/ Shopping

Have we come round to self-service checkouts?

In the past, self-service checkouts have attracted strong feelings from both the ‘for’ and ‘against’ camps. Two years ago, the majority of you told us you avoided them like the plague, but the tables have started to turn…

In July 2010 we put up a poll about self-service checkouts and over 1,000 of you responded. Six in ten said you hated self-service checkouts at supermarkets, while a third said you liked them, finding them ‘speedy and convenient’.

However, a recent test by The Grocer found that 83% of their mystery shoppers had ‘no problem whatsoever’ using self-service tills at Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco supermarkets.

The great self-service checkout debate

In past Convos, we’ve seen frustrated commenters and evangelical converts of self-service tills. For example, Martin Stride was put off self-service checkouts forever:

‘I hate them with a passion, more so in the DIY store I frequent. I object to having to struggle with awkward items to the checkout and scan them. If they want my money the least they can do is take it off me personally – not some robotic, annoying computer voice.’

On the other hand, Craig Brown said they were a great time-saver:

‘I find these machines fantastic. Sure, they can be a bit glitchy and it’s a pain when you’re buying items such as alcohol, but overall I think they are a good thing. When I pop down to my local Sainsbury’s I can now pop in and out in a few minutes rather than having to queue for ages just to buy some milk!’

So The Grocer would have us believe that the tides have changed, and we’re turning into a nation of self-service checkout converts. And I have to admit, I find myself turning to them more often than not when I have a small basket of shopping, simply due to the shorter queuing time.

Swings and roundabouts

Yet I still have my frustrations with self-service! As a former checkout-worker, I’m fairly comfortable with the technology. But I find it frustrating that there are still a few occasions where I need help from an assistant. If I want to buy paracetamol, alcohol, anything sharp, anything above a 12 certificate or use a voucher – I need an assistant to approve the purchase. And of course, we’ve all had the ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’ warning far too many times.

I fully understand the need to keep a close eye on restricted products, so I don’t blame the checkouts for this. But I often find I’m waiting an unreasonable amount of time as one lone assistant runs themselves ragged trying to approve endless warnings from 20 checkouts. In fact, general secretary of shopworkers union Usdaw, John Hannett said:

‘Frustrated shoppers often take out their anger on the nearest shopworker. Unfortunately, self-service checkouts have become another flashpoint that can lead to shopworkers being abused, threatened and even physically assaulted.’

So, two years on from our original poll, I’m going to run a similar poll again to see if you’ve really changed your minds about self-service checkouts. Have you found that they’re improving over time? Or do you still avoid them at all times?

Do you hate supermarket self-service checkouts?

Yes, I don't like using them (63%, 1,753 Votes)

No, they're speedy and convenient. (32%, 880 Votes)

I don't know, I've never used one. (5%, 131 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,767

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Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

At my local Tesco, the only change I have seen is that it is now possible to use your own bags without the intervention of a member of staff. The staff know how much some of us hate self-service checkouts and will occasionally open a proper checkout when it’s supposed to be self-service only.

A visit to the supermarket is never a happy experience, but self-service checkouts make the customer experience far worse.

Profile photo of keef
Member

I agree with the comment about DIY self service checkouts as I often find the weight of items is a problem. However with supermarkets I definitely think that if they got taken out then more people would complain than be happy.

As an ex-food retail manager there is always a feeling that the installation of new self-serve checkouts in you store means a huge cut in your personnel budget, which to some extent is true, but I feel it gives more opportunity for the store staff to improve service levels across the whole store.

My personal gripe with self-service tills is the lack of cashback function.

Profile photo of Jonathan Richardson
Member

Hi Keith, where do you shop as some supermarkets I’ve been to offer cashback with self-service – Asda for one, though not my local Sainsbury’s.

Profile photo of NFH
Member

I like them when I use a credit card for a very small amount, usually because I don’t have any change and don’t want to break into a £20 note. It still feels awkward to use a credit card for a very small amount, and the lack of human interaction prevents any embarrassment.

