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Do you hate self-service checkouts?

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The self-service checkout is the Marmite of the shopping world. Some of you love them for their convenience and speed, others hate them for their continuous inhuman errors.

Self-service checkouts first infiltrated our supermarkets in the 90s, but now the often unreliable scanners have veritably rammed our local stores with their robotic voices.

They’re meant to offer convenience to customers, but it’s clear that their main purpose is to reduce supermarket staff, leading to valuable savings.

Most of us hate self-service checkouts

Well, three quarters of us supposedly hate these checkouts, as found in a survey by discount website MyVoucherCodes.co.uk. And although this website would like us to do our shopping online, the results aren’t terribly surprising – a previous poll put Brit dissatisfaction with the checkouts at around half.

Not only do many of us hate self-service checkouts, but they’re also our most hated thing about supermarkets. Dawdling customers and unhelpful staff aren’t too far behind. Seven in ten find the machines infuriating, with many wanting the scanners to be removed altogether.

Which might be a little over the top – the checkouts can speed up the supermarket experience. And although building up the confidence to use them is sometimes hard, once you’ve got the hang of them, you’ll feel like you’re in charge of your own shopping destiny.

‘Unexpected item in the bagging area’

But then you hear those hellish words sent to us by a demonic, robotic woman – ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’. I’ll give you an unexpected item in your bagging area!

You repeatedly drop that packet of nuts on the scales – but to the self-service checkout, your nuts don’t exist. This leaves you aimlessly looking for an overworked member of staff to help you as the queue builds up behind.

Three quarters of those polled said they’d had similar experiences – leading four in ten to stop using them altogether. Sarah Dennis from Which? Home had these words for self-service checkouts:

“Self-service may seem like a good idea in theory, but in my experience they can often be more inconvenient than an unsmiling checkout assistant, where at least there’s some human interaction.”

But the simple fact is – if you want to avoid dawdling customers and unhelpful staff, the self-service checkout may be your best option, even if they often seem like they have a vendetta against you. What’s your experience of self-service checkouts? Love ’em or hate ’em?

Do you hate supermarket self-service checkouts?

Yes, they're worse than unsmiling checkout assistants. (38%, 390 Votes)

No, they're speedy and convenient. (31%, 327 Votes)

Yes, I find them difficult to use. (24%, 250 Votes)

I don't know, I've never used one. (7%, 73 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,040

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Our survey says – self-service checkouts suck.

Judy McLean says:
24 July 2010

Nobody has mentioned the Sainsbury’s scan it yourself system known as Fast-track, which is excellent and predates the Waitrose system. Also the Waitrose one requires that you have a John Lewis credit card, so is not readily available for all.
I don’t like the self -checkout for the same reasons as many others – unexpected item, and not recognising own bags.


I use the Waitrose self scan system and haven’t got a John Lewis credit card. I was told any credit card could be registered – and it works.

Jenny Lewis says:
24 July 2010

My daughter went to Ikea yesterday for Bedroom furniture. Sliding wardrobes, bedside cabinets, chest of draws and dressing table. After the assistant had helped them work out what they needed the total was over £1,300 plus £175 delivery they were told they had to go to the storage area and pick out everysingle item themselves and load these onto a trolly. This meant every draw, rail and door knob. As you can imagine some of these peices were huge and her partner had to do this himself as she is 81/2 mths pregnant. They managed this after quite a struggle and another struggle to get the trolly to checkout, you know how awkward trollies are let alone when piled high with large furniture. At checkout they were told the should have made sure all the barcodes were in a particular place, so had to juggle everything again. Having paid eventually for all the items they were told to take them to the delivery bay. Another long trek without any help from any members of staff, once there the surly assistant said they would need another trolly as he couldn’t possible handle all the items off one trolley as it wasn’t safe. Needless to say tempers by this point were getting very frayed, partner went all around the store to get back outside to get the extra trolley to bring it all the way around the store back to deliveries. Meanwhile assistant could see daughter get absolutely furious so nipped just outside his door and got another trolley! When the partner got back too delivery bay things were certainly getting worse and worse. They asked if when the items were delivered they could be placed in the bedroom as daughter would be there on her own (81/2 mths pregnant) she was told NO its to the doorstep only. That was the last straw they saw red and told the assistant they no longer wanted any of the items and how do they get a refund!! The quality of service in the store was diabolical with assistants seeing them struggling and not one offer of help. They got their refund but only after having too take the whole trolley back around the store to the refunds department. I would have thought this could contraviene Health and Safety laws apart from the common curtesy of Customer Service. Or is it a case of looking after the well being of their own staff and b….. the paying customer. Needless to say a letter of complaint will be sent, not that anyone will really be bothered. Self service checkouts are ok for a limited number of small items but stores should make sure the equipment we have to use if straightforward and quick to use. I also noticed this is now the trend in B&Q another store where customers can be purchasing large and heavy items! I am sure once they are all sued for various accidents that will inevetably occurr they will soon revert to having shop assistants who will actually help the customer at the checkouts.

Pete Massingham says:
25 July 2010

Re Jenny Lewis.
The service you get in these kinds of stores in the UK is dreadful. In the States, you really do get extra help moving goods and your purchase is often taken to you vehicle. The customer is always right! You are made to feel valued as a customer. Common sense.
Generally, service in the UK at furniture stores and the like is appalling, as is the delivery attitude – they just want to dump the stuff and go! We really don’t get it right here and some stores should be revealed and shamed in this context!

K.G. Isaacson says:
24 July 2010

We like the human contact at a check-out, this will become more important when we have retired and shopping may become an important chance to interact with other people. Where we live most of the checkout staff are friendly


get a life


Hi Deb, try and say a little more if you can and be polite to others. Thanks.

Pete Massingham says:
25 July 2010

At the very least you should get a discount for not receiving a service from the normal checkout route.I much prefer to chat with the checkout person and feel I am engaging with something and someone more friendly and responsive. I use the self checkout system sometimes, but it is not a user friendly experience, especially if the system declares something is wrong and you have a queu of people waiting to get through.

sumbloke says:
25 July 2010

I love them, Thanks to the huge number of Luddites about, and I mean that in the nicest possible way, I never have to queue at the checkouts when shopping. Yes the "unexpected item" business is annoying and trying to open a plastic bag can be frustrating but overall, the convenience far outweighs the hassle. Leave the self service checkouts for those with a bit of a sense of adventure. The rest of you, get in the queue.