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Issue 13/2006, August 10 2006 (No. 219)
German version
        
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The grocer's shop is just round the corner. Mr. Jones, the grocer, is a very polite man, who keeps the most delicious sweets. 'Hallo children, glad to see you! Just wait a minute, until I have packed up these groceries here.'
 
From the textbook 'Learning English A1' (about 1960)

The supermarket where we always go shopping has been facelifted. Among other innovations there are now checkout counters the customers are allowed to operate.
 
The new checkout counters consist of a wide display, a barcode scanner and a pair of scales. Animated graphics explain the process of collecting to the customer step by step. A machine-generated voice gives the customers instructions what to do. There is also a choice of instructions in English or in Turkish or in other languages.
 
It's quite simple to operate the checkout counter. The customer scans the barcode of the product in and puts the product into a plastic bag, which is hanging above the scale. The bottom of the bag is lying on the scale. When you put goods into the bag, they weight the scales. The weight of the product has been saved onto the memory of the checkout. This way the price and the weight of the scanned product are compared. If there is no barcode on the product, you can call up a menu which lists those products. In the end you can choose the method of payment. You can pay cash or pay with a credit card for example. If you cash, you have to put the coins in a shaft and to insert the notes into a slot. If you use the new checkout counters, you will probably carry a plastic bag out of the supermarket.
 

 
A receipt and a plastic bag (negative picture)
 
You have to pass through a barrier, when you leave the area of the check out counters. Right behind the barrier is a control terminal for these four new checkout counters. By means of these terminals a cashier is supervising the new checkouts. If there are any problems, she has an access to each checkout.
 
A few days ago I was in the supermarket again. I saw that the new checkout counters had crashed. The woman who was supervising the terminal of the checkouts told me that the system is serviced by remote control. The engineers who service the system are in Hannover. I took a look at the display of the terminal. As if by magic popup windows opened on the display. A mouse pointer was moved on the display.
 
There are of course furthermore checkouts which are operated by cashiers. A longstanding cashier told me that the company has hired four additional employees who operate or supervise the checkout counters. The longstanding cashiers, who are showing the customers how to operate the new checkouts, are like different persons now. A few weeks ago when they only had to scan in the barcodes of the products, they often gave the impression of being tired and listless. Now they are coming to life again.One day people will have got used to the new checkouts. People got also used to cash dispensers and ticket machines. In all cases people have taken on the jobs of employees such as the jobs of cashiers, bank employees or booking clerks.
 
I saw that there was a small television on the counter of the meat department . A film was running which demonstrated how a new packaging machine works. The machine layed three cling films of cellophane on the top of each other. On each cling film were three slices of sausage. In the end the maschine layed an other cling film on those three cling films and heat-sealed them together at the edges.
 
When you open this novel packaging, it's essential you firstly remove the uppermost cling film. This way you can take three slice of sausage out of the packaging.
 

 
A receipt and a plastic bag (positive picture)
 
After you have used up the three slices, you can remove the next cling film to take out the next three slices. The packaging comprises three small doses of sausage which have been individually packed up. This way the sausage stays fresh for a lot of days. On the other hand four cling films are necessary to make such a packaging. The machine ,which was shown in the film, was a fully automatic packaging system. The machine in the meat department was a semi-automatic machine. The company has employed a person who operates the machine.
 
I talked to a woman who instructed the employees of the meat department in the operation of the packaging machine, in merchandise knowledge and in selling. The employees mostly haven' t had a professional training for selling meat.
 
The woman instructs the employees in a lot of branch establishments of the company. She told me that a semi-automatic packaging machine costs 22.000 Euro, a fully automatic packaging system costs 50.000 Euro.
 
I saw a lot of cameras of a closed-circuit television on the ceiling. An employee told me that the cameras have been put in because the supermarket hasn't a barrier at the entrance any more. There was a very wide display over the entrance area. The display was connected to a camera which was over the entrance. I could see myself entering the market. So I knew that I was under observation.
 
I saw that the supermarket had been painted in light colours, the space in between the rows of shelves was wider than before. The borders of the shelves, on which the price tags were, had different colours according to the class of goods. The piped music got on my nerves as before. So did the 'news' of the company's radio program. In the baker's shop, which was opposite the new checkouts, but outside the market, was a new little café. Inside the market was also a bakery. An employee baked prefabricated dough. But she didn't sell the finished breads and rolls. The customers could take them out of the shelves around the oven.
 
The self-service scales had got a new software which automatically identified the fruit or the vegetable you wanted to weigth out. It was only an approximate identification. I always got several proposals. If all proposals were wrong, I could call up a menu. By means of the menu I could enter the fruit or the vegetable I wanted to weigth out. In the end I got a label. On this label the name and the price were printed in normal charakters and in a barcode.
 
Several employees told me that the company had taken on ninteen new employees because the supermarket had been facelifted. (Of course I can't check what they said.)
(I translated the technical terms to the best of my knowledge and belief, but I can't make any guarantees. My wife Christine helped me to translate the text. Thanks.)
(to be continued)

Please read also:

Finds 11

Sign of Upheaval 1

Sign of Upheaval 3

Finds 14


A little report about small sidewalk stalls selling food in Phnom Penh. Please have a look at 'Daily life in Cambodia 2003', entry on March 30 2003 The link leads to the latest entry of the diary.

Comments?
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Next issue 'The Daily Groove'
Thursday, August 24 2006

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