/ Shopping

Can a supermarket work without tills?

Grocery shopping usually ends with a visit to the checkouts and often a bit of queuing… un-till now. Are we ready for a till-less revolution? Do we need one!? Updated 25 November 2021.

25/11/2021: Testing out Tesco GetGo

Tesco has entered into the checkout-free supermarket game by launching Tesco GetGo. This new checkout-free store hopes to rival Amazon Fresh in offering a more convenient shopping experience for consumers.

How does it actually compare though? Harry Kind went to check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixlDSU-AFxE

Read more about the new checkout-free Tesco Store

It’s easy to see a lot has changed since we first started this discussion–bigger stores, being able to purchase an item simply by putting it in your bag rather than scanning it with an app, and not to mention a lot more by way of technology powering this experience.

Have you tried the new Tescos or Amazon Fresh stores? How did it go? Would you find it easier and more convenient to shop in this way, or does the technology and feeling of being watched put you off the experience? Or, do your supermarket deliveries mean you’re less likely to shop in person at all?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

10/5/2019: Trying out Sainsbury’s till-less supermarket

We discussed the prospect of checkout-free supermarkets back in January last year.

Now, Sainsbury’s has announced the trial of the first till-free grocery store in the UK, and I was curious to give it a try.  

Could it live up to its promises of making my shop ‘quicker’ and ‘easier’?

Self-service checkouts have been a staple in most supermarkets for years now, but going completely till-free takes things another step further. Is it a change for the better?

Abby and I set off for a trial run at the till-less store at Holborn Circus. Our race to the finish line consisted of:

🛒 Buying a small shopping list of items; apples, cashew nuts, a cold drink and some tissues

🛒 Trying two methods of payment – Abby would pay with cash at the customer service desk, I would pay with the app

🛒 Declaring the winner as the fastest to complete their shop, pay, and exit the store

We’d both enter the store with the means to pay. With cash, that was fairly straightforward. With the app? Less so.

I needed to download it, register for an account, then enable location services to find the nearest store.

Faster…. kind of

Cash was faster, despite technically there not being a till to accept it (payment was done at a customer service desk). Abby completed her shop in five minutes and 35 seconds, nearly three minutes faster than my eight minutes and 32 seconds.  

Why did my shop take longer? I’d downloaded and registered to use the app in advance, but I did not download and set up my phone to pay with Google Pay. 

This took nearly four minutes, and a bit of juggling to input my card details using my phone’s camera while holding a shopping basket.  

Abby spent approximately three minutes queuing at the customer service desk to pay, while I was able to proceed straight to scan a QR code and pay on my app.  

App-ealling or dis-app-ointing?

Using the app had one key appeal – avoiding the queue. Had I walked in fully ready to pay I would have been both faster than cash, and have avoided the one part of shopping I prefer to avoid.  

It’s also handy to see how much your spend is at all times and not worry about brandishing your wallet in unfamiliar surroundings. You can also scan and bag as you go, making a shopping basket unnecessary for a small shop.

However, I can’t see this working for everyone and, at times, not working for me.

There’s a large technology chain involved to make this shop ‘easy’, including a phone, access to mobile data or WiFi, and being open to sharing your location data. Not everyone will be able to access these resources, or may want to keep their data more private.

My key takeaway is that ‘faster’ and ‘convenient’ are best defined by the shopper. For me that’s less about how I pay, and more about whatever method of payment has the fastest queue.

How do you normally pay for groceries at the supermarket?
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So how would you feel if your local supermarket completely ditched the checkouts and switched to an app? Could you get on board, or would you prefer a more personable shopping experience? Should we resist changes like this, or are they the future?

Comments

I use Google Pay all the time, and would certainly use a payment method such as this at times to avoid queues. Having said that, I feel we are beginning to use technology for everything just for the sake of it, and much of it takes longer or simply doesn’t work. If I was forced to rely on one payment method for everything, it would be cash without even a second thought.

I see this discussion has been reincarnated by the mention of Tesco GetGo in the introduction.

