Do You Use Supermarket Self-Service?

Self-servicee checkouts are meant to make shopping faster, but often they have the opposite effect. Are you a regular user of self-service checkouts at your local supermarket?

From the comments in our recent post discussing why express checkout lanes don't always work, it's clear that Lifehacker readers have mixed feelings about self-service checkouts. So we figured it was time for a poll:

Feel free to expand on your reasoning in the comments.


    No option for "Depends on how attractive the checkout operator is"?

    Self service registers are great. When I have to go shopping, I just want to get it done without interacting with anyone. No offense, I'm sure they're all lovely people who work there, regardless I just want to get my stuff, pay for it and get out without having to engage in pointless conversation. I'm sure it's slower than a register but I don't care.

      Interestingly, as I get older and more settled in our community, I am finding my views which matched Ben's changing more and more. I am getting to know the operators (some of them the kids of family friends, or friends of my kids). You get to find out about their HSC results or how their Uni courses are going etc. More community. Kinda nice.

      When you say pointless conversation, you mean "how are you", "good thanks" and "yes" ?

        "Hi, how are you today?"
        "Not bad"
        "Oh that's good. Do you have flybuys?"
        "Would you like your meat in a separate bag?"
        "Yes thanks"
        "Cash or eftpos?"
        "Just insert your card when you're ready"
        *inserts card*
        "Do you want any cash out?"
        "No thanks"
        "Just enter your pin when you're ready."
        *enters pin*
        "Would you like a receipt?"
        "No thanks"
        "Okay, well you have a good day and thanks for shopping at Coles"

        And this is the bare MINIMUM of conversation, not taking into account any chatty staff, or promotions when they want to sell you a raffle ticket. This seemingly small amount of chatter extends the amount of time it takes (especially when you're only buying 1 or 2 items) and the repetitiveness of hearing it daily gets extremely grating after a while (I drop in on the way home every evening to buy what I want for dinner that night).

        I know this is the "script" they have to go through, but it's really unnecessary eg "just enter your pin". I also have lost count of the number of times I've been asked about flybuys. NO I DON'T BLOODY HAVE FLYBUYS!

        -as opposed to *beep* *beep* and you're outta there.

        Last edited 11/01/13 3:34 pm

          I'd rather hear a real human ask me than hear the "IF YOU HAVE A FLY BUYS CARD, PLEASE SWIPE IT NOW" that the self serve seems to want to yell constantly.

            If you swipe your items fast enough, it will shut itself up after the first couple of words. Also, machines don't spout idiotic crap, unprompted. Probably the best example was once when a younger (YOLO generation) cashier said "OMG so many apples... why do you have so many apples?!!" which I found quite annoying. (Yes, he actually said "oh em gee", and it was for apple crumble I was making.)

      So Ben do you have any complaints about our un-employment rate and do you call out of work people dole bludgers because it is a mentality like yours to self service checkouts that puts more people on the dole line on a weekly basis. By the way you do you enjoy working for free because that in exactly what you are doing when you have to serve yourself. I refuse to use self service and when I am told that is the only option in store I leave the items and leave the store. I would rather go with out then pay the over inflated price and have to do a job for free that people were one payed to do just to feather the large corporate greed profit margins. No thanks Mr CEO you can get out of you fringing porches drive a ford and give some people a friggin job to help the economy. World global economy crisis people have you heard about it . Coming to a neighbourhood near you because of short term tunnel thinkers like Ben.

    When buying things like my feminine hygiene products and/or condoms etc self service is great.

      From the quick search I did on real world data, for basket sizes under 12 items, 50% of the people use the self checkouts when purchasing condoms.
      Also interesting is that men purchase energy drinks or deoderant, while women get fuit when purchasing condoms.

        That'd make a good article about condom purchasing products.

        Also there's some joke about woman taking the condom on a banana demonstration in school a bit too seriously.

        Cucumbers are not a fruit!

          Yes, they are. A cucumber carries the plant's seeds and that makes it a fruit, just like tomatoes, pumpkins, melons, green beans, and more...

