Stop Searching For The Barcode To Get Through Self-Checkout Faster

Stop Searching For The Barcode To Get Through Self-Checkout Faster

Self-checkout at the supermarket can be very convenient. If you want to speed up your self-scanning game, here’s a tip: Stop looking for the barcode, just swipe it. If you get good at it, you can walk out with a cart of shopping in less time than it would take a checkout assistant to scan and bag them for you.

Photo by Jay Gooby

Of course, the reason many of us use self-checkout is to avoid lines, or because we only have a few items (or to avoid human interaction), but whether you have one item or a hundred, you could probably speed things up a bit. Vox has a list of great tips to help turn you into the self-checkout version of The Flash, but this one stood out to us.

This is the most important way to speed up your self-checkout time, by far: never examine your item for a barcode again. Just run it across the scanner. If it doesn’t scan, your hand is covering the barcode or it’s facing you, so just flip it and scan again.

…This works because each register has a “scan zone” that will search the whole product for a code. Think of it less like a laser hitting the code and more like a field that you pass the product through. NCR even tells cashiers to use the “power slide” — they recommend extending your arm like you’re shaking hands with the product.

Vox spoke to Jennie P. Johnson, a Human Factors Engineer at NCR, the world’s largest self-checkout vendor. She explained that when people hunt for barcodes, they generally spend 2-3 seconds just looking, often for nothing, since the barcode was in a place the scanner would have caught it anyway. Overall, 2-3 seconds doesn’t sound like a lot, but it will add up over the course of a whole checkout order, something you’ve probably noticed if you’ve ever been in line behind someone agonising over each item before swiping it.

Long story short, just pick it up and pass it over the scanner. If it doesn’t scan, flip it over and do it again. Done.

Hit the link below for even more self-checkout pro-tips.

Here’s How to Be the Fastest Person in the Self-Checkout Line [Vox]


  • This is something that does get on my goat when there’s a queue for the assisted checkouts – there’s two scanners at 90 degree angles designed to catch most barcodes, yet people seem stuck on the idea of slowly moving one barcode against one single scanner.

  • Since Woolworths activated the weight recognition which prevents you from scanning another item until it senses the weight being ‘added to the bagging area’ I spend much more time waiting for that than could ever be saved by just swiping the item instead of looking for the barcode.

    • The weight recognition got disabled again last week at the Woolies I work at and hopefully it’s the same for other stores so we can scan as fast as we like 🙂

    • SO frustrating when you are told to put the item back, when in fact you have yet to put the item down.

    • Also annoying because if you have two or more of the same item, you can’t just scan one of them two or more times and bag them together. It has to be scan, bag, scan, bag, scan, bag…

      • Yes, this.

        Bunnings self-service lets you chose the quantity and then scan once. Woolies is a PITA by comparison.

  • “thank you for using Coles assisted checkout’.
    This drives me wild. I selected my groceries myself, I navigated the damn machine all by myself, placed everything in the stupid bagging area by myself, assisted the geriatric on the next machine struggling to buy the paper since no staff are ever available and then packed and paid for my groceries, while returning my basket to a suitable location by myself.
    Assisted my ass.

  • Scan it and don’t look. If the shit don’t beep it’s free. Fuck that, they have people paid to do this work and I’m supposed to bag my own crap. Also if the weight light goes off, you just call the assistant over and they just over ride it for you anyway without looking… Cheers!

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