I have my prescriptions and other necessities filled at a CVS not far from my work. Prescriptions are more common than other things, so I don’t have to go up front much. However, when I do, there are annoyed people in long lines at the self-checkout machines. There is one employee effectively manning the machines, because without fail something goes wrong; and one employee actually checking people out in human form. This annoys me to no end. One, I hate how automated our lives have become. I want a person to scan my items and smile and be done. Two, the machines often break or require help because obviously you can’t fix whatever is wrong yourself. Most recently, I bought a few things that I was going to simply place in my own bag. I was under the impression that I could push the button that said “Use My Own Bag” and then it would do all its little calculations and weights and whatever, and I could start. Error! The employee came over, said this machine could not do that, and asked me to take my bag off. I asked him if I would still get $0.05 off for using my own bag. He basically repeated what he’d said earlier. So I took my bag off, scanned my items, and carefully placed them on the awkward tray next to it. I almost reached for the “Use My Own Bag” button but decided against bothering with it. I might not even get the $0.05 off, since it’s not groceries? I don’t know.

But it really bothered me. In a tough economy, CVS is not only taking away jobs, they are making everyone else irritated. I can see it in the other customer’s eyes and body language. Shared rolled eyes. So I decided to write a complaint to CVS. This is what it said:

I often go to this CVS since it is near my office and is convenient for running errands and picking up prescriptions. I am continually frustrated by the self-checkout kiosks, as they result in longer lines, increased time, and annoyance when, frequently, they malfunction and a service rep has to come over and fix it anyway. On top of that, which shows poor customer service day-to-day, you have replaced people who need jobs with machines and frustration. The machines do not speed anything up – they often slow it down – and in a tough economy, people simply cannot be replaced like this. It’s absurd. Please reconsider having these self-checkouts in your stores, and bring back (faster) humans. Thank you.

I submitted this on September 5 and awaited a response, since I requested someone follow up with me. I got one today, September 10. While a decent effort – it’s clearly not entirely automated – they can’t exactly ensure it won’t happen again, since the whole point is that they are pretty much the only way to check out. Now, I get having half and half for the people who are fast by themselves, but not a near-total replacement.

Thank you for your e-mail. I am eager to respond. I am very sorry to hear about your experience with the self check out machine malfunctioning and causing long lines. Your comments have been recorded here and I have notified our front store operations team as well as the district and regional managers. We will take the appropriate action with the store to ensure there is no recurrence. Thank you again for sharing your comments with us. We value our customer’s constructive feedback. If you would like to discuss this matter further please contact us at 1-800-746-7287. We are available Monday through Friday 8:30 am – 7 pm ET.

Well. There is a link to reply to this email but I don’t know what else to say.

Do you like the self-checkout? If not, maybe you could also complain your local CVS, if they do this. Hmmm.