top of page
< Back

Supermarket Checkouts


Discuss with your partner:

1. Do you ever listen to podcasts? Which ones?
2. What do you find difficult about listening or speaking to native speakers?
3. Do you think you have to live in the UK to understand Britsh culture? How aboutthe USA? Australia? Your country?
4. Do you think that English native speakers talk about different topics to people in your country? e.g. Singaporeans talk much more about food than British people. British people talk much more about politics.

Supermarket Checkouts

Adam Buxton podcast - Christmas Presents
1. General Discussion
Topic: Automated checkout voices in supermarkets.
What are your thoughts on automated checkouts in supermarkets?
Have you noticed different voices at different supermarkets? What do you think about them?

2. Vocabulary Exercise
Instructions: Match the following advanced vocabulary words to their definitions.
Shuffled Definition
[a short form of present]
Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Co-op, Waitrose
[a rough, hoarse voice]
Spanner in the works
[names of supermarkets, cultural knowledge]
Husky (voice)
[a device used to enter a PIN]
Ethical elements
[an electric scooter]
Pin pad
[an action that causes plans to fail]
[aspects related to moral principles]

3. Listening Comprehension Questions
First Half (0:00 - 5:30):
What does Adam initially think about the question regarding his favorite automated checkout voice?
How does Adam describe his experience with self-checkouts?
Describe the personality traits attributed to the Co-op voice by the speakers.
What are the speakers' impressions of the Waitrose voice?

Second Half (5:30 - 9:10):
Listen to the second part and make notes.

Do you think automated voices in machines like self-checkouts affect the shopping experience? How?
The podcast talks about assigning personalities to automated voices. Do you think this humanizes the technology? Why or why not?
How important is it to adapt to technological changes in everyday life, such as self-checkouts?

4. Discussion Questions

Understanding Humor in a New Culture: Have you ever faced challenges understanding people's sense of humor in a different cultural context? Can you share an example and explain why it was difficult to comprehend?

Cultural Humor Adaptation: If someone were coming to your country, what aspects of the local sense of humor might they find challenging to understand? How could they better acclimate to the comedic style?

Humor in the Workplace: How is humor used in your work or academic environment? Do you think it helps in creating a better atmosphere, or are there instances where it might be inappropriate or misunderstood?

Personal Experience with Technology and Humor: Reflecting on the podcast's humorous take on automated voices, have you ever encountered a situation where technology tried to be humorous? How did you react to it? Do you think humor in technology can sometimes be lost in translation?

Link to podcast:

Joe: Okay, shall I give you a prezi?
Adam: Yes, please.
Joe: So Adam, please answer the following question with the answer, "I don't know, I haven't really thought about it, but now that you ask, I realize it's a really interesting and clever question."
Adam: Okay, okay.
Joe: Who is your favorite automated checkout lady voice?
Adam: I don't know, I haven't really thought about it, but now that you ask, it's a really interesting and clever question.
Joe: Thank you. Do you go shopping? Do you do your household shopping?
Adam: Yeah, sometimes.
Joe: And where'd you go?
Adam: Wherever's open. Morrisons, quite like.
Joe: And what sort of a checkout do you use?
Adam: I'll go for whatever's freest. If a person's available, I'll go for the person. I love people.
Joe: Yeah, it's unusual though, isn't it? There are fewer and fewer people, right?
Adam: Yeah, and more machines, more rows of machines. Sometimes it is convenient to do the self-checkout, and I certainly don't mind doing that. I enjoy it, if I'm gonna be honest.
Joe: The self-checkout, yeah?
Adam: Yeah, it gets better and better and easier and easier, and I'm less intimidated by random items like veg and things like that, which in the past would have just put too much of a spanner in the works looking it up and all that.
Joe: Um, and do you have a favorite automated checkout voice?