I don’t care what happens in the supermarkets because I’m happy using click & collect services. I miss out on food that is reduced for immediate sale, new coronavirus variants and the opportunity to wear a face mask.

I am wondering whether fully-planned shopping like click-&-collect and home delivery are killing the impulse buying trade so the retailers are having to find other ways to maintain profit levels. Turning us all into shopping robots might be the answer. I don’t see speed as the key to a good shopping experience.

I get “inspiration” when doing a physical food shop by seeing things I might not have searched for on line. Also, scanning shelves reminds me of stuff I need that might have been forgotten. And I choose my own substitutions. The more people who use C&C or home delivery the less crowded will be our supermarkets, so a bit of a win win perhaps.

Having said that I also buy online from Cook (other outlets exist) at times. I find their food very good quality, generous portions, a very varied selection, so keep a stock in the freezer. They give me a choice of menu when I don’t want to cook from scratch.

Early this morning I was awakened to the sound of someone knocking on my door. Half awake I stumbled down the stairs to find a young handsome gentleman with a mobile phone and a whole weeks shopping. What’s not to like? Living in the present is great!

Which of the three did you keep, Beryl? 🙂

Malcolm wrote: “I get “inspiration” when doing a physical food shop by seeing things I might not have searched for on line.” The online supermarkets I have used provide useful reminders of what I have bought before, plus the odd suggestion. I was extremely inefficient at shopping in supermarkets and may have pushed my trolley back and forth for a mile or more. I’ve not managed to get that exercise shopping online.

I agree with Wavechange about shopping efficiency on-line. It is better, and there are handy hints about possible accompaniments, alternatives, and offers that might be missed wandering around the aisles.

I expect physical grocery shopping will pick up again in due course, but if footfall decreases in the superstores there will be rationalisation since on-line orders can be fulfilled from a warehouse. Delivery also saves a lot of time because the only time spent after submitting the order is bringing the goods indoors which takes just a few minutes.

We have more choices now, John. Most supermarkets now offer a choice of staffed or self-service checkouts, though there are exceptions. Self-service checkouts were very troublesome when first introduced but have improved. I quite like the idea of being able to pick up groceries and put them in my own bag, though I have yet to try it. I was an early user of online shopping on behalf of my elderly mother, who lived over a hundred miles away. There were no saved ‘favourites’ in these days and what we have now is a much slicker operation. The increase in demand as a result of Covid has helped, although it has contributed to the poor experiences reported by some customers.

I enjoy being able to order online a couple of days in advance and by the following day I will have inspected my stocks and deleted some items and added others. I suppose those shopping in store could use a shopping list or an app.

Now that would be telling Malcolm!

A good point Wavechange. You do miss the exercise. I agree, the regular items are already in checkout and I delete the items I don’t need. Christmas stamps arrived in this mornings delivery, so no queueing in the P.O..

I have not done any sort of sport since I developed asthma, Beryl, but I get plenty of exercise from walking. At a supermarket or shopping centre I park in a quiet corner which means a longer walk but helps avoid damage caused by careless motorists. If I go into the city I park outside and walk to the shops, which also avoids parking charges.

I have not shopped from previous orders but I know that this option exists.

Apart from the odd visit to Lidl where parking is easy, free and spacious, I have not been anywhere near a large supermarket for quite a long time Wavechange. I don’t really miss them either.

We have a huge local Lidl that opened before the pandemic. I noticed that all the checkouts had attendants whereas a local-ish one focuses mainly on self-service. The Lidl is in a sensible place, whereas there relatively recent Aldi is difficult to get out of onto a busy road.

Fascinating video with a caveat at the end that applies to most electronic shopping. I haven’t got on top of Q codes yet, and, of course need a phone to use them. I have been known to leave the house with the phone in the house and not in a pocket. Some simple phones don’t scan Q codes.
There’s a huge amount of electronic activity going on in this store and a large amount of intensive personal tracking. There were no baskets or trolleys so one has to remember a bag or two. I wonder what happens if you pick something up and then put it back somewhere else. I’ve mixed feelings about the process, which relies on membership of a shop to make it work. I can see the convenience, though probably not for a large trolley shop in a big store. Like everything else, we move forward and things change. One has to get used to it.

