Well, I was going to start by sticking to one of my rare January resolutions, the one where I told myself not to be so ready to get worked up over things.

For instance, being left to hang on the phone for what seem like hours while trying to speak to a human being; or trying to keep calm in a queue as I wait for somebody, anybody, to serve me.

But what I heard on the radio as I thought about these things made me change course a bit: it was the news that shoplifting is on the rise, and so are assaults, some of them serious, on the long-suffering shop staff.

I wondered if part of the shoplifting problem was caused by the fact that there are fewer people available to deal with customers who run out of the shop without paying, turning nasty if they get stopped.

My own patience was sorely tested on one miserable Monday recently. I’d been with the same bank for more than 50 years; there were times when I expected to wait to be served. That was in the days when there were people behind the counters; some even remembered my face and name.

When you go into this particular branch now there’s one, or even two, suited staff standing with their smartphones, asking what you’d like to do today. Paying in cash? See this queue? Join it and proceed to the machine that will do it for you. Taking out cash? There are several options; if you get stuck just ask and someone will come over to show you how to work the machine. (Pity you’re such an idiot; they don’t actually say that but I bet they’re thinking it.)

Paying in a cheque? Remember them? Aha, there’s a different machine for that bit of business. But wait. So sorry, but the cheques you have there won’t work in this machine. You’ll have to join another queue now and make your way to that counter to pay that one in. “Is there any chance that you could help me at all, as I’ve already been waiting rather a long time?” I meekly ask. Not a chance; they are too busy standing at the door.

I did get served eventually, which was just as well because if I’d been there much longer we’d have reached 1pm, the counter service would have closed, and after that it would have been machines or nothing. Now I don’t blame the staff for all this business; they presumably have no choice, but after talking to others in the queue I know I’m certainly not alone in my frustration.

Having struggled to keep my cool in the bank I ambled over to a nearby well-known store. What do I find but yet more machines, kindly put into the food area so that we can scan and pay for items ourselves. They do still have a few tills where you can get help from a real person, but as you wait there’s often a person who will come along to try and entice you to go on to a machine instead.

We know there’s a problem with shoplifting here. Some customers are so annoyed and frustrated at having to scan goods for themselves when the system doesn’t work they simply put items in their bags without paying. This has become such an issue that the store now has to have somebody stationed at the exit to check that all items have been scanned and paid for. Call me stupid, but couldn’t this exit sentry open a till instead?

Once again, it’s not the workers who are to blame. For some reason the belief is that all these dreaded machines are seen as examples of progress, no matter that the majority of customers I talked to seem to hate them. Over the years I’ve come to know a few of the staff here and they hate the system as much as we do, yet have to deal with people like me who are idiots at dealing with machines.

So, I’m suggesting to this store that they allow me to set up a corner where I might teach people how to tame the machines. We could award O and A-level qualifications in scanning, and at the same time offer calming therapy for frustrated customers.

If you’d care to enrol, please form an orderly queue.