Profile photo of Florence Buswell
Member

I’m not a fan I must admit. I find them more trouble than they’re worth, mainly because however firmly I place my items in the bagging area the machine seems adamant in saying I haven’t. And don’t get me started on ‘unknown item in bagging area’! Although my Mum does like them purely for the fact she likes to feel she’s been ID-ed for wine – even if it is by a machine.

Member
artylady says:
8 October 2012

I like them for their speed and I also have a thing about checkout assistants who handle my food after fiddling with their ears, picking their spots, wiping their noses and, if I’m really lucky, sharing their cold with me. This delightful experience doesn’t happen in all supermarkets of course, some are worse than others.
As far as cashback is concerned, my local Morrisons does have machines which offer this facility although the Sainsbury’s which I usually use doesn’t, but this isn’t too much of an issue as they have cash machines just outside the door.
My main gripe is that the machines don’t recognise my own shopping bag so I have to scan everything, put it all in the bagging area and pack it after I’ve paid. Otherwise I find the machines easy to use and much quicker than queuing.

Profile photo of Jennifer Davis
Member

To artylady and william – you’ve reminded me of another one of my bugbears. I too regularly use my own shopping bags, and it’s very frustrating that I can’t pack my shopping until after I’ve paid for it. It holds up the queue, it holds ME up and just doesn’t represent a good customer experience.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Well said artylady. I suppose the self-service checkouts are throughly cleansed every day. You don’t know whose filthy fingers have been all over the machines; well, you probably do actually!

Member

Artylady, although I dont work with food there should be hygiene policies laid down and there would be. At my place of work, note we dont sell food, we have hygiene wipes or gel because we handle money, and sometimes the odd packaging has a little extra on it left by customers.
As a customer though in dress stores Ive seen snot on clothing, so the assistant has to get that off. Excrement left in display sheds, left there by so called desent customers. Customers sneezing and coughing in your face. Hyperdermic needles left hidden on shelves so replenishment can prick themselves or anyone for that matter, mad world were living in. As for shopping bags its extra weight that shouldnt be on there, and its necessary that they shouldnt be on there. The scales are an important part of stock control, people taking items off the scales before payment takes place are just making their stay there much longer cos the machine wont do anything until that item is back on the scale. So Jennifer its you who holds up the queue

Profile photo of william
Member

I’m still amazed that half the time I ever try to use them around 25% aren’t working, but then again, what can you expect from Tesco.
Top tip to a winning experience,do not do anything with bags, yours, theirs or anyone else until you’ve finished. Seems the whole bag experience has never been user tested properly so removing that whole scenario seems to help alot.
Although the last time I tried to buy something in B&Q (for 1 item) I needed an assistant, apparently the item I had bought was too lite for the machine.

Member
par ailleurs says:
8 October 2012

Given the fact that they fail to function correctly too often, the cynic in me just thinks that these cursed things are there to save the shop money by employing fewer people. I bet the savings won’t be passed on to either us, the great shopping public, or to the other staff for having to bear the brunt of the complaints on top of their regular job.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I make a point of saying that I’m not criticising the staff when I’m having a whinge about the self-service checkouts. I’ve often been told that the staff hate them too.

Profile photo of rarrar
Member

My only experience was several years ago in a local Tesco, after trying to use them on 3/4 visits and never succeeding to get through a trolley without having to ring for help I gave up as it was quicker and easier to queue.
Obviously things have changed since then but my local supermarkets dont have self-service checkouts and I rather enjoy the chat with the assistants; we live in the North where friendly conversation is mandatory with anyone nearby !!

Profile photo of dlorde
Member

At my local Tesco, I can use my Clubcard both to pay and get points at a standard checkout. At the self-service tills I can only use it for points, so I would have to use a different card to pay. So I don’t use them. And yes, I have asked them why and got no explanation.

