Why Not Use the Self-Checkout?

I was at a grocery store today, and I was surprised at how crowded it was for a Sunday afternoon.

The checkout lines were two or three people deep, and it looked like many of those people had relatively small orders.

I then walked past the self-checkout area, and it was nearly empty, with several open checkout lanes.

I don’t understand such behavior, particularly for younger people (under 90).

Why are some people hesitant to use the self-checkout lanes?

Is it laziness, fear of technology, fear of making a mistake?

Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco has a great bit on using self-checkout lanes:

If you’re not as ambitious as Sebastian and don’t want to train yourself at 3:00 in the morning, here are 11 tips on how to best use the self-checkout lane at a grocery store, from ShopFood:

  1. Limit Purchases to 15 Items or Less

  2. Skip Self-Checkout If You Need Store Verification; e.g., alcohol purchase

  3. Skip Self-Checkout If You Have Coupons

  4. Confirm If You Have Your Own Bags

  5. Scan Items in Order of How You Want to Pack Them

  6. Avoid Distractions

  7. Be Aware of Multiple Barcode Scanners and Use the Best One

  8. Enter PLU Codes for Produce

  9. Keep the Bagging Area Clear

  10. Divide and Conquer. Work as a Team When Possible

  11. Be Prepared to Pay

I wonder if grocery stores have ever had a training day for customers on using the self-checkout lanes.

Just like how many grocery stores had special hours for senior citizens during the pandemic, perhaps they could use the same approach with training their customers.

I’m curious if anyone reading this is opposed to using the self-checkout lanes, and why that is.

110 thoughts on “Why Not Use the Self-Checkout?

  1. No more football. People can now interact with the world on Sunday afternoon. If I have fruits and vegetables (which I almost always do at the grocery) I skip self checkout. It just seems like a headache. Plus, my principal grocery doesn’t have self checkout. They seem to make a profit with plenty of employees available to help their customers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. you would think that there would be something better to do on a Sunday afternoon, but then again, that’s what I was doing!

      my favorite grocery store does not have self-checkout either, and they always seem to have enough people working to keep the lines short…

      Like

  2. I use the self-checkout whenever possible, but usually I’m shopping for an entire week and my order far exceeds the 15 items requisite. However, on the occasions I have used it, I find it to be much simpler, though I do miss the human contact with the cashiers, especially my favourite, Donna!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. That guy’s a damned funny comedian.

    My wife does most of the grocery shopping. She doesn’t like self-check out, because she says it’s always breaking down, or doesn’t work right or something. I checked myself out at Home Depot. I was in the mirror section. I didn’t look too bad, really.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sebastian is one of the funniest comedian I have seen in decades. You can probably find one of his standup specials on one of the streaming services.

      If I could find a mirror that could make me look not too bad, I would buy it on the spot…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think I saw one of his specials on Netflix few years ago.

        So, head down to Home Depot. I bought them out at my local HD, but they might still have a few of those mirrors left at yours.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I love self checkout wherever possible because I hate lineups. I also scan my groceries the way I want them bagged, which is based on where they go in my house. The cashier usually grabs things out of order. I can’t figure out why they can’t keep my frozen stuff together in one bag instead of spreading it around amid all the rest of the stuff.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. fifteen years ago the cashiers seemed to be much more skilled at packing than they are today. I guess since they aren’t doing it as often, such a skill doesn’t develop in newer employees…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I use self checkout all the time now but it took me a while to work up the nerve to try it for the first time. I think I was scared of the machine haha. I wasn’t sure how to use it and thought it would be confusing and I would be left standing there not knowing what to do. But when I finally was brave enough to try it I was quite surprised how easy it really is. Now I use self checkout whenever it’s available.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think most people probably had the same reaction when the self-checkout first came out. That’s why I think it would be helpful to run simple training sessions once a week or month to teach people how to use it…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I use staffed checkouts as it ensures jobs for people. As silly as that sounds. Maybe I am a dinosaur as I don’t mind waiting in line at the supermarket and enjoy the human interaction.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I don’t mind using self check out if I just have a couple items. But there are times they frustrate me too. Of course sometimes cashiers make mistakes as well so neither way is perfect.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Hi Jim, we don’t have self checkout here in South Africa for various reasons, including a need for jobs, lack of education, and high shrinkage (retail theft). We used self checkout in the UK and in New Zealand with great success. I prefer it.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I use self checkout even though I am lazy, afraid of technology, and hold up the line when something goes wrong. Usually self checkout lines are shorter and I am naively optimistic that nothing will go wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I use self-checkout about half the time. Unfortunately, at CVS, the machines frequently break down. They don’t typically have someone to man the machines at our store, so you have to wait for a regular checker to come over. The other day, I was trying to buy four items, and I had to call the checker three times. It was downright comical, but I would have been annoyed if I were in a rush. It took me ten minutes for something that should have taken thirty seconds.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I love the convenience of the self-checkout and cross my fingers every time, but I also worry about people being replaced by them, though it’s clear we still need human support to make it all work. kind of a non-issue right now, with most groceries being understaffed, and at times the self-checkouts are all that are open.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am also concerned about the loss of jobs it could create, but perhaps the cashiers could be deployed throughout the store for customer service, or to to help with all of the online ordering that seems to be taking place…

