Why all robotic shop assistants need re-wiring

'How are you today' Why all robotic shop assistants need re-wiring

With a trolley full of groceries, two fractious children in tow and minutes to go before my parking ticket runs out, the last thing I want is the supermarket check-out girl to start chatting.

Never mind her social adeptness, the only skills I’m interested in witnessing during this shopping expedition are speed and efficiency.

‘How are you today’ she asks. ‘Er, fine. In a bit of a hurry,’ I mutter. But unfortunately the sales assistant has been trained to be ‘friendly’.

Check-out chatter: Clare doesn't have time for small talk at the till

Check-out chatter: Clare doesn't have time for small talk at the till

‘Have you got people coming over this
Sunday’ she asks, as she swipes my large chicken. ‘Oooh, I love
these,’ she adds, commenting on the triple chocolate mousses I have
bought. ‘But they are a bit high in calories, aren’t they.’ Which rather
takes the pleasure out of them.

I’m just hoping she runs out of chat before she informs the store about the ‘feminine products’ I’m also buying.

At least it’s not as bad as the time one of my friends was stocking up on wine. When the assistant commented she must be throwing a party, she found herself inventing a house-warming bash because she was too embarrassed to admit it was all for her.

I suppose I should be glad the level of social interaction on the High Street is on the rise. After all, there used to be a time when you could barely get a shop assistant to meet your eye, let alone make a grunt of acknowledgement when you wanted some help.

'Can anything compare to the irritation
of buying a newspaper and being asked at the till if you
would like to add a large Galaxy

Now it’s gone to the opposite extreme. You might be buying a work shirt and a three-pack of knickers, but you’ll have to run a gauntlet of assistants who want to know what sort of day you are having, if you need help finding your size or are interested in any matching accessories.

Like many reticent Brits, my automatic reaction is to say ‘I’m fine, thanks’ and walk to another part of the shop. I hate the feeling I’m being pressured into buying anything, even when there are times when I would benefit from some advice.

And can anything compare to the irritation of buying a newspaper in WH Smith and being asked at the till if you would like to add a large Galaxy or family-sized Toblerone

A recent letter to the Mail nearly had me feeling sorry for these assistants forced to follow company scripts and rules on customer interaction. A mother described how one of her son’s colleagues had been sacked from his role at a nationwide toy store because he had asked a mystery shopper if she ‘wanted a hand’ instead of ‘help’.

But then I had to fill up my car with petrol. As I handed over my credit card, the assistant pointed to a special offer display on the counter. ‘Chewing gum with that’ he grunted. My sympathy was gone. Will somebody re-programme the shop robots