in the bagging area.   Remove this item before continuing.

I stabbed at some buttons.

*** TRLING – Please Wait for Assistance ***

Over plodded a man.  I tried to explain but he didn’t care.  He swiped something, typed something, and plodded off again.

I picked up the next product and, with arm outstretched, was fully prepared for the swiping when:

Please place the item in the bagging area.

‘What, before I’ve even scanned it?  Great, I can steal!  Fine by me…’

Unexpected item in the bagging area…

‘There’s nothing IN the bagging area.’

 …Remove this item before continuing.

‘Right, let’s try the wine instead shall we, really shake things up a bit…’


*** TRLING – Please Wait For Assistance ***

‘You’re having a…’

Mam, do you have any I -’


I faffed around for a passport, there was more swiping and typing before finally I had the last item in sight.

‘Come on…’ I thought to myself.  ‘Through you go, brie [Beep] into the bag [SWOOP] just need to press the ‘Finish and Pay’ and Im outta here…’

Please place the item in the bagging area

‘Oh, for F&%#’s SAKE’

With gritted teeth and a twitching eye, veins popping out of my neck about ready to burst, I did what most normal people would do and got physical.


The machine didn’t like this at all.

Unexpected item in the, in the, UNEXPECTED – BAGGING – unexpected item in the – BAGGING, BAGGING

I must have had nervous breakdown, for I suddenly heard someone wail ‘ASSISTANCE, ASSISTAAAAANCE’.  It took a while for me to realise that the ‘someone’ was me – and I was curled up on the floor in the foetal position.

My marriage to the self-checkout ended there. 

We’re now on non-speaks.  If we ever come into contact, I just ignore what it has to say and hail an assistant.  Unlike AWT, I didn’t get any free goods in the settlement, but then again, at least I wasn’t arrested.

by Beenie Langley