The Daily Ping

The 1st Ping was published on January 6, 2000.

June 19th, 2004

Self-Checkout Lines Aren’t That Bad

Last year, Paul expressed his displeasure with self-checkout lines. At the Giant supermarket near my house, they recently installed a number of self-checkout lines and I’ve used them twice, both with general success.

One of the interesting comments Paul made was that he noticed even when the store was crowded, that people opted to wait in a long line rather than check themselves out. Yesterday, I was very surprised to see that in a somewhat crowded store, only one regular lane was open (not counting a couple of express lanes) and while that line was pretty long, each of the five or six self-checkout lines had one or two people in them. I had a pretty big haul, but figured I could make it through the self-checkout without much problem. And I did, for the most part.

The touch-screen interface is relatively intuitive and even when searching for vegetable codes, it’s pretty painless. Something I noticed, though, was that if there was someone behind me, I started getting performance anxiety. I started moving faster and rushing a bit. When someone else is scanning your items, you can’t speed them along, so you don’t feel rushed by the next person in line. But when you’re doing it yourself, you know you’re the only person between them and eating their Oreos in their car.

I did run into a few problems, however. The first time I used the self-scanner I had to go to customer service because an incorrect price rang up on an item. This one’s not the fault of the self-scanner, though, since it would have come up that way in any of the lanes. The second time, it wouldn’t take either of my coupons. I went to the customer service counter again and showed them the items on my receipt and they handed me my $1.75 in cash.

So while I miss the interaction with some of my favorite checkout people (I’m still lamenting the loss of Happy Bill), the self-checkout line worked pretty well from a functionality standpoint. I think they installed a few too many (three would have been sufficient), but hey, they seem to be in pretty heavy use.

Posted in Consumer Commentary

FROM: Dave Walls [E-Mail]
DATE: Saturday June 19, 2004 -- 8:30:11 am
The real problem with the self checkout lines doesn't even appear to be with the machines itself (because I use them pretty frequently with no problem nowadays).

The problem seems to be that most people who try and use them are computer illiterate to the highest degree possible. Whenever I go to the store and decide to try and use the self checkout, I always end up behind the 60 year grandfather who ends up staring at the machine like a monkey doing a math problem.

I still prefer going to a human when it comes to more complex transactions, i.e.: Weighing fruit. Still, I don't have any major complaints about the system, other than to say: If you think "browsing the web" means staring at a spider's nest closely, please don't use the self checkout.



FROM: Kate
DATE: Sunday June 20, 2004 -- 10:40:09 am
I'm your typical computer-literate-though-not-savvy person, and I can use the self-checkouts with no problem. However, I get annoyed with all the extra questions. All I want to do is stick this wad of green paper into the slot in exchange for some cookies. Stop asking dumb questions about credit cards and coupons; I want my Oreos, and they're wasting valuable seconds. There's got to be a better way. Plus, I know what you mean about "performance anxiety." Maybe it would be better if there were more of a public restroom type of line - people just wait for the first one available.



FROM: Joseph
DATE: Monday June 21, 2004 -- 9:35:14 am
The ones at Home Depot are still sketchy since they haven't quite worked out how to do the large items. It's really only a help because so often you find things you can't scan or load onto the scale/platform easily. That's why Home Depot has the self checkout babysitter who watches the four machines closely with laser reader and bullhorn at the ready.

I have had no problems with the self checkouts at the grocery store except for one annoying thing that may be a local problem. Here in CT every friggin' grocery store has to issue you a discount card if you want to get the sale price. I actually think this started with CVS Pharmacy and spread to the groceries like wildfire. The only way to keep your waller from being five inches thick with grocery store cards is to use the keychain card. It's a little key fob sized card with the proper UPC code on it to call up your account through the laser reader. Anyway, you've got about fifty of these on your key ring from all the different stores and the self checker will often pick one of these UPC codes up no matter how you try to shield the laser beam. Once it picks up a UPC that it can't assign, you are dead in the water. The monitor carries some sort of error message; the numbered light above your head starts blinking and the customer service person has to come by to check out what's going on. Then they have to pull out the dreaded round key in order to override the system. Then they look at you key ring and act like it is your fault you have fifty of these friggin' things that you can't seem to shield with your ten thumbs. Then you get the stern warning to use your ten thumbs better and not let the reader pick up a competitor's UPC. I think the scheme is to get you to remove all the competitor's key fobs and come exclusively to one store--if you want the added convenience of the self-checkout.

What's funny to me is that there is still usually a bagger at the end of the conveyer. Considering that a separate cashier and bagger is a relative rarity these days, they can't be saving much labor cost because there is still one employee per conveyor. Maybe a bagger is paid less on the union scale.

Most of the time you end up bagging your own anyway. They should keep the smiling (or grumpy, that can be fun too) cashier for human contact, as far as I'm concerned.

I'd be more impressed if the omnipotent "they" could invent a self-bagger.



FROM: jk
DATE: Monday June 28, 2004 -- 12:43:53 pm
I just had a fun time at the self-checkout line at Giant! I had used a carrying basket rather than a cart today, and I set it to the left of the scanner on a shelf that seemed to be the right size for the basket.

I scanned everything except a 45 oz bottle of dish detergent, and before I could reach for it, it flipped the basket into the air and into the path of another customer who pretended not to notice. I guess I need to think about physics from now on when I shop.



FROM: BaggerDoody
DATE: Thursday August 26, 2004 -- 1:28:05 am
Speaking of baggers on the union scale, when i started my job as a grocery bagger at our local food-lion supermarket, they promised me $5.75 an hour in pay and minimum 20 hrs. a week. i got the pay but only 4 YES 4!!!!!!!!!!!!! hrs a week. i waited for two and a half months to get more hours but never did. So it's really not the pay..... it's the hours i was shitted on !!! also the self checkout lanes at my local wal-mart has a rotating bag holding device that once you scan your item (and verify the secret price they slapped in the computer system)[they never put price tags on ANYTHING !!!] you bag the item yourself. dont be lazy. you're no better than anybody else!!!



FROM: Paul
DATE: Thursday August 26, 2004 -- 8:59:11 am
you're no better than anybody else!!!

That's not true!



FROM: BaggerDoody
DATE: Monday August 30, 2004 -- 11:34:53 pm
o.k. dude, keep telling yourself that Paul and you'll get far......



FROM: Paul
DATE: Tuesday August 31, 2004 -- 11:07:11 am
o.k. dude, keep telling yourself that Paul and you'll get far......

Already have, my friend. Already. Have.



FROM: Tamika
DATE: Thursday December 2, 2004 -- 3:55:59 pm



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