    I would prefer self service if I only h ave a few items, I I have to get a full grocery's worth I go to the checkout.
    Although one time where I was at an Aldi's, the checkout operator was so fast I was struggling to put the items in the cart!

      you must have gotten the only competent Aldi checkout operator in the entire country!

      I use the self serve ones when I have a few items, but it always amazes me how hopeless some people are at using them.

    Definitely 'It varies'. They can be a very useful option in a range of circumstances.

    No option for "No I don't like being made to feel like a thief when the bloody thing screams it's guts out because I miss-keyed something"

      Which is nearly every f**#$*#$ time..

    I see self service checkouts as a way for the shopping chains to reduce staff numbers as you only need one staff member to supervise 6 self service. The cynic in me sees it as a way to find more profit.

      Or is it the announcer of the bleeding obvious in you that sees it that way?

      Previously they'd just have 3/4 of the lanes closed, so I don't think anything has really changed.

    I generally use them but in more recent times I been at super markets where there's been a long line waiting at the self service checkouts and little to no one lining up at the regular checkouts, so yeah, definitely depends. If both are free I just go to the regular ones because it's less I have to do.

    I think woolworths does self serve the best it doesn't get all bitchy about item weights or thinking you haven't bagged an item and it responds quickly. I can scan a handful of items rapidly without even placing them down in the bag area and it doesn't care.

      I find the woolworths system infuriatingly slow, it's like there is a network roundtrip before anything happens on the UI for any given keypress.

        I find that's true for both Woolworths and Coles. I personally prefer the Coles ones though, because they let me dump a whole heap of coins in at once, instead of one at a time, and don't waste time asking me about some rewards card.

      I cant stand woolworths ones, their process is about twice as long, not to mention no pay wave.

        I'm quite sure my Woolworths supports Pay Wave at the self service checkout.

          They must be phasing it in slowly, although i haven't been to a woolworths since late last year, and my local BigW still doesn't have it.

    unless im doing the "big shop" i look for the quickest route out but given the choice of an open lane and open self serve ill go the self serve every time, you just dont know how good the cashier is going to be these days, 9 times outta 10 you can get through a self serve faster, well ive found i can anyway.

    the exception to that is, if you have odd items like weird shaped things or ultra light items that will mess with the stupid ones that require items to be bagged before moving on or mark downs requiring an assistant to "sign off" easy to go checkout then


      Quickest route. I'll happily go checkout if there is one free, but I'll usually line for a self serve over lining for checkout (except full trolleys). Self serve lines put people off but even though they are usually twice that of checkouts, the line is for 6-8 self serve machines so it can move pretty quickly.

      Last edited 10/01/13 12:18 pm

    Self Service at Coles is great except the weight detection in the bag area. When you scan you HAVE to put the item into the bag area so it can be ready for the next item. So, you can't pick up an item in each hand and then put them into the bag together.

    Another peeve I have with self service, is the people who have full shopping trolleys that use it. I just feel those people are being rude.

    I still find self-serve onerous when buying things without barcodes, like fruit and veg. But the rest of the time I'll happily queue for the self-serve lanes.

    They say no one loses their job but the truth is they just aren't replaced when staff leave. These machines are contributing to lower employment.
    Be aware of the new revolution in technology... Machine to Machine (M2M) or as its been dubbed "The Internet Of Things". Everyday appliances are becoming embedded with micro-processors and sensors and are just now starting to talk to each other. People are being reduced to mere observers. Corporations will profit.
    The change is slow and so we become accustomed to to new ways of doing our business. Very soon there will be no need to visit the supermarket at all. That option is already available to us now with the mass migration of consumers to the web. Self-service is old hat. Fresh fruit and veg to your door is the new paradigm.

      A fantastic future awaits. Some may prefer that jumpers were still made by the luddites and their looms but the economically educated know that productivity increases are passed on in some form, via decreased prices or increased profits (which are then in turn used for consumption or further investment).

        ".... but the economically educated know that productivity increases are passed on in some form, via decreased prices or increased profits (which are then in turn used for consumption or further investment)."
        Mmmmmm... the economically educated have succeeded so far in plundering our natural resources, fouling our environment, raping the economies of the world and contributing to the ever increasing gap between the 'haves' and the 'have nots'.