One of the benefits of QR codes is that they can provide information. I used to shop in Maplin and pointing my phone at the code on shelf labels would provide information without going to the one catalogue provided so that I could check the details. I wish Screwfix would do this rather than providing a row of catalogues for customers to leaf through. Think of looking at fridges and being able to pull up the full specification just by waving the phone over the QR code.

I’m not keen to go into supermarkets at the moment but not having to wait at checkouts could encourage me in.

The idea of having no checkouts is good in some ways, if it means someone like me can go in and find what they want without having to que up at a rowdy checkout which in my long hard and far too often brutal experience is the most appalling part of the whole shopping routine because that’s where the most appalling raucous cackling fits happen, so it could possibly be great if I could go in and get my stuff and pay for it without having to wait while a bunch of selfish and grossly inconsiderate loudmouths stand there going insanely hyper-hysterical. But if they don’t use baskets or trolleys isn’t there more of a risk of thieving? And what about those of us who don’t have “smart” phones? there should be some other kind of device made available just for shopping at such a store which must be simple to use unlike so-called “smart” phones which are so complex. Some of us have dreadful learning disability and need things kept simple. And we shouldn’t have to give away so much personal info and privacy policies and terms must be kept simple for us simple folk to be able to read without needing university reading ability, that should be made compulsory as far too many terms and privacy policies resemble encyclopaedias, FAR too ridiculously long and complex. Honestly we’re all expected to be professional class these days while totally ignoring the needs of anyone who can’t be anywhere near such through no fault of their own. And such stores MUST be made to operate WITHOUT any dreadful excuse for “music” being played which makes the whole store totally inaccessible for some of us. They wouldn’t like it if I turned up there with my big powerful megaphone and started a protest would they? But I would be well within my rights to protest under article 11 of the human rights act, we are in a democracy after all, and folk like me are not an exception to it as far too many these days think.

I wonder how much an employee was paid for coming up with the name Tesco GetGo for the new service. Maybe they should be LetGo.

At self-service checkouts the weight of each item placed in the bagging area is checked to ensure that it matches the weight expected for the item identified by scanning the barcode. With the Tesco GetGo system, every supermarket shelf has to have weight sensors. Weight sensors are reliable devices but having every shelf linked to computer equipment plus all the cameras monitoring our every move provides plenty of opportunity for something to go wrong.

Not all Tesco experiments are successful. I remember visiting the Tesco store at Kingston Park near Newcastle, which at the time was the largest supermarket in the UK, to witness staff on roller skates. What could possibly go wrong? The roller skates were phased out.

Anita Rigden says:
27 November 2021

What happens to the people who do not have a smart ‘phone or any form of internet connection?
I remember the self-service till being proclaimed as the ‘faster and more convenient’ way to shop. Unless you are only swiping 2 non-alcoholic items they are not!
This sounds like another idea that ‘looked good when sketched out on a cigarette packet’.

I expect they will express their disgust, Anita. Only time with tell whether the system proves popular or will quietly disappear.

I was one of those who was very critical of the self-service checkouts, mainly because of the frequent problems. Nowadays they work better and many use them if they don’t have many items. We have choices. I presume that won’t apply with these new stores without tills.