Member
Sophie Gilbert says:
9 October 2012

I have noticed at my local Tesco that most till assistants regularly omit to credit my Clubcard with bag re-use points when I use my own shopping bag (I don’t let them get away with it, but it is wearing to have to remind them every time), whereas when I use the self-service checkout, which does let me use my own shopping bag, I have only myself to blame if I “forget”.

Profile photo of Jennifer Davis
Member

It seems from your comments and my own experience that self-service checkouts do have a place in our supermarkets, but they’re not a viable replacement for checkout staff.

I find self-service tills work very well in inner-city metro-style supermarkets (Tesco Metro, Sainsbury’s Local etc.) as hoards of office workers descend in their lunch break to buy a sandwich, crisps and a drink. It’s a very small purchase, there are rarely complications involved and you can be in and out of the shop in a few minutes.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I have no objection to self-service checkouts as an option but I object to being expected to use them. My local Tesco (the only supermarket near my home) closes the staffed checkouts later in the evening. Sometimes there are long queues for the staffed checkouts and the self-service ones are the lesser of two evils.

I agree that self-service checkouts are fine for a few items and am happy to use them for this purpose, but not if I have a trolley full of goods, when problems usually arise. I watch other people struggling when I’m waiting for an assistant, so I don’t think it is just me being incompetent.

Profile photo of Jennifer Davis
Member

I wouldn’t be happy with that either, wavechange. As you say, it’s fine to have self-service to complement the staffed checkouts, but not to replace them, even if it’s just at certain times of the day. I’m also sure you’re not incompetent – I just think the technology has a long way to go before it’s truly user friendly!

Profile photo of Jonathan Richardson
Member

It depends on the supermarket I find. When I shopped at Morrisons they seemed designed to antagonise, while the Sainsbury’s ones aren’t too bad while the Asda near me has extra large ones so that trolleys can get through (and seems to recognise your own bags).

However, I still find that staff are quicker than I ever am with a basketload, self-service tends to be best for a couple of items.

Member
Morag says:
9 October 2012

My husband and kids love them. They have Asperger’s and much prefer dealing with technology over people. So you could say they are disability friendly. 🙂

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I’m not sure that those in wheelchairs would agree, but it’s good that the things help your family.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

My favourite thing about self-service checkouts? In some, including Asda and Tesco, they have a coin tray where you can just empty coins into.

I empty my wallet of coppers, 5ps etc when I’m buying my shopping – it will add it all up, and if I’m short I can pay the remainder in my card. I hate small change, and so this is a very good way to get rid of it without any hassle. It’s also a more cost-effective way than those change machines (as they take a cut). I wouldn’t do too much small change though or you might get funny looks…

Profile photo of dave d
Member

Never seen one like that Patrick! Sounds like a clever idea, and potentially very welcome, but I wonder if it is reliable and proof against jokers emptying fruit machine tokens, trolly release tokens and foreign coins in? Something to find out more about methinks

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I’ve not seen a self-service checkout that will take piles of change ‘up north’. I knew there had to be an advantage of living in London. 🙂

Member
Longley Shopper says:
10 October 2012

I’m tempted to take my 1 gallon pickled onion jar full of 2p’s and try to find one of these things and then pay for my weekly shop in copper. It’d be worth it just to see if the stupid machine can cope and to watch the queue behind me when it fails miserably.

You can probably gather that I hate them.

My sole reason for hating them is that they are a blatant way to make staff redundant.

Fortunately I do most of my shopping at greengrocers, butchers, bakers and cash-only corner shops and I don’t think any of them will be going for these machines too soon.

Member
par ailleurs says:
9 October 2012

I do feel that it’s worth putting in a good word for the middle way here. I always use the self scan option in my local Waitrose (the little laser barcode reader) and it works brilliantly. You can check how much your interim total spend is, it flags up special offers and you can load your baskets in the trolley as you go. Except for the very occasional spot check it’s really straighforward and you absolutely never get behind one of those wonderful folk who first carry on loading their bags in the trolley most meticulously even when the till assistant is ready to take payment and who then always fail to have purse or wallet ready or sometimes to have even made up their mind as to which method of payment they’re going to use!

