Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Smart Aleck Cash Registers

Nobody wants to talk to the nitwit clerk anyway
  (+17, -3)(+17, -3)
(+17, -3)
  [vote for,

A few years ago, a supermarket in my town experimented with cash registers that had a spoken voice which said the prices of items being scanned as they were scanned. You could keep an eye on your stuff or whatever else you need to do, while still being aware of what you were being charged for things.

Of course now those "self scan" lanes are becoming ubiquitous in American supermarkets, and all of these have voices to say things like "please place the item in the bag" and "do you have any coupons?" Initially cute, they quickly become dreadfully boring.

Many supermarkets also have a "frequent shopper card" that they use to generate demographic data on their customers, and encourage you to use through discounts.

I think these inventions could be combined to make the checkout experience much less mind-numbing. Let's imbue these voices with a bit of personality, and drive it from your frequent shopper data and the items on the belt.

For instance, if you scan five bags of chips and a case of beer, the register might say..."Planning a party, are we? Why wasn't I invited? Oh and by the way, you forgot the salsa for those chips."

If you tend to buy lots of high-fat foods, the register could nag you about your diet. "Dude, you're gonna have a heart attack right in front of me!" If you wanted to go further in this direction, supermarkets that also have a Pharmacy could provide (limited) access to your prescription data for even more fun. "Man, someone with your cholesterol problems shouldn't be eating this crap! We do sell fresh fruit here you know!"

The possibilities if you have a box of condoms in your order boggle the mind.

Of course some folks get enough nagging or snarky remarks at home, so a variety of personalities could be offered. Perhaps one that offers only positive comments in a soothing voice, another that is infatuated with you, etc. You could choose your favorite and register it against your frequent shopper card.

krelnik, Oct 12 2002

Calorie and Nutrition http://www.halfbake...utrition_20analyzer
Another invention to keep track of what you are eating [krelnik, Oct 12 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Sirius Cybernetics Corporation http://www.sput.nl/~rob/sirius.html
Your Plastic Pal Who's Fun To Be With.... [8th of 7, Oct 15 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Safeway Club Club http://www.halfbake...feway_20Club_20Club
Additional fun things to do with supermarket frequent shopper cards. [krelnik, Oct 16 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]

RFID Store http://www.halfbake...m/idea/RFID_20Store
obligatory RFID link [krelnik, Oct 16 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]

AI Fridge http://www.halfbake...om/idea/AI_20Fridge
reciprocal link to a related idea [krelnik, Oct 17 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]

2002: A Supermarket Odyssey http://www.halfbake...permarket_20Odyssey
another related idea I just stumbled across [krelnik, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

CNN story of an IBM prototype http://www.cnn.com/...uture.ap/index.html
Oct 30 2003: IBM has built a prototype of the shopping cart version I described. Doesn't appear to be too much of a smart aleck, though. [krelnik, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]


       Hah! +   

       <aside>I've never understood why people complain so much about those discount cards.
bristolz, Oct 12 2002

       So, you've started your period and are gonna knock off *another* fifth of booze, huh...
thumbwax, Oct 12 2002

       They already do speak to me. In Morse.
General Washington, Oct 13 2002


Tufry Shypak, you get this extra *fry I found... Hehe...
hollajam, Oct 13 2002

       Suggested Name Change: Wiseass Cash Register
BinaryCookies, Oct 13 2002

       Fair enough, I changed the name.
krelnik, Oct 13 2002

       "Lets' build robots with Genuine People Personalities" - The Marketing Department of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.   

       [see link]   

       [Krelnik], may you perish horribly, crushed under a deluge of fishbones, for this appaling idea. This is truly ghastley and horrible and brings a new terror to shopping.
8th of 7, Oct 15 2002

       I once went through a till where the not unattractive young operator was blatantly flirting with me. Not being used to receiving this sort of attention, I decided to enjoy it while it lasted, knowing what was coming. Sure enough, as soon as she moved the cereal boxes and saw the baby food lurking behind she suddenly went all stone cold on me.   

       There's no substitute for human interaction.
egbert, Oct 15 2002

       [8th of 7] I take that as high praise, coming as it does from the inventor of "Half life jackets."
krelnik, Oct 15 2002

       //..blatantly flirting with me//   

Mr Burns, Oct 15 2002

       What do you mean Dave, white man?   