Don’t mention self service tills to me. Over the years they’ve caused me nothing but major aggro again and again, and even got me forced out of some stores permanently as far too many of them only do their absolute fanatical utmost to keep me stuck there when I need to be out the place FAST. Over and over again I’ve had them stubbornly refuse to accept any of my cash, either coins or notes, and my card, yet they still work fine for anyone else, both before me and after, so I try another machine, same again, try a third, same AGAIN! They end up making me absolutely FURIOUS because of their absolute flat out fanatical determination to keep me either stuck there or make me have to leave empty handed, and I’ve also had too many supermarket card readers render my card as supposedly “invalid” and declined at the next store, yet the card still worked fine at the bank, and at various cash machines, but not in the store, NO chance! So I’m glad I’ve stopped using wretched supermarkets altogether now as they’re nothing but a wretched menace. I now go to the local Indian corner shop in my area which is more expensive and only has limited stock but at least there’s no stupid machines there doing their stubborn utmost to furiously wind me up and keep me stuck there all day. Self checkouts must be one of the most ludicrously unreliable contraptions ever invented.

John Carter says:
27 November 2021

Not everyone has a smartphone. My 83yr old step-mother is capable of doing her own supermarket shopping with a credit card but she has a basic mobile phone and would not manage with an app.

Richard Farrow says:
28 November 2021

When the technology fails and you don’t have cash, what do you do? I recently went int a supermarket and all the card readers had gone down, so it was cash only. There were abandoned trolleys everywhere. I have seen this happen several times in other shops and petrol stations. I think cash is king.

Food stores, which provide an essential service, should allow customers to complete a no means of payment declaration, as happens at petrol stations if you fill your tank and cannot pay (most often the customer’s fault).

I had a problem with a credit card recently but I was able to pay with ApplePay with the same card in the ‘wallet’.

I suppose the difference with fuel stations is that they cannot get the fuel back out of your car.
I don’t know what security a supermarket customer (well, maybe a hundred or more) could offer. At least in a filling station your car registration can be used. Perhaps they should keep the old-fashioned paper-slip machine as a back up.

I have not yet met a situation like this.

I agree that getting the fuel out could be tricky and it cannot be resold due to possible contamination. But the situation is not all that different.

What does a supermarket do when the customer’s ravenous kids have devoured the contents of the shopping basket on the way around and Dad/Mum discovers they have left their wallet at home. Are the kids held hostage until a means of payment is forthcoming? Or does the moment pass? 🙂

I am surprised there isn’t a workaround for this contingency. If the checkouts are working customers could be given a till statement which they could take to the service desk and present their payment card so the store can take the account number and other details and charge customers’ card accounts manually when the system is back up. It would be no different from paying for something over the phone. There would be financial and managerial personnel in any major supermarket [including the bureau de change staff] who could supervise the operation and maintain security.

It may be easier to cope with a power failure or technical problem for shops without tills. Taking the Tesco GetGo system, each customer in the store will have been identified on entry and every item they have taken from the shelves will have been logged until the problem occurs. Provided that they are ushered out before they add other goods to their bag they will be charged the correct amount when the system is working.

The only time I have encountered a problem was in a pub in Windsor when the lights went out. I lent them my torch so that they could find candles and was rewarded with a free round of beer for me and my friends.

I’m not sure about leaving all your credit or debit card details with store staff in this way, John. It seems open to possible abuse. When I have paid over the phone the details are often keyed in rather than spoken and, I understand, cannot be seem by the payee. I don’t know how common or secure this really is.

As far as I can see the use of the old-fashioned imprint (click clack) card machines that produce paper transaction slips is still permissible? But to expect every store to keep them, plus all the paper slip sets necessary, seems rather out of proportion. These events are very rare.

I agree, Malcolm, that leaving card details with the store is not inherently secure, but I have paid for things over the telephone at local shops for years and the numbers are not immediately keyed in. I would trust the major supermarkets’ staff to act honestly and destroy the records afterwards and to conduct a proper investigation and reimbursement if there were any irregularities; if customers were not happy they could leave their trolley loads and depart and then drive to a different store. As you say, this is an extremely rare situation.

Stores could alternatively put a label on each customers trolley, wheel them all into the warehouse and give them a call once the problem was fixed or add them to the van rounds; obviously chilled and frozen goods would have to be bagged up and returned to the cold store or cabinets. If all the customers have left there should be plenty of staff on hand to operate a sensible process — provided the management have a viable plan in the first place.