Member
Dave Midgley says:
9 October 2012

Self-service checkouts are here to stay, and they will become the ‘norm’ in time.
The reason being that these checkouts don’t phone in sick, they don’t need annual holidays, nor do they need to take a lunch break, pay a visit to the toilet or even want a salary…
The result being that they are far cheaper to run and maintain than those pesky unreliable humans!
I hate them with a passion and would rather be served by someone with a pulse, regardless how miserable or uninterested they are.

Member
PeterW says:
9 October 2012

Err – part of the problem is that the self service checkouts do “phone in sick”. For about every second transaction, they fail to work until a harrassed human assistant can be found to over-ride the machine’s mistake and authorise the transaction. That’s certainly true of the DIY store machines, which just can’t cope with very light, very heavy or odd shaped goods. On my last visit I had 4 items; nothing more difficult than pots of paint, but two of them sent the machine haywire for no apparent reason.

Member
Phil says:
10 October 2012

The reason I never use them unless there is no alternative. Working at a supermarket checkout may not be much of a job but it provides an income for tens if not hundreds of thousands of people who would otherwise be on the dole. Self service check-outs might be cheaper for the store to run but will the savings be passed onto the customer? I doubt it.

Member

In reply to Dave Midgely, The machines may not phone in sick, or take holidays but they cost thousands of pounds. These machines however need constant rebooting, and notices stuck on them saying card payment only, too the dismay of customers and staff alike. There is also the case of engineers being called out every so often and how much is that going to cost plus the cost of the replacement part for the machine. I would say the machines are stupid a customer has only one item yet the machine asks the customer to scan another item which confuses the customer so the customer picks up the scanned item and trys to scan again only to set the machine off red light flashing, Put the item back, the machine screams, I usually tell the customer, stupid machine doesnt know you only have one item, that puts a smile on the customers faces. Theres another thing machines dont have a sense of humour.

Member
Chris Gordon says:
9 October 2012

They are a good idea in principle and if you have a small basket of shopping BUT nine times out of 10 they don’t work properly. (M&S and Sainsbury’s mainly)

Profile photo of dave d
Member

I guess that someone somewhere has done a cost-benefit analysis for these obnoxious machines, but I don’t understand how it can have shown any benefit:

In M&S (all 4 stores in Sheffield) they now have between 2 and 6 assistants operating the Self Service tills for the customers because most customers appear to refuse point blank to use them. I don’t know whether it’s something peculiar to M&S customers but whenever I am in a manned checkout lane listening to the conversations there are usually a couple of staff trying to persuade customers to use the SS tills instead. Most customers start by simply ignoring the staff and staying in the manned till queue. If the staff get a bit more persistent they usually say “no thanks”. If the assistants get even more persuasive and say (as if to ‘bargain’ with the customers) “I’ll do it all for you if you like” a few customers agree to go across but many still say no. Those who do go across almost all spend the whole time that the transaction is going through complaining about the ethics of M&S making staff redundant by bringing these things in. Some staff try to argue the case, most stay silent and just smile politely and a few staff point out that the number of people who just walk off without paying means that they have to have staff watching them all anyway.

I fail to see what M&S has gained by introducing these and I cannot see how they are saving any money.

B&Q have lost me as a customer for good because they try to force people to use SS tills by closing all the manned ones. I now shop at Wickes who have no SS tills. They’re also a bit cheaper on most lines, so I win and I fail to see how B&Q gain anything. I know I’m not alone, even though I may be in a minority.

The Co-Op near to me had 6 SS tills which were the worst I ever came across for errors. Two were barriered off and marked “out of order” for about 6 months and now they’ve been taken out and there are only 4. They seem to get used quite a bit but customers wanting delivery (quite a large number) often go through the SS till and then have to have their transaction cancellend and taken to a manned till to get the delivery booked. This is the Co-Op’s fault, not that of the machines, but again I fail to see what advantage there has been to installing (and taking out 2 of) these.

