The Machines are coming! But I wouldn't worry about them taking over the world, as early Sci-Fi writers used to postulate. If the U-Scan robotic checkout machines at your local supermarket are any indication, the robotic world is entering our consumer world with slow and halting steps.
I'd root for the grocery clerks whose jobs are being eaten up by this brand of machinery, but it's hard to get excited about these clerks, especialy when indifference seems to be their rule, not the exception, that drives their customer service efforts.
Maybe it would be better if the cashiers are replaced, but the present models of the self-service checkout equipment are batting zero.
I've used this equipment maybe thirty times since it came out several years ago, and the equipment has failed at least once each time. Usually it goes into the "pout" mode and calls the attendant, who, at my local Kroger outlet, has to monitor 12 of these surly machines.
The better attendants simply hit a reset key and let you start over, but some of them are failed teachers, I guess, and they just have to come over and lecture you on what you did wrong to provoke the machine's bad temper.
For example, the machines all require you (with a forceful voice command) to put a scanned item in the bag on the little bagging table. These bagging tables are fitted with a weight-sensor to tell if you complied. The sensors are usually out of adjustment, and don't respond to the little items very well, so they repeat their inane demand, then freeze the process and call the attendant.
If you've scanned the denture cream, why does the machine or the store care if you then put some on your loose dentures and the rest of the tube in your pocket? The store gets their dollars either way. Poor example. Let's take another light purchase, a package of condoms. No, maybe that isn't the best example, either. You get my drift.
Lastly, after all the hassle of bagging and scanning with the usual interruptions, comes paying. You have several ways to pay, from feeding cash into a reverse cash machine, to credit and debit card payment, and in Oregon, you may also pay with your welfare debit card.
I elect a credit card, so I can get my air miles ( I guess I'll have to plan a trip, since I've earned enough for two tickets to Timbuktu or points in between). The card-swiper for credit cards isn't the same one for debit cards, the idiots have to have two separate ones. The one for debit cards, which the chain likes, is outlined in bright paint and even has an LED light or two glowing on it. Credit cards must not be too popular with the store chain, though, because they hide the swiper for them under the lip of the cash acceptor, making it difficult to use, and it is painted the same flat beige as the rest of the equipment. You can't tell which is the stripe-side of the swiper. You have to experiment.
Two failed tries and you are required to discuss your lack of dexterity and omniscience with the attendant, again. Only this time, the strident voice (reminds me of a TSA baggage scanner's voice) commands you to haul the groceries you have just bagged over to the attendant's desk, to wait, apparently, to have your knuckles rapped by a wooden ruler.
Nope, no ruler. I have to sign a credit card receipt with my actual by-God signature because the groceries amounted to over $50. I snap. Totally lose my composure. I am armed with Snuffy, my .357 Ruger. I don't break leather, even though my hand craves the solace of that sharp kick of a cartridge firing. Not this time. No, this time I decide to absolutely annihilate the attendant.
I fix him with my most baleful stare as he thrusts the credit card receipt towards me, and in my best Parade-Ground voice, I ask him if this equipment ever works properly. He cavils like Neville Chamberlain quailing in front of Hitler in 1939, and asks me what went wrong. I let that question go unanswered, but just repeat my question. He hangs his head in defeat, his white apron a flag of surrender. I scrawl my signature on the offending document, pick up my two bags and head for the door.
Peace in our time, yowzir!