I pulled into the self-checkout line with a basket of twenty or so items. The guy at the nearest machine was just leaving, but the second-nearest machine was empty, so I headed in that general direction, pausing for him to pass by.
And then I saw it: a ten-spot, left in the currency bin. Evidently he’d bought nine dollars and odd worth of stuff, shoved a twenty into the slot, carefully retrieved the coins (which land elsewhere), but forgot about the tenner.
I grabbed it and shouted in his general direction, but he was gone. On the basis that maybe he’d come back, I handed it to the nearest clerk, who stuffed it back into the machine through the Coupons slot. Never seen that before.
Oh, well, thought I, and started scanning. The last item was a bunch of bananas. (I wanted it on top of the bag, for reasons which should be obvious.) I paid via check card, and as always, looked at the bottom of the receipt to verify the dollar amount. But I also saw this:
NUMBER OF ITEMS . . . . . 21
There is, as it happens, a sign at each terminal which says NO MORE THAN 20 ITEMS. Evidently the gizmo isn’t programmed to reject that twenty-first item. But I still felt weird: attempted good deed canceled out by apparent peccadillo. “Modern guilt,” as Beck says, “is all in our hands.”