I don’t shop anywhere else that has intrioduced them (yet) and long may it stay that way. (Waitrose, where I do almost all my shopping, don’t even have their won scanners here, though I’d give them a go if they did – they just have 20, yes 20, manned checkouts open all the time.

On the rare occasions that I have iused them they’ve been a disatsrer and I regularly point out to staff that as I have a sight disability and therefore a signature card not a PIN card they won’t work for me. I always add that I suspect that they therefore contravene the Disability Discrimination Act – some staff clearly don’t understand and others comment that they also worry about this. I don’t actually know if there is any contravention or not.

So all in all, with the amount of hassle they cause, lost sales, lost customers, the need for many staff to deal with the issues, unreliability, unexpected items, items too light to trigger the scale, bag issues and customers walking off without paying, I really don’t understand how on earth they can save any money or time for anyone and I don’t see how any sane person can see them as a benefit – even if you like them yourself, after waiting ages in a queue caused by a malfunction or some other need to call an assistant, they are slower than manned tills which must surely put off even those who like the concept?

Quite beyond me I’m afraid!

Member
Pjay Gloucester says:
9 October 2012

I refuse to use these blasted machines and yet my wife loves them. She likes to make sure that the correct price is charged. Whenever on the rare occasions that I go with her, I get p……. off when I can’t pack our own bags until after the goods have been paid for. What a stupid idea.

When I went to the local B&Q store in the evening, only the blasted SS tills were open. When the assistant offered to scan my 2 items when I said I can’t work the blasted machine, it took him more than 5 minutes to get the job done because the scanner could not or would not read the code, neither would it read the discount card.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

According to the poll so far, the self-service checkouts are more popular than last time we discussed them. I still find it surprising that The Grocer magazine claims that 83% of their mystery shoppers had ‘no problem whatsoever’ with these checkouts. I wonder if The Grocer thinks we all enjoy shopping, think supermarkets are fantastic and always give us good value for money. 🙂

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I suspect the mystery shoppers employed by The Grocer trade paper have a tendency to favour things that support the grocery trade; it’s their bread and butter after all.

Profile photo of dave d
Member

Looks as if the tide has turned during teh last 24 hours or so Wavechange!

Although, is it me, or have the questions been altered slightly since it started?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

That’s good news, Dave. There was a fourth choice that might have annoyed those who run the staffed checkouts.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hi all, sorry I was going to mention – we’ve tweaked the poll as there were two ‘yes’ options, which were skewing the results. We’ve combined both and put all ‘Yes’ votes into the same pot, so nothing was lost.

We’ve learnt a lot in the past two years since we first did the poll, and looking back it was a little odd to have two ‘Yes’s’. When you added it up there were 62% who didn’t like self-service checkouts – this does still appear to have dropped.

Member
isabelle egan says:
9 October 2012

What people are seeing is the disappearance of a job that suits many people who have part time jobs. The supermarkets love this self-checkout because it means that YOU are doing the drone work that they paid someone else to do.
Is this seriously an improvement? Right now, there’s a double exit, with manned checkouts and self-checkouts. If self checkouts become the ONLY checkout, there will be even bigger queues than exist now, with no comeback on the shop, just hollering at slow customers who can’t do it quickly…
My life is worth more than being a supermarket checkout queen. I like service. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water…

Member
Pjay Gloucester says:
10 October 2012

I could not agree more. Well said.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

I am surprised the German store Aldi have not introduced SS Checkouts.There your shopping runs past the scanning assistant at high speed and the conveyor virtually propels it into the trolley with no time to sort, pack and organise the contents. If you hold up the line and don’t have your money ready immediately the staff shout at you. It’s in the price I suppose.