I and many other customers would not be unduly inconvenienced by such an emergency as we would always have enough cash on us to cover the cost of essentials. There could also be a handy cash machine just outside the store.

A call to the nick would be advisable to see whether the long arm of the law could be drafted in to ensure good order and reassurance. A bit of uniform usually has a moderating effect on any silly behaviour.

Perhaps Which? should ring round a few supermarkets and ask what their contingency plans were for such an emergency. Of course, some might say the first thing they would do is panic.

The easiest thing in the world is to make a drama out of a crisis and, sadly, the febrile anxiety of social media and the internet accentuates that tendency. Keep calm and . . .

BernadetteB says:
6 December 2021

I don’t have a smart phone and have no intention of ever having one – I pay by cash or card at the till. I have used the DIY till a couple of times and invariably need the help of an assistant to sort it out – I have a knack of doing something wrong to screw it all up! If all shops go to this walk in walk out type of shopping I guess I will either starve or get arrested for shop-lifting.

The early self-service tills were troublesome but they have improved and many use them by choice when paying for a few items. You will not be able to use one of the new shops without tills but at present there are very few in operation and most companies do not have any at present.

Totally agree Bernadette. Countless times I have walked past these self-service tills on my way out and heard a voice saying, “Unidentified object in the baggage section” or “There is a fault, please wait for assistance.” I walk smugly past with my shopping all paid for and a nice chat with the friendly assistant on the till.

Phil says:
9 December 2021

A lot of people still don’t like them and are prepared to wait in long queues whilst they stand unused. I’m fine with them but I’ll use a manned (oh er, can we still used that expression?) if available. It keeps someone in a job.

Sheila Durie says:
9 December 2021

I’m alarmed at how quickly the use of mobile phones and reliance on apps is taking over our lives. I live somewhere that has no mobile signal, so use of a mobile phone is fairly irrelevant to me, and I deeply resent being forced to use them. If not all supermarkets follow this trend, then that’s where I’ll be shopping, although our choice in this rural area is limited.

Chas says:
18 January 2022

People need people….this move makes shopping an anonymous and depersonalised experience. What happened to ‘customer service’ and the employment of ‘real’ people on checkouts ? Oh, silly me, of course, it’s about profit margins….machines don’t need a wage ! I regularly use self-service tills at my local Co-op but I can’t say I particularly enjoy the experience . So this is how it’s going to go is it, as we blithely head for a dystopian and Orwellian future without a care in the world…….Bah !

Aldi opens its first till-free supermarket. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-60038681

Aldi has been increasing its market share in the past few years whereas most other supermarkets have not. Maybe they see this as a way of keeping costs down. I was surprised to see that our new large Lidl did not have a single self-service till when it opened about three years ago.

It would seem to exclude people who don’t have the right kind of phone, including those on low incomes who I presume Aldi appeals to. Although perhaps that is not the case in the London trial store.

With a single store that might not be an immediate concern. The wealthiest person I know shops in Lidl by choice. Many people on lower incomes have a smartphone because it’s their only computer and only phone.

Only time will tell if till-free supermarkets reduce the cost of shoplifting, which is passed on to all customers.

I sometimes wonder what the savings are for the retailers that have adopted till-free shopping. It possibly suits certain locations with a particular customer profile and a more selective stock inventory, but by the time all the cameras, recording, and other control and security measures have been installed, serviced and maintained I doubt the profit benefit adds up to a can of beans. It could just be a flash in the pan as retailers try to capture market share from rivals with ease and speed of shopping being the primary appeal.

With the percentage of elderly people in the population continuing to rise it seems a curious choice of business model. That’s not say that elderly people cannot cope with new technology; they can, and do very well. But they have more time to do their shopping so speed is not necessarily a priority for them. They are looking for comfort and convenience with more products within reaching distance and less bending, wider aisles but overall less walking, special times when the store is less busy, proportionate pricing for small quantities, and a friendly no-rush checkout service [Aldi scores low on that anyway]. Home delivery is probably the best service for that section of the market for which the internet is proving quite successful. Maybe that is how the grocery business will evolve and divide over time.