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I would guess some people refuse to use self-checkout as a way to help people keep their jobs. It seems to me while new technology does make some jobs obsolete, it does create other new jobs. Think of the people who designed the self-checkout, those who built it, those who maintain it, those who improve it or other like systems. Keeping inefficient systems does not encourage economic growth in the long run. As you may guess, I like self-checkout – when I don’t have many items.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. and it could be that as more people use online shopping, the people who were the cashiers could now be doing order fulfillment. as you note, tech may replace somejobs, but it often creates others

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I used to have the conveyor belt system down to a science as I loaded it the way I anticipated the bagging person bagging them.

    I don’t mind self checkout. I buy beer there and someone just comes over and badges it and I move on. They don’t ask to see my ID for some reason.

    I’d rather work with a computer than deal with a person anyway. The computer doesn’t call me ‘hun’ (short for honey and not Atilla I hope). The computer doesn’t get rough with my tomatoes and take a judgmental eye to my chosen brand of toothpaste.

    Grocery stores are razor thin margin business, I suppose, and each employee that they don’t have to hire helps. That way they can afford to throw away more produce and expired meat I guess.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. As long as you choose Crest, I won’t judge you. And LOL about Atilla ..You never know with the way technology is growing the computer could start saying “hun” as well! But you can make a face at it, you don’t have to be polite.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. I agree, sometimes it is easier to jsut deal witha amachine than a person. and I wonder if they might use the cashiers to do order fulfillment for online orders, sicne that seems to be growing in popularity…

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I do my shopping online now, but in the far off days when I used to go into shops I always ended up looking puzzled at the self-checkouts and then a considerate staff member would offer to help me. I must have a stupid face!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Just look helpless, smile at the prettiest assistant – worked every time πŸ˜‚

        Yes I do. Mobility is an issue, so it’s a lifesaver for me. They give a good service and I’ve yet to have any weird substitutions.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’ve had my moments – but there isn’t much you can do in a busy supermarket πŸ˜‰

        It’s very convenient. The only way I can do it now, but used it before I retired, and it reclaimed my Saturday mornings. Better for the environment too – only one vehicle on the road instead of many. Might be worth trying it again…

        Liked by 2 people

  15. In my experience, some self checkout systems are excellent, and I’ll gladly use them. I always have a great experience with the self checkout at my local BJ’s, for example. Some stores don’t have great software, or the software isn’t configured correctly, which results in frequent interruptions requiring assistance, which frustrates me and seems to defeat the purpose of “self checkout”; after trying those a few times I generally avoid the self checkout in those stores unless I only have a few items.

    Your advice about planning the bagging is spot on; in many self checkout systems, once an item goes into a bag, trying to move it or shift it will cause the system to hang.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve experienced the same thing in terms of some checkouts being better than others, but I’d still probably prefer to use self-checkout vs a cashier.

      and it si a pain when you hear that error message about needing to remove something from the bag…