Profile photo of richard
Member

In my local supermarket – The wheeled shopping basket is banned – so I couldn’t use SS anyway. I will not shop several times a week just so the supermarket can save more money by forcing me to do their job for them. Sadly the local shops are far too small to carry all the goods I want to buy. I certainly only want to waste time shopping once a week – not wandering around all day to collect all I need.

Member
Carol Draper says:
10 October 2012

With the terrible effect of so much unemployment on the economy and on people, why are we cutting down on yet more jobs?

Member

Carol, its the fat cats of the big businessess. Barclays say no more

Profile photo of tpoots
Member

Self service checkouts are great for myself and fellow bagits (yes, I just made that word up…), who often struggle when bagging items. This way I can take my own time without worrying about being judged by the checkout worker!

Only downside is the unfortunate loss of jobs. And the oversensitive scales. And maybe that time it said I had to provide ID for spoons.

Member

Tpoots believe me you are judged

Profile photo of davetparkes
Member

we use them all the time – its just quicker than using the main checkouts.
at tesco the bagging area is big enough for our main shop.
at morrisons – which we prefer – the bagging area will hold only a dozen items or so.

Member

I’m retired and (apart from having settled comfortably into the ranks of the grumpy old g*ts) have the luxury of being able to take time over most things including shopping.
I refuse to use self-service checkouts partly, if I’m honest, because I don’t like being dictated to by a machine but mostly because I object to doing what for all my life has been the work of the supermarket staff.
At least it won’t be my fault when supermarkets start offering shoppers the chance to stack the shelves as well !

Member
Peter Maughan says:
20 October 2012

The benefit to the shopper of self-service checkouts is that it is only necessary to handle each item once: pick up from the basket, scan and put immediately into a carrier bag. With the staff operated checkout, the shopper has to handle each item twice: (1) pick up from the basket and place on the conveyor and (2) pick up after scanning and place in the carrier bag. All the shop assistant has to do is to scan items as quickly as possible; it’s the shopper that does all the work.
Another advantage of the self-service machine is that it counts small change and shows a running total of the balance remaining, so it is convenient to off-load small change. By contrast, when a shop assistant is waiting to be given money it is tempting to whip out a note and be given change, thus increasing the weight of coins carried around in the pocket.
Thirdly, at the self-service checkout I don’t mind using a credit/debit card for payment, even for small amounts. I feel that a shop assistant at a standard checkout might frown on me for offering a credit card for an amount less that £10. Recently, I’ve decided to make more use of my payment cards to avoid handling money, as I’ve read that notes and coins are often contaminated by other people’s faeces.
Finally, I use self-service checkouts because I can be rude to the robotic voice without causing offence. If asked for a Clubcard I often reply “You STUPID woman, I’ve told you before I haven’t got a Clubcard!”. It’s one way of venting anger at Clubcard time-wasting.

Member

Peter, you presume too much, where I work we would gadly accept a card payment no matter how small the amount Ive taken payment for less than a £1 and there is no charge. We also do trolly to trolly so I would take your items out of your trolly scan them then put them back into the empty trolly beside me, Ive even bagged peoples shopping for them. Not on my shift does the shopper do everything, big burly men have even watched me struggle with heavy items. On the other side of the till assistants have asked me do I need help with bagging, when Ive said yes please they do it for me. How rediculous people look when they shout and scream at a machine. People will still think they are plonkers!

Profile photo of william
Member

I’ve just found this, not good reading for those in favour of self service checkouts.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2211850/Asda-shopper-charged-FIVE-HUNDRED-POUNDS-reduced-price-pork-chops.html

You don’t need to click on the link if the DM offends, the link says it all really.

Member
Cameron says:
14 December 2012

I use them sometimes and I don’t have a problem with them. However, there are two things generally missing from this debate:

1. It clearly reduces the number of staff needing to man checkouts (thats why the supermarkets have them), so does it mean more jobs dissapearing?