       That's not muscle you see gently rippling under the shirt.
egbert, Oct 16 2002

       // the occasional cute clerk is still better than a machine //   

       Granted, but Murphy's Law dictates that they are occasional indeed. So how about a big round red button with "SHUT UP" on it, convenient to the patron? If you see that the clerk is someone you are interested in talking to, you hit the red switch and have some nice human interaction instead. If the register was already talking when you hit the red switch, it can do an quick imitation of HAL being shut down. (I think that's your cue 2fries...)
krelnik, Oct 16 2002

       Who's [Rods Iger] ?
half, Oct 16 2002

       Don't ask me.
krelnik, Oct 16 2002

       I think "Rod's Igor" would have been funnier: "Yeth, Marthter?"
yamahito, Oct 16 2002

       It occurred to me that some of the more useful comments the cash register could make are really way too late if you are checking out. For instance the "did you forget the salsa" example.   

       A really advanced supermarket could incorporate this technology right into the cart. Using <obligatory reference>RFID tags</obligatory reference> the cart itself could "scan" the items as you put them in, and the portable personality could comment as you go.   

       "Hey, you know the other brand is a buck cheaper! Look six inches to the left on the same shelf"   

       "Ah, Aisle 7, my favorite."   

       And of course the most fun would be at the end of the evening, when you could take out your revenge on the evil bastard by stranding his cart in a far corner of the parking lot. "No! Don't leave me out here! Please, I won't comment on your diet ever again!"   

       Of course if it were baked in this form, the advertising weenies would probably take it over and use it for Corporate Evil(tm), so I guess I should disavow it right here and now.
krelnik, Oct 16 2002

       Cue? Wha... Shit I missed my cue!   

       Nobody has yet, to the best of my knowledge, invented a good conversation machine. Maybe this is because they do not let the machine take the lead. Try this:
machine: "Did you have a nice day?"
customer: "It was okay. Good weather out, huh?"
m: "People keep coming to my house for dinner."
c: "You must be a good cook."
m: "They always show up right at dinnertime."
c: "Well, it's good to have company."
m: "I'm so tired when I get off from work, I just want to relax. I have three kids as well. Two boys and a girl. The oldest has just started dating, and I am so worried that she will go out with the wrong company. She brings her dates home, and then I have to cook for them too. I only want time to myself."
c: "Yes, I know what you mean." <checks watch, glances at customers behind, and then looks out the window> "Getting toward dinnertime now."
m: "This town isn't safe anymore. Right in the Plaza, that girl"
c: "I read about that"
m: "Such a terrible thing. All those gangsters should be rounded up and killed."
c: "Hmm. I am against the death penalty."
m: "That's right! Even in your own house you're not safe. That poor old man. And they never found the killers..."
rabbit, Oct 17 2002

       beep...What's this? Croissants from the bakery aisle...custard mix...you must be a...HALFBAKER!
BinaryCookies, Oct 17 2002

       I know this place isn't exactly a secret but I didn't expect the supermarket trolleys to catch on for a little while longer...   

       It would be ok if the trolley gave you useful advice based on what you tend to buy but if it tried to sell you the super deluxe version of everything it would get very annoying very quickly... even more annoying than the version that insults you before too long...
RobertKidney, Oct 17 2002

       Won't somebody pleeease think of the children? Who operate the tills, the poor urchins must dream in bleeps. The cash registers could teach them while they worked, "134.87 and 12.95 what do we do? that's right, carry the 2, oh look Liebfraumilch, C2H50H that's what it is, bit of H2SO4 as well wouldn't be surprised, can you spell Gewurtztraminer? No, ahaha niether can I..."
General Washington, Oct 17 2002

       Just ran across the idea "AI Fridge" (see link), I think there may be some synergy here. The personality could live on a smart card and come with you from your fridge to the store. It would have even more visibility into your eating habits and could help you shop better since it would know what you had in the fridge at home.
krelnik, Oct 17 2002

       Found a story on CNN today about a prototype "talking shopping cart" built by IBM. Sounds quite like what I described in my last annotation on Oct 16, 2002. See link. (Also cleaned up some swiss cheese in the annotations).
krelnik, Oct 30 2003

       "yogurt and granola? what are you hippy, a communist?" ah, if they only had this technology during the cold war. but noooooo, we needed nukes and gas masks and Berlin and blah blah blah
irollerblade, Dec 23 2003

       //The cash registers could teach them while they worked...//   

       It didn't work for the previous decade.
Detly, Dec 23 2003

       must admit, I got a kick out of those cash register comments, but they can cause stores to luse customers.
jefferyb304, Jun 17 2005

       you could call it the "nit-wit grocery conversation machine"
10clock, Jun 17 2005

       It would be lovely to be able to ignore inane commentary. If this is what it takes, I'll bun it.
elhigh, Jun 17 2005


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