Probably the best invention/concept introduced in grocery stores in recent memory is the self-checkout. Unless I have an extraordinary large amount of items, which I usually don’t, I exclusively utilize self-checkout for the purchasing of my groceries. For anyone who values convenience, privacy, and independence, the supermarket is a much friendlier place these days.
There is nothing more convenient when it comes to shopping than having the option to checkout yourself. Self-checkout lines allow me to bypass lines, avoid the frustrating cashier shift change, eliminate unnecessary chatter, and to remove myself from the risk of having my day delayed by the thousands of other things that can/do happen in traditional checkout lines.
The privacy is great too. Sometimes I just don’t like the cashier, the bagger, and the person behind me making note of every single item I purchase. People make judgments and assumptions from the stuff other people buy and I don’t need that. At the self-checkout line you have your own little space that is away from the immediate sight of employees and customers.
The feeling of independence is satisfying. I like the fact that I can scan my own items and buy them. I challenge myself to do a better job than the actual employees of the store. I will always try to pay/bag before the people at the other three self-checkout kiosks can finish their transactions. Even if they arrived at their self-checkout way before me and they have less groceries than me, I am still going to do everything I can to beat them.
So even though I really appreciate self-checkouts, I think they can get better. Here are my top five suggestions for improving S-COs.
5. Traffic control– Around 5pm, the grocery store is busy. Aisles are packed and lines are long, both at the regular checkout and the self-checkouts. The problem with the self-checkouts is that there are usually four of them. There is never any signage advising people to form a single line or to form two separate lines so it is usually just a goatrope. People will congregate in a pack in front of the kiosks. Once one of the four people at the kiosks finishes, everyone waiting will look around at each other wondering who gets to now use the available self-checkout. Is it the person who got their first? Is it the person who is closest to the one that just came open? Is it the person with the fewest items? Is it the elderly person? Put up a sign and make a policy explaining exactly how and where shoppers should line up.
4. Eliminate coupons- Many of these self-checkout stations allow you to enter coupons. Hogwash. Self-checkout is about convenience and speed. If someone wants to make sure they get 33 cents off their bag of Fritos, send them to a traditional line. A lot of times the shopper does not even know how to enter the coupon correctly.
3. Better bill receptors– This one can get really frustrating. Many of the stations I have used in the past have flat out refused to take my money. Despite the nice, crisp condition of many of these bills I was forced to go up to the lone person overseeing the stations and trade out bills. I have had better luck getting Monopoly money accepted in the change dispensers at Chuck E. Cheese’s than I have with newly minted fresh $20 bills at a few of the grocery stores I have utilized self-checkout at.
2. Work to lessen glitches– There are still a few problems that always seem to come up with self-checkouts. About 50% of my visits to the S-CO I get the message “Unexpected item in bagging area” even when there is no unexpected item in the bagging area. It is frustrating and slows down the process. Sometimes items won’t scan either. More often than not, at least one of the self-checkout stations is out of order.
1. Automatic I.D. verifiers- Okay, anyone who has ever bought alcohol at the self-checkout line knows how this one goes. You scan your six-pack and then a loud computerized woman’s voice along with a message on the screen declares “APPROVAL NEEDED.” You then look over embarrassingly at the employee overseeing the stations and he/she has to walk over to where you are at, check your I.D., and then type in the necessary info to validate the purchase. Until that happens you can’t purchase anything or scan any of your remaining groceries (why I always scan my beer last). Sometimes if the employee is tied up with another customer it might be awhile and you just have to stand at the station while the “APPROVAL NEEDED” voice continues to go off and people waiting in line give you annoyed looks for holding everything up while at the same time thinking you are an alcoholic. If there were slots at each station where you could insert your I.D. the moment you start to scan your items it would cut down on time and humiliation.
The future for self-checkouts is bright. I imagine these changes will be done sooner than later. Maybe one of these days supermarkets will only offer self-checkouts. If that is the case, you better start using them. Don’t Blink.