Customers have different preferences. For example some customers will queue at staffed checkouts if the have a trolley full of groceries whereas they might use a self-service checkout for one or two items.

Till-free supermarkets will not appeal to everyone for various reasons. Fair enough and at present few will have used them. Till supermarkets will have large development costs but potentially could save staff costs. In busy city centre supermarkets they could reduce the cost of shoplifting, though it would be interesting to know if this is the case.

What I don’t understand is why new developments are strongly criticised by those who have never even used them. As John says, older people are often perfectly capable of using new technology but unfortunately a significant number reject it.

Constructive discussion must not be confused with (unfounded) criticism.

As I doubt anyone commenting here has ever used the Aldi Greenwich store, on thar basis there would be no discussion. And many other Convos would similarly remain empty. The purpose of a Convo is to explore different aspects of a topic and you do not need direct experience to do that. No more than commenting on the public transport service between Cambridge and Heathrow Airport. Or discussing the principle of cashback without purchase. 🙂

One of the concerns that retailers have about self-service checkouts is theft, whether accidental or deliberate: https://www.theguardian.com/global/2018/may/20/nation-of-shoplifters-supermarket-self-checkout

If till-free supermarkets prove successful they might replace self-service checkouts rather than the staffed ones. Only time will tell.

There doesn’t seem much very recent information. I wonder how many honest people are actually comfortable stealing low value items and using the machine as an excuse? I think the majority have ethics. Those that haven’t will deliberately thieve, by “conventional” shoplifting or otherwise.

Supplier and staff theft seem a bigger problem, with wastage by error in the same league. I would guess if supermarkets found self checkout tills to be too lossy they would do something to increase security.
https://www.retailresearch.org/crime-costs-uk.html

Even if most of us don’t steal from supermarkets the costs of theft are paid for us, which is particularly worrying with rising inflation and energy costs, and many having to use food banks. The conventional self-service checkouts are easy to deceive, for example by switching barcodes or maybe coming prepared with new ones.

Obviously customers can steal at staffed checkouts or simply pocket some products from the shelves but perhaps till-free checkouts could be a worthwhile step forward.

As I understand it the checkout weighs each item and checks it is correct against the barcode. It would seem difficult to swap barcodes unless the products had identical weight.

From what I have read today some theft is done by substituting cheaper items with more expensive ones of similar weight. As we discussed in a Conversation about underweight products there can also be variation in the weight of different items with the same barcode and we have discussed this in a Conversation in underweight products. That’s just content and packaging can vary more.

In the past few years the banks have added to the complexity of transactions in various ways such as two factor authentication and confirmation of payee. I recognise these are a worthwhile benefit in fighting crime. If I have to log on to an online account and paste in an account number perhaps it’s worthwhile rather than simply clicking on a link.

Some wholesalers have been using the weight/product method for years; I think Makro were the first. But it’s proved easily fooled. Modern checkout systems, however. are far more accurate but still have to account for small discrepancies in items such as salmon and meat products. Waitrose (25 miles down the road from us) has evolved a system whereby every item is weighed prior to display, and each item assigned a unique barcode.

That’s encouraging. I presume that the barcode or QR code is separate from the normal one.

I can’t remember the details, but I recall reading that, after installing self-service checkouts, supermarkets were finding that the sale of carrots exceeded the stock levels in the warehouse.

I imagine that this problem has diminished as card payments have become the norm and purchases are traceable.

Not surprisingly, we, the public, do not have much information about supermarket theft. It does not look good and could encourage others. Nevertheless we know that it is a major concern. I have not encountered the system mentioned by Ian but that could have been in place years ago.

There are reports online. This gives some general information (posted earlier) https://www.retailresearch.org/crime-costs-uk.html

This gives us information about the scale of the problem and the fact that it is increasing but it would be useful to know, for example, how much theft takes place at self-service tills compared with staffed ones. It would be interesting to know which supermarkets are best at reducing their losses through theft.

