I see you have lemons

A lemon - by isotoppSaturday brought me to Edgewater, New Jersey, where we realized that we needed two lemons. You know the feeling: you’re driving down the road and all of the sudden you say “I need lemons!”

Now, for the last year and a half, we have been shopping mainly at Manhattan markets, which means we get our bread from the bread place, our fruit from the fruit place, and, when we have time, have a big shopping day at Fairway. The Pathmark in Edgewater felt a lot more like California. When I got to the express line, I realized that it was self-checkout.

Now, I am a lover of self-checkout. Given the choice of interacting with a stranger or taking care of it myself, I prefer the latter–it’s just the way I am wired. But self-checkout can be a pain with produce. Bearing in mind one of my former student’s complaints that customers just threw their hands up when there was an easy-to-use lookup function on most of these machines, I prepared myself to be a good customer, and figure out how to get the un-bar-coded lemons out without holding up the line unnecessarily.

I started my transaction, pushed the button that said “no bar code.” It told me to put the stuff on the scale, and I did, expecting it to ask me what sort of a thing it was. It didn’t. A camera above the scale apparently recognized that there were two lemons on the scale, and charged me accordingly. Now, these things have apparently been around for a while, but I think it is fair to say that I was pretty blown away. It was definitely one of those “gee whiz” moments.

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  1. Posted 12/2/2006 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    more likely, the overhead camera spun to your direction and a human in a room approved it. that’s the way it was in virginia. alternatives were they put the stickers on the vegetables with 4 digit numbers, and they had a spinner lookup. but when it came to brass tacks… there was a human making a decision.

  2. ahoving
    Posted 12/2/2006 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    in-text ad links? cool!

  3. alex
    Posted 12/2/2006 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Jeremy: Definitely a possiblity. It crossed my mind, but I figured the most likely human recognizer was the guy manning the machines, and he was helping another customer. Of course, it could easily be thrown to someone in the back, or off-site, but is that really worth it?

    Allan: Not all commercial speech is advertising! It only counts as ads if I’m getting paid to mention them. Since I’m not (as disclosed on my about page), it’s just informational linking. Now, if they want to pay me to mention them, I certainly have a price. But that price does nto include remaining mum about the payment. My reputation is too expensive for anyone to buy.

  4. Posted 12/2/2006 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m skeptical. Seems like there would be a big error factor. Would it be able to distinguish between a naval orange and a tangerine, for example? But I guess if it’s possible.

    Prediction: One of these days Google (or someone) is going to add facial-recognition software capable of sifting through the net for photos of individuals. So you can go online and look at all the photos that have you (or your stalking victim) in them — maybe even the ones taken by those Japanese tourists who were shooting in front of you at the Alhambra.

  5. M.
    Posted 12/4/2006 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Just as long as they don’t include theme music for the produce…..

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