Rants in the Pants, Episode 20- Useless Inventions #2

I have been sorely disappointed by my call at the end of my rant, Useless Inventions #1, for comments on what you readers believe could be a useless invention. I had hoped there would be someone thinking like me who had a particular invention they were at odds with. Well, it didn’t happen. Fortunately, there are plenty of candidates in the physical world ready to be nominated to this lowly regarded position.

 One hit me right between the eyes while I was grocery shopping. I filled up my cart- I took one of those little ones both because I am shopping just for one and I can hardly afford to fill the little one up let alone let myself go and fill a large cart. Smashing through the intersection occupied by the lady reading all the labels on all the cereal boxes with her cart parked sideways across the aisle and somehow missing the man who seemed dazed and was trying to control a cart with at least one square wheel, I approached the check out. There were six checkout booths but only one was open with a checker in it and the line she had to cope with was far longer than I wanted to wait for. I don’t like self-checkout because it takes a job away from someone who in these desperate times needs one. I also am not getting to subtract anything from the bill for providing my services to the store to check and bag my own purchases. If they paid me, I wouldn’t be so hard on them. Alternatively, they could just lower their prices.

In any case, I was forced to scan, bag, and wrestle with the payment machine. If this were California, I could have just pushed the cart out the store and no one would have given a damn. But I’m not that kind of person and I’m not in California. So, I bellied up to the scanner and heard the first words it spoke to me in that cute mechanized voice some of them have: “Please scan your club card.”

I followed the machine’s orders like a good little consumer and swiped my club card. Immediately there was an irritating beep beeping with a notice on the screen flashing and telling me that my club card did not work and to scan it again or call an attendant. I swiped it again and got the same result. I wanted the points I would get as a card carrying shopper at this store plus, the price on a couple of items in my cart would diminish, so I motioned to the attendant who was helping a woman at the self-check-out behind me pushing back the thought that the card was just a method of collecting information about my shopping habits to make it easier for them to sell me more.

After a few minutes, the attendant got the woman straightened out and jumped across the isle like one of those little spiders.

“What seems to be the problem?”

“My club card isn’t working.”

“Do you know your phone number?”

“No.” I still had the card under the number I had first registered with. That was seven phones ago and damn if I couldn’t remember it.

“No problem,” he said and pulled a bit of cloth from his shirt pocket. He rubbed it up and down the card a few times before swiping it. Like magic the machine responded.

I checked and bagged my groceries until I had one item left- beer. When I scanned it, the system beeped again and flashed a message that I needed an associate to come make sure I was of age. I looked around. The associate was busy with someone who seemed unqualified to shop. That took a few minutes. Then he hurried over to another person who apparently wanted to start an argument with the machine. Last, he approached an older man, like me, who had a few too many beers and was buying more. I hoped he had a designated driver. Finally, he came to my machine.

I have several bones to pick with this method of exiting a store. 1. I’m not a checker nor a checker’s son and I don’t get paid when the bagging is done. 2. They save money on labor, but the price of my groceries still goes up. 3. You can’t have a conversation or any interaction with a machine, which is half the fun of going to the store.

Like, share, and if you brilliant people can come up with another useless invention, let me know in the comments.


  1. Annie Swensen on March 17, 2024 at 9:29 pm

    Hi Ira, I had to think about this and realized that anything I don’t know how to use is useless to me ( even though I need it at the moment, like an electric screwdriver) But there are other things I use that no one else does which makes them useless to me…I’ll start with yellow lights…might as well go from red to green to red to green to…I’ll keep thinking:-)

    • Ira White on March 18, 2024 at 7:47 am

      Yes, anything we don’t know how to use is useless to us individually. I like the yellow light idea. I’ve often wondered myself why they have them when no one pays much attention to them. Thank you for your comment, Annie.

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