A Short Story from the June 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard
In the town of Inverness a talking checkout machine was recently introduced in a blaze of glory by Your Caring, Sharing Co-op, which should be more accurately described as Their Profit Making Co-op. Computer technology is zooming ahead at such a fantastic pace that it is difficult to keep abreast of all the improvements. Clive Sinclair, the current whiz-kid of the computer market, has predicted that new robots will soon be on the go performing all sorts of mental acrobatics.
After the recent case of the supermarket check-out girl who was fired for intolerably bad temper towards the customers on Monday mornings, the logical desire for any supermarket owner is a machine which replaces workers (and therefore saves wages) while at the same time is constantly pleasant to the punters whom it is relieving of their cash. However, since even the most sophisticated machine is fallible, there is a prospect of one of these devices having a brainstorm: "Good morning madam, and what little delicacies do we have here? . . . ah, yes, cold meat 75p . . . wholemeal bread 50p, better than that adulterated white stuff . . . smarm . . . nice little table-wine at £1.99 . . . sure to impress your husband's boss when he comes to dinner. (Not to mention the refuse collector when he clocks the fancy label) . . . please pay the girl at the till. Thank you and good day . . . Krrrrrkkkk . . . fizzle.
C'mon grandma, hurry it up, we haven't got all day. Let's get these pathetic morsels tallied so we can get onto the real spenders . . . right, two ounces of spam (Yeeugh!) 20p . . . a solitary carrot 5p . . . 1 lonely onion 5p . . . 1 small loaf 25p . . . my, we're really living high on the hog aren't we? . . . 1 tin of Crappo dog food 35p . . . wait a minute, I'll bet you don't even have a dog, you're eating the bloody stuff yourself right? . . . C'mon own up. Hey, stop that snivelling woman, pay up and get out. No, not through the plate-glass door, open it first. That's right, now step out and . . . Gotcha! Security man, grab that old bag, she's got a tin of sardines that she forgot . . . er . . . didn't pay for. Good! the arm up the back, now the quick frogmarch into the manager's office to wait for the police . . . hee . . . hee . . . heeeeeerrkkkk . . .
And the next one please. Hmm, what have we here? cornflakes 55p . . . You know, a top nutrition expert called Michael Van Straten is on record as saying that there is almost as much nutrition in the box as there is in the cornflakes. Butter 50p . . . sausage 70p . . . have you ever seen how they make sausage? almost no limit to the fat content . . . wouldn't like to see your arteries . . . Frozen chicken £2.75 . . . wonder how much water's been injected into our ex-feathered friend to boost the weight, (and the price) . . . In fact, have you ever stopped to consider why it's necessary to have prices at all? Here we are living in a world which produces food, clothing, and shelter in such abundance that everyone could have the very best instead of all this third-rate rubbish. And the beauty of it is that the amount of time actually needed to produce this wealth could be reduced to a few hours a day with all the extra available people released from non-productive jobs such as there girls operating the tills, and the manager, rushing over to pull put . . . the plug!? . . . Don't touch the . . . . . . . "