        I'm all for technological advances, but this has to be balanced against what is best for the whole of mankind.
        One of the largest costs to business is employment. Cuts to employment reduce costs and profits increase. These are not always wholy passed on to consumers (just look to the banks). Governments then are required to spend our money (taxpayer $) to create more employment (eg million given to car manufacturers in AU as a part of the stimulus). When a machine replaces a person we are another step closer to greater inequality.

          Environmental economics and global economics are not really relevant to the microeconomic principles discussed but nice attempt to switch the playing field.

          The extra profits go to the shareholders who take that money and either spend it or invest it. This creates wealth and opportunities for employment which is why we aren't all unemployed even though the luddites lost their jobs. When it becomes cheaper to produce something, that is a good thing not a bad thing. Checkout chicks will be out of a job however the economy as a whole has gotten bigger. Greater demand equates to greater supply and thus new jobs.

    I was firstly against the self service checkouts but woolworths have made it heaps easier and its heaps quicker. The only annoying thing is if the product doesnt scan and u have to call a staff member to help out then that can take a bit especially when they arent nearby! The self serve checkouts I am hating on are bunnings as they are card only and I want to have a choice of cash or card and bunnings never have barely any staff in the other checkouts so quite often you can be stuck in a stupid line waiting if you are wanting to pay by cash!

    As the above poster said, happy with self-service, until someone brings a shopping trolley. There should be some unspoken rule that if you have a shopping trolley full of stuff, no self-service. I can understand and tolerate shopping trolleys for heavy items (bags of dog food, cubes of soft drink) but how is doing a trolley full of groceries through self-service any faster ?

    I generally go because it's easier and quicker.

    If it's lots of things I just go to the checkouts and often it's less of a wait. I am just too lazy to scan that and often the self service is not set up for many items.

    There's also that annoying thing of when you're waiting for self service and people have full trollies, i don't want to inconvenience the people in a hurry, so will go to the check out.

    I take my full trolley though self serve. The reason is that some check-out operators can't bag items properly.
    Haters gonna hate.

      Taking a trolley through self serve is whack. That you know this and your reply is 'haters gonna hate' is exactly why our societies current prevailing ethical opinion that 'violence is generally wrong' should be overturned.

      I run over people like you in the paring lot. The reason is that some trolley-toting self serve operators can't socialise properly.
      Haters gonna hate.

    Not gonna give the Supermarkets an excuse to save on variable payroll expenses, because we all know they never pass on the savings.

    I'm sure self-checkouts will become just like ATMs, the supermarkets/banks would rather you use them than having to see a human. But prices won't go down, they'll go up, and then they'll add fees, even though they're saving HEAPS of money by not having a human do the work. Thanks.

      You pay to use your banks ATMs? Do you live in a rural area where maintenance costs are higher?

      Or are you referring to third party ATMs, whose fees are how they make money for the service they provide.

    I resisted the serve yourself for a long time as I wanted to keep checkout staff in the job but that changed the day when I was at Woolies there were three checkout staff and all of which refused to serve customers pointing them to self service.

    I generally don't gain utility from interacting with strangers so I use the self checkouts as often as I can up to the point where the volume of items I have makes the inconvenience of having to check them out at a self checkout outweighs the inconvenience of having to speak to someone.

    Generally I think they are great. It's good for companies to seek ways to cut costs as they have improved the productivity of their business and then can either decrease prices or increase profit depending on the various economic factors at play relating to other businesses within their industry and current profit expectations by the marketplace in general.

    Self checkouts are usually quicker because there are 6 checkouts so it rips through the line faster than the assisted checkouts. Many of the bugs have been worked out too now.

    i cant stand those damn machines. they often freak out about every second item i scan, and about half the time it will just lock up and require a human to get it going again. not to mention on a good day they are way slower then a checkout person.

    -"[unexpected item in the bagging area]"
    -"why weren't you expecting the item i just scanned?!"

    I can remember once i was so fed up with one of them i gathered my things and went to go stand in line at the only human checkout.

    Last edited 10/01/13 3:10 pm

    Yes - the service is excellent, and the guy who serves me is a ficken genius. Modest too, and I'm told, good looking.

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