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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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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!

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.

I find the Tesco ones good and the Morrisons ones poor. Which is a shame since I prefer shopping at Morrisons. But I must say I hate them and usually look for an attended till. I must be a rare saddo because I once spent ten minutes in a Morrisons store trying to use one of these, eventually getting down on my hands and knees trying to find the various slots and things to put my money in. No-one helped so eventually I spent another ten mintes in a checkout queue for an assistant – just to buy a pint of milk. Must say that was a rare experience because I normally find Morrisons staff brilliant.

Charles warlow says:
5 March 2014

I used to avoid these horrible machines because I thought it would do people out of a job, but now I am not so sure – there still have to be employees standing by to help the uninitiated.

Sophie Gilbert says:
8 March 2014

I once swore at the machine at my local Tesco, and although I didn’t say the words out loud a shop assistant read my lips perfectly. Her eyebrows shot up and her jaw dropped. This shamed me into not doing that again. I now approach these machines when I need them with calm and equanimity…

I do use the machines in a few of the supermarkets and find some shops have a member of staff at hand to offer support these shops are great and helps to keep the lines moving.
I support adults with learning disabilities who wish to use these machines,the problem is the machines are confusing as there are so many different ways to scan and where to put the cash.

I avoid them where possible. If a member of staff tries to direct me to one I refuse politely. I prefer to queue and deal with a person, particularly if I am using my own bag!! I also find I am calmer about waiting in a queue and being served efficiently and courteously than I am about instantly being confronted by a machine that gives out confusing messages and waiting for a store member to key in a security code so that I can continue.

Scriptor Senex says:
1 April 2014

I’ve given up using our local B&Q. They have several of these machines that never seem to work efficiently and there is a queue for them all the time. The one girl standing with arms folded at the sole operative till says she is only there to deal with complaints and refunds. When I said I wanted to complain about the machines and wanted her to take my money, she said to take it up with head office. I dumped my intended purchases in front of her, said “Ok, you can put these back on the shelves instead” and went to Homebase where they have real people at the tills (and were cheaper too).

Martinmac says:
16 April 2014

i use the self serve tills when I have a few items, but when they have a self scan handset that allows me to scan and pack as I go round, i use that, they are brilliant, i have never had to wait for a self scan point to come free and so no queuing,

It wouldn’t be so bad if the prices came down to reflect that we are doing the staffs’ jobs for them. I had one silly young woman boast to me, when I complained about them, that she had been employed because the machines had been installed. More and more, in all stores, there are less staff on checkouts forcing you to either queue or do it yourself.

Rose Bush says:
30 April 2014

I sometimes use those machines, although I cannot say that they are not a headache. I always thought that they would make life easier, but I notice that I am not the only one who gets irritated by them.

Jeff Richardson says:
16 May 2014

My feeling is that, once a supermarket has installed self-service checkouts, they then drag their feet when it comes to providing enough staff to keep sufficient checkouts active. Also, when buying one item of, say, lunchtime sandwiches, once the store has a self-service checkout, then it will no longer allow the purchase of general groceries at the ‘fags and lottery ticket’ sales counter,
It’s all about coercion; and that’s what people quickly realise and come to resent.

dtrtours says:
20 November 2014

Todays news these firms use self service tills and Tesco sales fell by 3.7% in the 12-week period, while Morrisons dropped 3.3% and Sainsbury’s 2.5%. Asda was the best performer of the “Big Four” with sales down 0.2%.

In contrast, these Don’t use self service tills Aldi sales grew 25.5% and Lidl 16.8%

people voting with there feet

Andre says:
19 May 2015

I rather have one person less touching my food. Clearly they still need improvements, make them cashless, one issue solved and more efficient to build and maintain. We all have the choice which check out to use.

We don’t all have the choice, Andre. In my local Tesco, all the staffed tills are closed later in the evening. If one is still open there is generally a long queue, so it’s not me who dislikes the self-service tills.