When the fambly and I moved from California to Austin, we were able to leverage our real estate in CA to get a pretty nice house in Austin, which turned out to be in a frou-frou neighborhood.

The nice thing about our neighborhood is that it is close to everything, including downtown, but feels like its own little neighborhood. Plus we can we hear all the big concerts in the nearby park; last summer we listened to the Stones by opening our windows, and I could hear Dylan while I walked the dog.

On the downside, there’s a lot of pretty conservative folks here–a problem for a yutz from Santa Cruz–and all the stores like to be “upscale.” Which means that the hardware store looks more like a boutique. But the worst, as far as I’m concerned, is the local Randall’s grocery store.

First of all, everything there is overpriced; the nearest H.E.B. is quite a bit cheaper (and a lot farther away). But also, they introduce new products, and then as soon as I learn to like them, yank them away again. I’ve lost track of how many “Doug enjoys this!” items have come and gone in this place, while still being available at Albertsons or H.E.B. But the worst is, they’ve upgraded their store twice, and we’ve only been here 5 years or so. And how do you reckon those upgrades are paid for? Not lower prices at the checkout, I’m telling you.

First, it was adding faux-wood floors to the produce section and a Starbucks outlet. Aside from the fact that I don’t give a rip what my grocery store floors are made out of, there’s a Starbucks right across the friggin’ parking lot! I hate to break it to these folks, but when I go to a grocery store, I want groceries, not Starbucks, not wooden floors, and certainly not marble tile floors (which is what they are putting in now). Groceries. You know: milk, eggs, butter, bread; that sort of thing.

If I want a frou frou fancy-pants grocery store with all the hard-to-get stuff and organic produce and so on, I’ll go to the bloody World Headquarters Whole Foods 5 miles away. In the meantime, stop taking away my yogurt breakfast bars and keep your marble tiles.

But the worst thing in the new remodel there is, they took out the “Express” checkout line and installed those idiotic “self checkout” machines. Let me ask you this: when you go to a store that has those things, how long are the lines manned by actual human beings vs. the lines at the “self checkout” machines? Personally, I always see lines where there are real, genuine people, but hardly ever at the self checkout.

This is a greed thing, pure and simple. Higher prices, smaller stock, fewer employees, greater profit. None of it is for the customer who–in case I didn’t make this clear–just wants groceries.

I could go into what’s lame about these self checkout machines–they’re really badly designed–but I’ll leave that for another post. I think by now everyone knows that I am hardly a luddite–I am a regular poster to Gear Diary and own an iPhone, for crying out loud!–but I am happy to complain about corporate greed and lame engineering when I see it. And that’s what this is, kids.