2. Less staff in supermarkets means a greater ability to undercut small shops – will more small shops close?

Member
Lucy says:
8 July 2014

As someone who operates the self scan checkouts, the reputation these machines have is unfair. I spend my entire shift biting my tongue as customers regularly s**g off the machines to me and rant about how much they hate them. If you hate them so much, please, dont use them. It appears that many customers who use the self scan machines, do not have an understanding of how they work.

The main issues:

1. Scanning an item and then messing around trying to get it in the bag in the ‘right’ way before placing it in the ‘bagging area’ (this is a SCALE, it weighs items so it can check that the item you have scanned is the one you have placed in the bagging area. To prevent for example scanning a 60p chocolate bar and placing a TV in the bagging area).

It is HIGHLY ADVISABLE to scan all items through and pack after the shop however many customers are able to scan and pack without an issue as long as each item is placed in the bag and left alone, not constantly picked up, put back down or shuffled around. If this is your requirement, go through a manned checkout where you can mess around with your items to your hearts content, but dont expect the machine to understand whats happening when it has a scan code that gives it a weight to match up, and then this weight is coming on, going off etc etc.

2. Taking a large trolley load through a self scan machine with a small bagging area. This makes absolutely no sense to me and will always take far longer than going through a manned checkout. So please no comments about how it is supposed to be quicker.

3. Unexpected item in bagging area. This happens when: customers take too long to place the item in the bagging area, customers scan an item incorrectly, or when an items weight has been entered into the system incorrectly causing the machine to recognise the weight as an error. 90% of the time if you arent messing around with the items in the bagging area, this doesnt happen. It often is abused by people stealing from supermarkets as self scan attendants are so used to having to quickly clear the prompt without thoroughly checking the bagging area due to irate customers. In reality if the machine says unexpected item, 7 times out of 10 it is correct, something has been entered incorrectly. However due to how irate customers get, although it would be easy to explain what has happened to cause the machine to respond in this way, this is not done as customers then become defensive and irritable.

4. People who complain about approval needed. Please note. The machine does not have the ability to look at you and judge your age. Clearly approval will be required for absolutely all age restricted items on self scan checkouts. If this offends you or irritates you that you are being held up, please feel free to go to a manned checkout. It is essential for public safety that this procedure is followed. NB: Tesco self scan checkouts do not request approval for the purchase of paracetamol. This is illegal due to both age and quantity restrictions and Watchdog are investigating.

5. When using self scan checkouts the public appear to lose the ability to either hear or read. The machine gives instructions clearly for most eventualities if you would just look up and see what the message on screen says.

6. Swiping a baguette in front of the scanner as if it were a light saber, will not result in the barcode being read, so throwing said baguette at the screen is unnecessary.

7. Whistling self scan attendants as if they were dogs is not acceptable.

8. Neither is grabbing them physically.

9. If a self scan attendant is with another customer and you can see them assisting the other customer, please dont persist in shouting. One at a time. There is a traffic light system on the self scan machines and the attendant will attend asap.

10. The assumptions made by the general public about supermarket workers to be frank are disgusting and discriminatory. My friend with 2 degrees who is working on her masters and working part time has been told she must be stupid as she is working in a supermarket. This is not an isolated incident. The people who do work there full-time do a sterling job in my opinion to remain upbeat and customer orientated on the majority of occasions despite having the same conversation upwards of 300 times per shift and being subject to a complete lack of respect.

11. Men. If you come across an attractive female on your checkout, please. Just because you’ve got her trapped doesnt mean its a free pass. Try to show some respect. Also frequent comments about how her hair looks better…how old she looks… flabbergasted. Would never dream of having that conversation with a random shopworker who has to put up with whatever comments you choose to make, when actually, her skin is crawling.

12. Please for everyones information: If the lights above the window where you scan the items is RED, this means the scanner is OFF. GREEN for GO, RED for STOP.

