Are Self-Service Checkouts On The Way Out?

The past few years have seen self-service checkouts become a visible feature of the Australian retail landscape, with major supermarkets (Woolworths and Coles) and chain stores (Big W, Kmart and IKEA) all enthusiastically embracing self-scanning. However, supermarkets at least are now cutting back on the use of self-service in urban areas.

Picture by Jaap Stronks

The Australian Financial Review reported this week that both Woolworths and Coles are cutting back on self-service checkouts in some inner-city supermarkets, finding that it's still faster and cheaper to employ register operators. Often this takes the form of a single queue system served by multiple registers.

"Without a doubt people love them because they love the feeling of being in control," a Woolworths spokesperson told the paper. "But they don't work in every environment." That said, the rollouts continue. Woolworths has 2000 self-service checkouts in 400 stores (about half its network); Coles has 3000 in 350 stores.

I'm a big fan of self-service checkouts, and I'll inevitably choose them if they're an available option. But I also shop without a car, which means I'm rarely making a big purchase. If I had an entire trolley full, I'd save myself and others the trouble and head to a checkout line.

Self-service has other benefits too: it can be a handy way of getting rid of excess coins, and there are plenty of strategies you can employ to use them more efficiently. But I know many people who go out of their way to avoid them, either because they mistrust the technology, because they figure it improves employment or because they just find a checkout operator faster. What's your reaction?


Comments

    I few people have already said it. But I will say it as well RFID tags. http://www.dailytech.com/Cheap+Printed+RFID+Tags+May+Replace+Barcodes/article17930.htm

    You just walk the trolley out of the store and let the technology take care of everything.

    however I would also like to point out AUSSIE FARMERS DIRECT. Great quality/good price/Delivered when you want it.

    As an ex-employee of one of the big two, I was told that a percentage was added onto each product to pay for the wages of the checkout staff; as a overhead to profit margins. Through the implementation of the self-serve checkouts there is less of a need for checkout staff yet the product prices have not reduced?!?!

    I find it halarious all the technophobes trying to justify the real person experience over this (aliebt still infant) tech. I'm sorry bit your telling porkies if you're saying you have great customer experiences with the 15yo's at the counter that hardly look at you let alone say anything..

    Also, as far as 'let's keep people employed' that's the kind of sideways thinking that has kept this country back rather than striving for innovation. Zomg!

    I hate the small talk, even a "hello, how are you going?". Yeah, I'm anti social ...but even that is too much for me:). Long live self checkouts!

    I find people who have problem s with the self serve system are people who don't know when to sit back and read, or don't know how they work, and get frustrated rather than putting in a few seconds to understand. There needs to be a balance, leave 4 or so self serve for self sufficient (see also: efficient) people, and 2 or so for the nongs.

    Those self-checkouts are a great way for supermarkets to make more money, not less. I've noticed a LOT more pricing errors in my local Woolworths since those checkouts came in. And half the time, the checkout supervisor is not around or tied up with someone else. I either gave to wait ages for her, or give up and pay more than I should.

    10 years ago, I was at a Coles store. I was in a hurry. There were only 2 checkouts open, & they were normal checkouts (Not Express). I dumped my 'cold storage', on the next counter and walked out, as it was quite a line up. I went to the nearby Woolworths, and they had 3 people on express. I have rarely shopped at this Coles store since.
    The only thing I don't like about self service, is when 1 or 2 terminals don't accept ca$h. Especially when you see people lined up at other terminals accepting ca$h, using their Plastic cards for rewards, thinking they are obtaining a bargain (plus 4 cents off a litre) and you are stuck in line.

    One of the other problems they have is prompting you for your 'Identity theft' card. IE Everyday Rewards/Flybuys. Then assuming you are using this as a bank terminal, to withdraw money.

    They're good for buying those items that you'd rather the pretty check-out-chick didn't know about...

    i like self serve lanes, makes buying condoms less awkward, which means more people buy and use condoms which means less teenage pregnancy and less abortions.

    so in summary, if you don't like self serve you are pro-abortion. true story.

    The single queue for multiple checkouts seems to be the way to go if you're not going to do self service. That way you're not punished for getting in the "wrong" line, and you don't get the zerg rush happening when a new register opens up.

