Letters to the Editor: Can a checkout machine lift your spirits or make you feel human?

Albertsons checker Sharon Hechler, right, speaks with her longtime customer Marliss Meyers in Arcadia on July 28.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Thanks to reporter Marisa Gerber for her Column One piece about the bonds we form with checkers at our neighborhood grocery store. There is no doubt those familiar faces make a difference in our everyday lives.

We must buy groceries to sustain ourselves, but it isn’t simply an errand or chore to buy the food and necessities we need for ourselves and our family.

I took care of my precious mother for many years until I lost her this spring. I hated leaving her even for the short time it took to buy groceries, and I never failed to bring her some special treat from my shopping. Putting those items through an automated process would not have been the same as having them carefully handled by the friendly cashiers with whom I have formed a warm bond over the years.


Thanks to all those folks who sometimes really lifted my spirits with a kind word, a smile of recognition or a sincere inquiry into how I was doing.

Lucinda Blackwood, North Hills


To the editor: What a sweet story about checkers and customers.

What was not emphasized enough, however, is the fact that self-checking is intended to make the job of the human checker obsolete. Each time you the consumer selects self-checking, you’re chipping away at someone’s hard-earned job and the benefits it provides.

So the line may be longer when you deal with an actual human who adds up your order, but you get the benefit of a warm smile and the satisfaction of doing the right thing for society.

Suzanne Schechter, Oxnard


To the editor: In a few weeks I will be 79. I have been living alone for 30 years. Ever since I started walking my dogs 20 years ago, I have made friends in the neighborhood, but I also have friends at the local Stater Bros. market.


I go to lunch with one of the cashiers. I’ve gone to her children’s baseball games. When she’s planning something major, she calls me. There are other gals at the store who hug me and share their lives with me and I with them.

Some of my friends tell me to join the senior center, which is a very active one here in Norwalk. But I have an aversion to crowds. So, the gift of friendship from the clerks down the street enhances my life tremendously.

Thank you so much for this story.

Pam Evans, Norwalk


To the editor: The increasing use of automated checkouts is a disturbing trend in a society where loneliness is getting recognized as a major health issue.

I was sorry to read in your article that 84% of Gen Zers prefer the machines to personal attendants. Are we approaching a time when most restaurant customers order on tablets and robots schlep the food to your table? And dating with good-looking AI models is on its way.

I can’t really say what’s wrong with all these options — but something is.

Ken Hense, Los Angeles



To the editor: Personal touch? Not at my local Ralphs or Vons. The checkers are too busy talking to other employees or complaining about management.

It’s why I use self-checkout or curbside pickup at those stores.

Jerry Good, Riverside