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Do you swear at self-service checkouts?

Self-service checkout

Frustration with self-service checkouts has led to a third of British shoppers swearing at these machines. Have you reached the end of your tether with a self-service checkout?

Around eight in 10 people have used a self-service checkout in the last few months, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t bleeping annoying.

Our survey of more than 7,000 Brits found that a third get loose with the f-word when they use self-service checkouts.

Throwing out the f-bombs

Sometimes when I hear ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’, all I want to say back is ‘I’ll give you an unexpected item in your bagging area!’ But then, I’m not one for public displays of anger. I try to remain stoic when I’m out shopping, and if I have one tip to share, it’s that listening to a few tunes on my headphones is enough to calm me down and drown out the drones of these machines.

Of course, not everyone f’s and blinds. Instead, more than a quarter of Brits just shout at self-service checkouts, while half admit to having talked back to one. There’s something wrong with the world if we’re talking back to machines, but maybe that’s better than our fellow humans bearing the brunt of our swears.

Why use machines?

Still, if so many of us find these machines so frustrating, why do we bother using them? Well, according to our survey, it’s mainly for convenience. Nearly half think self-service checkouts are quicker and easier to use than normal checkouts, and 27% prefer to use the machines so that they don’t have to deal with staff!

Are you a fan of self-service checkouts? Have you ever lost your temper with them?

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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Margaret says:
2 March 2014

I like them in the small shops like Tesco Express. I nip in just to buy a few items and they’re handy as a lot of people will stand in the queue as they don’t like them….so you can jump the queue and get out quick…but last week I was angry with the voice. The voice said'” Unexpected item in bagging area”…I tutted and mumbled,”No there’s not”……..”unexpected item in bagging area”….me…louder…”No there’s not!”……….and so on….with me shouting in my broadest Scottish accent….”NO THERE ISNAE!!!…..and a few more loud mutterings from me. I noticed the teenage lad next to me blushing…He obviously thought I was bonkers.

Michael Fordham says:
4 March 2014

My local Sainsburys has these self checkout terminals just like the other supermarkets. They area pain, but you have little choice but to use them oteherwise you can be stuck behind some one doing the main shop.The supermarkets reduce the number of checkouts with a human being manning them so you have little or no choice.I threaten to set light to them but they won’t let me bring a can of petrol.

Steve says:
3 March 2014

Used them, hate them, prefer dealing with shop assistants!

steve says:
3 March 2014

I thoroughly agree.
It’s even worse when I don’t have my glasses.
Do you have a clubcard? Using your own bags?
Who are you, big brother?
Now I need an assistant to remove the security tag.
I am a name, not a number!

Peter Steadman says:
3 March 2014

For small quantities the self-serve option can be good. The supermarket companies seem keen, so we must be saving them staffing costs. We should be given triple points for using our labour rather than theirs.

JayZS says:
4 March 2014

Extra points for self service till bills is quite a stroke of genius. Benefits both the supermarket and the customer.


From most of the comments above one could get the impression that these machines are generally disliked and people avoid using them because of continual problems. I do rather find it difficult to reconcile these comments with my own experiences. I have used them at Sainsbury’s, Tesco, M&S and WH Smiths. The main problem that I find in all of these places is that they are so popular that at busy times there is often a queue of shoppers waiting to use them! Even at relatively quiet times it often necessary to wait for a vacant machine to become available.

Perhaps this shows a difference of attitude between ‘normal’ people and those who contribute to debates like these (tongue very firmly in cheek!). More likely it is because people are more likely to contribute if they have a whinge than if they are satisfied.


My hatred of these machines was developed when Tesco installed them several years ago, when there were several serious technical problems that have now been addressed. The ones in the branch I use are fine for a small number of items but totally impractical if you have a trolley load of shopping, since there is little room in the ‘bagging area’.

Supermarket staff have plenty of experience at scanning, packing and dealing with problems such as items that refuse to scan. My local Tesco closes every one of its staffed tills late in the evening, so I am forced to use the self-service ones unless someone takes pity on me with my trolley.


I have only used them with my main shop on a couple of occasions, when Fast Track was not available during updates. The method I adopted was to organise things in the trolley so that they were available in the order I wanted to pack them. Although the platforms are fairly small, they will usually take two or three reasonably sized bags. It is then a simple process to scan the items and pack them straight into the bags.

The advantages of missing out on the normal check-outs are many. You don’t get stuck behind the shopper who thinks her mobile ‘phone call is much more important than packing her bags and paying; or the shopper caught by surprise by the need to pay, which results in a long winded search through all her bags to find her purse; or the cashier much more interested in her chat with a colleague about last night’s date than attending to customers; or, when one has made a point of putting things on the conveyor in the order they need to be packed, find that the cashier ignores the items one wanted to pack first and leaves them to the last; or the cashier who picks up delicate items such as Conference pears and drops them from several inches on to the weighing scales. I could go on!

Jean says:
4 March 2014

Unfortunately I am a disabled pensioner, and canot stand or walk for very long. My lovely husband does the main shopping [mostly] at our local Morrisons, Being slow but liking to have a look at what is on offer I will use a basket balanced on my rollator. But when I get to the dheckout myself I find that there is no longer a checkout for baskets only. Not wishing to hold my husband up any longer by waiting behind people with loaded trolleys – and standing so long a problem too – i feel forced to use the self-service tills. BUT I find this very difficult, eyesight problems, hands difficult and so on – so I ALWAYS call for staff assistance. If everyone did that who knows what the supermarkets would do !?

Andy says:
4 March 2014

I just WILL NOT use them. Ever. I daydream in the staffed queue.if A member of staff suggests i use one – i just tell them why i never will. If we all boycot them perhaps they will go away . . .

aguafiestas says:
7 March 2014

Well Done Andy!!!

Clive says:
4 March 2014

They are good and bad. For instance, bad: why couldn’t all the supermakets standardise things so you put your goods to the left or right and stick to it, ie where the baggage area is. As it is, it is different in each case.

Good: you can take your time to offload all your copper shrapnel change into the machine and lighten your purse/wallet whereas you might hesitate to take the time to do that with a real person and a queue behind you. Social awkwardness takes over.