I’m not expecting to see detailed information but any supermarket that can significantly reduce theft will have a competitive advantage. It remains to be seen whether till-free supermarkets could help reduce theft or whether they have their own vulnerabilities or operational difficulties. Recall how unreliable self-service tills were when the were first introduced.

I understand supermarket profit margins are between 1 and 3%. So a £1 theft can need up to £100 of sales to recover the loss. Supermarkets are known for their financial controls ( they have to be at such low margins) and I would expect them to be fully aware of losses through theft and dealing with methods to control it. I doubt they are sitting back.

Design and layout are the main ways of deterring thieves and then prosecution on detection.

One way they protect themselves from shoplifting is by careful positioning of high-value products [e.g. meat, liquor, cosmetics] as far away as possible from the exits or within sight of a staffed counter.

High-priced liquor is usually protected by a indicator cap that can only be removed at the till and high-priced cosmetics are often enclosed within a locked cabinet requiring staff assistance.

Pharmaceutical products are prone to pilferage because the packaging is often small and the items are costly. I notice that these are generally stocked within sight of the pharmacy counter

Supermarkets are vulnerable to a trolley dash but that depends on being able to locate a get-away vehicle close to the doorway and that area is usually given over to disabled parking, parent-&-child parking, and banks of trolleys to thwart a rapid escape. Those with pay-on-exit parking controls and exit barriers can intercept mobile criminals easily.

There are always going to be small scale thefts from any retail operation from market stalls upwards and this is factored into pricing if possible. CCTV, visible security personnel and covert security provide vigilance and intelligence.

The 1-3% profit margins of supermarkets are after wastage and losses due to shoplifting and staff thefts but, as Malcolm says, they are determined to minimise avoidable losses. There is quite a bit of psychology employed and stores involved in strong competition with each other will nonetheless cooperate with information to deter crime.

I remember in 2019 I needed to get a bottle of champagne in what I thought was the prosperous and law-abiding market town of Skipton. I went into the large Tesco store in the town centre and was surprised that there was a very limited choice on the shelves [and few other expensive drinks on display] so I had to have the only bottle available. I spoke to the security guard on duty near the drinks department and he told me that they had suffered from a lot of shoplifting and, to prevent multiple thefts, only had one of each line on display at any time. Most customers requiring such beverages used click-&-collect or on-line ordering apparently.

I remember finding a bottle with a security tag in a click & collect order. Rather than taking it back the assistant suggested I took it and the tag would come off after I had opened the bottle, which it did. I’m glad that it was not bought as a gift.

The supermarket has been in existence since the 1960s and the model, – trolley -open shelf – pay on exit has been the model most of us have grown up with. Recent changes have been accepted moderately well, with some using the self service tills. It seems that the hand held scanner which shoppers took round the store was not a success and has disappeared from stores I visit. Some of us like to have our shopping dealt with by an assistant -old habits and experiences – and we are prepared to queue for this service. One also has to queue for the self service tills and their technology is not perfect. I dislike the voice, the process and the ease with which things stop working. Most stores do have an assistant standing in the self service area and he/she is in demand. I like to think that the cashier is part of the service that the supermarket offers its customers and there are enough of us around to keep the served aisles open and busy. This means that the supermarket knows that the self service tills are not going to replace the traditional tills any time soon. They may not all be open, but there are quite a few cashier tills in most Supermarkets, probably as many as the self service variety. There is also quite a chore for the customer with a large trolley of shopping to empty it, bag it and put it back in the trolley. It is good to have most of this done for you! I don’t see till-less shops replacing most supermarkets, though they might share the Express shop market. There is a certain amount of pre-preparation involved to set up an account in one of these shops. One probably needs a smart phone or a store gadget of some kind in advance of the first shop. Casual passers by may not be able to use these shops??

Quite, Vynour. I am happy with the way my supermarkets operate with both (wo)manned and self service tills. I am also keen to see new ideas tried out, even if the shoppers who might use them are more limited (I doubt my Galaxy S4 would cope with the technology though). But leave a choice. Why make life difficult?

