By Hannah Berman


Recently, I saw a post on Facebook that admonished people not to use self- checkout registers. The information provided stated that self-checkouts kill jobs and that the machines don’t contribute to payroll taxes.

Since my food shopping is done almost exclusively in a kosher supermarket that does not have a self-checkout line, none of this usually applies to me. There have been a few occasions, however, when I found it necessary to shop in a “regular” supermarket. “Regular” is how most of us refer to a supermarket chain that sells all food items, kosher as well as non-kosher. In the “regular” supermarket that I have occasionally shopped in, there are several self-checkout lanes.

Now, fortified with the above information, I no longer feel uncomfortable when bypassing them and heading to a long line that has a cashier. I feel better now that I know there is a downside to self-checkouts. This recently acquired knowledge provides me with vindication and gives me a reasonable explanation should anyone ask why I don’t save time by using the self-checkout. I can give the questioner a spiel about the killing of jobs and the non-contribution to payroll taxes. That will make me sound well-informed without forcing me to admit that I have no idea how to do a self-checkout. And now we come to the heart of the matter.

Anything that has the prefix “self” poses a problem for me. Nobody has ever seen me at a self-serve gas station, and nobody ever will! I once traveled several miles to get to a gas station that always has two attendants at the pumps. This happened when the full-service gas station that I normally frequent had nobody on duty that day to pump the gas. As soon as I noticed that all of the customers were pumping their own gas, I drove off the premises.

Additionally, I don’t deal with ATM machines. I don’t even glance at them as I pass right through the lobby and go directly into the bank where I know I will get help. Regardless of how long the lines are, I will choose one and wait for a bank teller. I am not alone. There are others like me. I love to see other customers waiting on line in order to have a bank teller do what they could probably do themselves at the ATM. In spite of what my children say, it is my opinion that ATMs are not for everyone. Happiness was when the kids finally gave up on me. It took time but eventually it occurred to them that their mother will not use ATMs or pump gas. This is a relief. Whereas at one time I was embarrassed about my limitations, I have since learned to accept them without shame.

There has, however, been some progress. I am now able to order items online. Of course, I never know if I’m supposed to go to Amazon or to eBay, but somehow I get to the right place. This is a huge accomplishment since for a long time I had been calling one of my daughters and asking her to do it. My progress, although minimal, has not been recognized yet. I know this to be true because the daughter I would most often ask to place an order for me still volunteers to do it when I mention that I want to buy something online. While it is with a great deal of pride that I say, “No, thank you, I will do it myself,” she does not seem to be overly impressed. Chances are that her prevailing emotion is one of relief.

Recently, however, there have been a few missteps. Last week I ordered a cotton coverlet for my bed, but three days after placing the order I regretted my choice. It occurred to me that what I ordered might not look as good as I had originally thought. The coverlet was a striped pattern and one of the colors was not appropriate because it appeared nowhere in the room. It would neither match nor blend with the floral border wallpaper or the window curtain, and I had no intention of replacing either one.

For three days I ruminated on this while trying to determine how to go about canceling the order that I had been so proud of making. But I waited too long because on the fourth morning a large box appeared at my front door. I knew what it contained. Since the doorbell had not rung, I thought that maybe the UPS delivery man was clairvoyant. Perhaps he sensed that he might have to deal with an unhappy customer who would ask him to take back the box and, for that reason, he did not ring the bell but instead made a quick getaway. Clairvoyant or not, it was a wise choice on his part. But now I would be stuck with the coverlet until I figured out how to return it.

I did not open the box. Instead I waited two days until the lady who comes to clean for me would arrive. I would ask her to open the box and help me to decide if I should keep or return the purchase. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened.

I held my breath as, together, we carefully opened the large, well-sealed box. To my astonishment, what was inside was not the coverlet that I believed I had ordered. Instead of a multi-toned stripe, there was a beautiful patchwork quilt that was a perfect match to all the colors in my room. I didn’t remember seeing this one when I placed the order, so either the sender had made an error or I had. Chances are it was not the sender.

Clearly, somebody was looking out for me because the coverlet that I received was not only a far better match but also happened to be less expensive. And, best of all, I didn’t have to figure out how to return it. Making the purchase was enough of a challenge for me. That’s just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


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