    I hate these things.
    So many times the computer lady has told me one thing only to be told by the staff to do another! Surely they know their sortware is screwed!
    Example - I'm told by the staff that when the light is green I can remove my bag, but when I do the computer lady tells me to return it. Staff tell me not to return it but rather to press a button on the screen instead. So why am I being told to return it?

    Really, really horrible implementation.

    I also hate that my coles removed 3 of it's 4 express lanes to make room for self service, THEN, just to froce us to use self service, they rebadged the last express lane as a full lane.

    I avoid that store now.

    I have grown to love self-service checkouts. Initially I considered they were taking jobs away from teens and others who normally staff the register but all it did was move the express lane operator to a supervising position, seemingly not reducing staff at all. They are also fantastic for getting rid of loose coins, especially that growing 5 cent collection.

    About the only issue I have is buying loose vegetables when I need to sing the alphabet song as I look for Ginger :P

    Personally, I hate them. There always, always seems to be a fault, no matter which shop you're in, and an operator has to unfreeze the system. I much prefer a manned cash register.

    I actually really like the single queue-multiple check-out setups at big w and target. Sometimes the line looks really long, but can move fast enough with enough operators. Besides, counting the number of people ahead of me and size of their trolley vs number of operators and how fast they're working keeps me entertained trying to workout the probability of getting the cutest/hottest checkout chick.

    The self service waits are almost always longer than those for the old-fashioned checkouts for some reason when I visit. If there's an empty one ready and waiting, I'll take it, but unlike a regular checkout, there is no upper limit to how long the customers in front of you will take.

    I hate self service checkouts - never use them. They (literally) mean I'm doing the work of the checkout people.
    I much prefer to just wait while someone else does it for me.

    I use them about 90% of the time. I'm a checkout operator and don't really care about this "less jobs" thing. My store is always busy, and always has a tonne of staff on checkouts.
    I find them more convenient and faster for small orders. I figure that makes up for the dopes that think they're bad and choose to line up instead.

    I tried the self service once, and never will again. Seams they only accept some forms of Aussie legal tender and not others. Took 15 minutes to buy a can of coke, and argue with the supervisor, because of a $5 coin (all i had on me at the time, because I had left my wallet in the car).

      So, because you used a coin that is released in very limited numbers, specifically for commemorative purposes, and at a price significantly higher then face value, the whole system is flawed and should never be used?

      Good luck finding *any* machine in Australia that will accept it, and even good luck finding a human that will accept it (especially considering they're not under any legal obligation to accept that money). I've personally never seen one, and they're only mentioned in press releases if you start digging. The "coin designs" section doesn't even have a $5 coin page.

    Staffed checkouts can be operated much more efficiently than they are at Woolies and Coles. See ALDI. The combination of well designed checkouts (i.e. a smooth table), a very fast barcode scanner with the glass kept clean and large barcodes on products, a much longer automatic conveyer belt, better staff training, and a packing bench, means that you can easily double or even triple the typical Woolies/Coles speed.

    Self serve checkouts are slow, but at least then I'm busy and don't have to stand there watching them scan slowly thinking "gee, I wish I could go to ALDI instead..." (ALDI are not operating where I live).

    I am not a Luddite but I don't use self serve checkouts. Employment where I live is difficult to find so I only use humans at the checkout. I find checkout operators are faster anyway. Maybe the day will come when humans are not needed by the androids that will run our factories, warehouses and offices. That might not be a bad thing but for now I'll avoid these labour replacing devices.

    In Japan you get 5% off for using self-serve. In Australia all you do is prop up Colesworth's profits and help do someone out of a job. I reckon people who use self-service checkouts should be registered and when it comes time for their own employer to lay people off they sack these people first.

    When I was growing up you had to wait in line to be served at the bank, supermarket, post office, etc... and you learnt how to communicate with other people. Now that young people don't need to talk to others anymore because they can do everything either online or by using a machine, they don't know how to deal with other people, so instead of communicating with other people they bash the crap out of them !!! These machines are part of what is wrong with today's lawless youth. These machines are EVIL !! ! Go ahead and keep using them if you must, but I will ALWAYS use checkouts with people who ask me how I am, even if they don't really want to know.

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