Adam: I mean, let's face it, they're mostly ladies for some reason. There's the Sainsbury's woman, I quite like her.
Joe: Should we just have a listen to her?
Adam: Sure.
The sound of an automated checkout voice is played.
Adam: So, she's nice, isn't she? She's very upbeat.
Joe: Yeah, quirky, cheerful, and polite, innocent.
Adam: She's nervous about the receipt. Her voice changes when she talks about the receipt. Listen, let's hear her again.
The sound is played again.
Adam: I think she might have had a bad experience with a customer and a receipt in the past.
Joe: It's sad, isn't it? Because otherwise, she's so happy-go-lucky. Maybe she's trying to discourage you from getting a receipt because that is extra wasted paper. We don't want to draw on the world's already limited resources any more than we have to. You don't really need a receipt. Maybe you do for your accountant, but she's trying to discourage you. "Would you like a receipt?" So, she doesn't want to make you feel too bad, like it's an option. You can have one if you want, but it would be best if you didn't. What about that? She's anxious about the environment, yeah, and trees.
Adam: Yeah, I think she's... I mean, from her voice, I'd say she's had a sheltered upbringing. I think she maybe rides an old-fashioned bicycle with a wicker basket attached to the handlebars and wears a dress with flowers on it.
Joe: Yep.
Adam: And you might notice she refers to the payment device as a pin pad, which as we proceed through this review of automated tool voices, you'll notice is quite telling.
Joe: So what about, um, what about this one? This is the Co-op.

Adam: This one... plays sound She's husky, she's got a big old smile on her, but uh, I think that voice is of someone who's quite a heavy smoker and drinker.
Joe: Very confident. That's a lot of assumptions.
Adam: Yeah, I'm making a lot of assumptions.
Joe: Okay, make the assumption that I'm making a lot of assumptions. I assumed you would. I think she's proud of what she does, especially the ethical elements of the Co-op, and I think she's traveled widely and experimented with alternative lifestyles.
Adam: I think she's got tattoos.
Joe: She refers to the payment device as a chip and pin device, rather than a pin pad.
Adam: What do you think? Who's your favorite so far?
Joe: I do like... where was that? Co-op. That was the Co-op. Previous was Sainsbury's. I do like the Co-op woman. Can you play that again?
Adam: Of course. plays sound She has got a massive great smile in her voice, and it just turns into a beaming grin when she gets payment accepted. "Oh, payment accepted."
Joe: She loves her job. What about Waitrose?
Adam: Hmm, please scan an item or press finish and pay... I don't know, man, I think she's being held against her will.
Joe: [Laughter] I think she could be trapped inside the machine. I think she's sort of more stern, went to a strict boarding school.
Adam: I think she's angry. "Thank you for shopping at Waitrose and partners." I mean, they're not all female voices. I did find there's a new supermarket chain that's opened near me called Gavin's. Here, listen to this.
Sound of a different automated voice is played.
Joe: Have you got Gavin's near you?
Adam: In Norwich, I think there's a Gavin's, uh, near Anglia Square. But there's not one out here where we are. I don't know if they use the expression "ding dong." Is that a South London thing?

Joe: I don't really know anything about it. I just went in and uh... and I was recording these things for this segment, and that's what I recorded. I mean, I can make some assumptions like I did with the other ones.
Adam: He seems cut to the chase, doesn't suffer fools gladly, impatient, probably asked to record the voice at the last minute while doing something else. Maybe the person they booked hadn't turned up. He might be the engineer in the studio, maybe just filling in.
Joe: I think he probably rides an e-scooter on the pavement, doesn't care, and I think he's appeared in Guy Ritchie films and loves to tell people about it. But um, it is weird that they're all female apart from Kevin's.
Adam: I don't know, this one's very odd. I don't know about this one. This is another new supermarket that's opened around the corner from me called...
Sound of another automated voice is played.
Joe: That seems some of that seems a bit off, to be honest.
Adam: Yeah, it does. I can't believe I was worrying about doing too many fart jokes in this podcast.
Joe: [Laughter] So what would you say your favorite automated checkout person, voice was? Sainsbury's, Co-op, Waitrose, Gavin's, or Vanulla's?

bottom of page