I also work on the manned checkouts. I do not mind taking my time scanning the items as I believe customer service is of the upmost importance. I will gladly pack for customers and regularly do so. I try to ensure all customers are made aware of any promotions they may have missed and particularly take my time ensuring the elderly customers of which we have a lot, are not flustered and are well looked after. HOWEVER. I accept this is not always the experience with checkout attendants. One point of interest I will mention is that manned checkout workers are targeted on the number of items they scan per minute, and can lose their job if this is consistently too low. The target in one supermarket is 22 items per minute. This is a fairly fast pace. For me as I work part time to fund my postgraduate degree, this is not an issue. For full time workers this may be more important.

Anyway. Just some thoughts.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Lucy – I am disappointed that a graduate should make such one-sided comments.

I would love to have the option to use manned checkouts if I have a trolley load, but the fact is that my local Tesco store closes every one of them later in the evening. Not one of the self-scanning machines has a decent sized bagging area.

When I encounter a problem and have to wait for assistance, the assistant often has exactly the same problem, so either we are both incompetent or there is a problem with the machine.

If the machines cannot cope with people packing their bags while scanning goods, commonsense dictates that there should be a prominent notice to say that everything should be scanned first. I have not seen such notices. The software should be designed to cope with how customers are likely to use the checkouts. When I started to use these machines I was unable to use my own bags without help from the assistant. This issue was addressed within a year of the introduction of the machines but should have been predicted by the designers.

You do not have to accept abuse from customers. Your employer should have explained the procedure for reporting this and how the problem can often be avoided by treating customers respectfully and showing sympathy.

Please accept that there are genuine problems with these confounded machines.

Profile photo of william
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Lucy, Don’t forget you’ve probably been trained on how to how these machines, us members of the pubic haven’t, so is it really fair to expect us to be able to use them in the manner the designers have decided they should be used rather than the manner that normal people would actually use them.

And I guess you don’t work for Tesco, I tried scanning a coconut yesterday and it keep telling me that item has been withdrawn, when a more helpful message would have been scan the bar code and yes there was a very small bar code on it but why then allow me to pick fruit, exotic fruit coconut if I’m not supposed to.

These machines have been so poorly coded I can get them to go wrong on just one item.

Even the poor assistant admitted they have several problems.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Assistants in Tesco have frequently told me that they hate the machines and the fact that they go wrong so often. On a couple of occasions there have been so many problems that the assistant has completed the scanning for me. It is very annoying having to wait until the one assistant has sorted out problems at other self-scanning machines.

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On one occasion I had multiples of one item and the assistant jumped in before I’d even got to the machine and scanned them for me by doing something ( certainly not scanning them individually). I asked oh that’s a neat trick can you show me how its done, the reply, sorry that facility isn’t available to customers. 🙁

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I wonder why more supermarkets haven’t taken up Waitrose’s personal scanners that allow you to scan each item as you shop and simply pay the total at the checkout. Has it been abused? It seems a much more efficient way for both store and shopper.
Having checkout operators targetted for scanning speed perhaps accounts for the race I sometimes have to fill my bags before the “out” area overflows; I just thought it was more entertaining for the operator. Perhaps customers would be banned if they didn’t load their bags sufficiently quickly?

Profile photo of wavechange
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Tesco have these in some of their larger stores. I have been waiting for someone to say whether they are any good or not before having a play with one. I’m not to keen on having someone going through my shopping bags in a ‘random’ check, as if I had been suspected of shoplifting.

At least you could put goods that refuse to scan back on the shelves, but you would still need to have restricted items checked by a human being to establish you are over 18.

Member
Rex Mutt says:
27 October 2014

Does anyone know the legal stand point when a self serve machine at the supermarket repeatedly refuses to take my banknote in payment……do I still have to ‘force’ payment?

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Member

It is possible that the note is either damaged our counterfeit. An attendant will inspect it for you.

Member
fed up shopper says:
5 November 2014

First time I ever used one it took my £20 but then did not acknowledge that the money had gone in. I found myself being eyed up and down by the manager who decided to give me my money back. So I don’t trust them for a very good reason.