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I always use the self-service. Perhaps we are different with fruit and veg over here in New Zealand as most of the items are barcoded. Also – the permeant shop assistant in the self-service area approves the booze purchase immediately so there’s no waiting.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. That Comedian was right on point.
    I think a lot of people don’t want to use self checkout because it is encouraging the loss of jobs. Maybe, if they resist, they will be taken out. There can be such a thing as to much technology.
    Truthfully, I don’t care and I use them if it’s faster for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Here’s how I figure it; the store is trying to save money, i.e. eliminate jobs, with the self checkout lane. Even of I had a somewhat worse experience with an in-person cashier the fact that I am giving one more person in my community decent work would be reason enough for me to keep going to the cashier. I go to the grocery store weekly, and I generally get one of a couple different people working the checkout line. I appreciate them and value the work they do for me. I want them to have steady, reliable and reasonable work. Cashiering isn’t the most glamorous occupation, but it’s something. The self-checkout lanes still need attendants, but what I notice at the local Wal-Mart is that they have one person doing the work that five or six cashiers would otherwise be doing. So even though the number of employees is cut down, those employees who remain are working harder than they should be, and seem pretty stressed out. If you do have a problem with something at the self checkout lane it takes them a few minutes to get to you, which totally negates the time which would have been saved by using the self-checkout in the first place. So while it may be quicker/more convenient it is not reliably quicker and more convenient, and if it’s not reliably quicker and more convenient is it really more convenient?

    In the end the question of whether or not to use the self-checkout lane is a question of value. I chose to value the individuals who are cashiering over the profit margins of the big box stores who want me to use the self-checkout. I guess that probably makes me a bad customer

    Liked by 2 people

    1. that is certainly a valid concern. but I wonder if there is way to redeploy those cashiers to jobs such as order fulfillment, given that it seems online ordering has increased. that would seem to require more people than the work of a cashier, but that is just a guess on my part.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My complaint goes beyond the simple question of number of jobs created in two important aspects. 1) A big part of what I appreciate in having an in person cashier is the human interaction, and order fulfillment jobs do not address this concern, if anything they exacerbate it. I would refer to Robert Putnam if you have any questions regarding the decay of community in American life. While cashier’s may seem like a small aspect in this decay they are still an aspect. 2) It is not merely that the workers are being replaced, but that the work of those who remain is not valued. I thought that one interesting comment came from someone who said that the cashier’s at the self-checkout never carded them when they bought alcohol. I would think that an employee who was more valued would be more likely to check someone’s ID. Such an employee would, from my perspective, be doing objectively better work. I want more people to take pride in the work they do.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. thanks as always for your thoughful comments. I guess one way to add some human interaction to a person who transitions to an order fulfillment role would be to have them make the deliveries as well.

        and sometimes I question why they have to check the idea of everyone, even people who are clearly over the age of 21. It seems like checking everyone’s ID is not allowing the employee to make a simple decision on his or her own, which leads to unmotivated workers…

        Like

      3. When someone goes crazy through lack of human interaction it’s called “going postal.” Hmmm… Delivery driving might not be the solution here.

        I’ll save my thoughts on the ID issue for now.

        Liked by 2 people

  19. I’ve never had the privilege of using self-checkout here in Malaysia, but just last month I actually saw my local supermarket doing a trial run, so who knows, by the this time next year I can report back to you πŸ˜›

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Okay, I have a confession… I used to have a fear of the self-checkout lanes LOL I was one of those young grandmas not willing to use those lanes opting to wait in 10-deep line just so I could get the actual cashier checking my items out…. I am not really sure why I feared the self-checkout lanes… it was part going against change (I really hate change) and also because I didn’t know how to use them (this was a few years ago, when they were relatively new to the scene) and one of my fears is getting stuck on an item and not having a cashier nearby to assist and me holding up the line with my idiocy lol… my husband on the other hand loves them, thinks I’m nuts for waiting in a long line when we can be in and out in no time!

    Also, I LOVE Sebastian’s videos LOL he’s hilarious!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I was an early adapter when it comes to self-checkout. A couple of clicks and I was out. Not only was it fast, but I also avoided having to make small talk with the cashier.

    The only thing that got tricky was when I had something that I had to weigh (fruits/vegetables). It was confusing because certain things were priced as per item and others per lb. I didn’t always know which was which. Plus, if there were different types of apples, I wasn’t always sure which ones I grabbed. Just goes to show how much attention I pay when picking those items…

    Anyway. Where I live now, there aren’t many self-checkouts and it really shocked me. We finally got one at the local CVS (whereas where I lived before, the nearby CVS actually got rid of the ‘regular’ checkouts a few years ago (yes, weird). The grocery store still doesn’t have self-checkouts. When I’m at CVS, I feel like people think I’m a magician when my fingers just fly across the screen.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I rarely use the self-checkout. I rarely have less than 15 items (as #1 in the rules). If I do and the queues are long, then I might, and have, but rarely. I like to keep the checkout people in a job and I like the personal interaction. For some people (though not myself) it may be the only interaction they have with another person all week.

    Liked by 1 person

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