Vynor mentioned that hand-held scanners used by customers are disappearing. Not all experiments are successful.

At one time the local supermarket filling station did not require a PIN to make a card payment, undoubtedly very convenient but perhaps not wise. That disappeared eventually. I know one supermarket filling station that is not staffed and takes only card payments. Presumably that will eliminate the possibility of customers leaving without payment because their card has already been inserted and checked before taking fuel. I do wonder what would happen if there was a spillage or a fire. I only know of the one unstaffed filling station but they may be common in other parts of the country.

When I enter any retail store, I prefer to know I have a choice in the way in which I pay for what I buy. I would hesitate to enter a store that needed an app on a smart phone, (since I don’t possess one), to mark up everything I put in the trolley or basket.

We do not necessarily have a fear of the unfamiliar or unknown, what we fear most is giving up the known!

From what I have read there may not be the opportunity to pay unless you have used a smartphone to log in, Beryl. I would hope this is made clear at the door like any requirement to pay by cash or card should be. Since you are not alone in not having a smartphone I doubt that any supermarket is going convert most of its stores any time soon.

My understanding is also that there are cameras and sensors to detect what has been removed from shelves but not returned, so if the system works without a hitch you would be able to simply walk out to the store and be billed, which might appeal to customers who had popped in to by lunch.

Yes we become accustomed to what happens in our daily life and feel comfortable with it. I suppose that who have been victims of scams etc. may be genuinely concerned that it could happen again.

When I was a student I did not have a cheque book to start with and I received statements only every three months, so I had to write down all my payments. It was better when I had monthly statements and now I can check my balance and recent transactions in about a minute. In these days I did not have to keep check for possible scams, so progress brings both good and bad.

I don’t doubt what you say Wavechange, and when the need arises, I will invest in a smart phone to align with other smart devices I have.

I would not feel at ease exiting a supermarket without paying in case an alarm was activated and I was arrested for shoplifting. I don’t see this working unless all stores have them, otherwise you may mistakenly think you are in a store with such payment methods when you are not, unless you remember to check the entrance for display notices.

High street shopping would become a nightmare instead of a pleasant day out with a coffee and a snack. With the increase in online shopping during the pandemic affecting high street footfall, the focus should now be on encouraging consumers to return without the extra stressors of how I need to pay, when I need to pay, where I need to pay or if I need to pay.

I have never used one of these supermarkets, Beryl. If you have logged in with your phone you will know if you if you are using the system and I assume that you can see on your phone how much you will be charged when you leave.

I presume that the new stores – currently a handful in the UK – are there to reduce costs and possibly reduce theft. I can well remember our first proper supermarkets, Asda and then Sainsbury. They were so different from what went before.

Most people I know have gone back to shopping in store but I’m still enjoying using click & collect.

I guess I will continue with Ocado deliveries Wavechange, supplemented by the local farm shop where they pack your bag for you and have time for a friendly chat and the parking is free and easy.

Hopefully we will continue to have choices.

I think the till-free shopping facilities will, for numerous practical reasons, only work in small city centre locations where the store has a small inventory and mainly serves people doing a limited shop for fairly immediate consumption. Major supermarkets with 50,000 lines are not really suitable for this development at present but as processes move on it could become a future feature in a dedicated section of a superstore or in the mini-shop attached to the fuel station.

Having said that, these might have no purpose after we have all-electric motoring paid for at the recharging point. On the other hand, shopping speed will no longer be so critical while waiting for the car to recharge and a slow-speed shop might be a profitable diversion as a place to linger and spend money on treats and bits & pieces, play slot machines, and get a hot drink and a snack. A screen could display the recharging status for all the vehicles attached to the units.

Only time will tell whether till-free supermarkets will work or be abandoned as a failed experiment. The costs of employing staff to operate conventional tills is high and must be paid for even if they are just waiting for the next customer.