Those Dreaded Automated Checkouts!

Friday, 31 Dec 2004 | Rants

In case you haven't encountered them, the automated checkouts are computerized scanning stations that customers can use to scan and pay for their purchases supposedly without human intervention. It's like an ATM for store purchases. I find them quite annoying and impersonal. The idea is that the store can employ fewer checkout clerks and customers can easily and quickly check out. The problem is that the customers have difficulty with the machines and need assistance, slowing the process. Combine that with very few humans to check you out and it makes for a frustrating and slow retail experience.

I first saw one at Home Depot and disliked it very much. I was zipping in to get a gift card, but I couldn't activate it at the self help checkout. And of course there were no real people checkers to be found. So, I had to wait while they paged for someone to assist me.

Last night, I stopped at Albertsons to get a few groceries for Toni's party. I had one item and waited about 15 minutes to get checked out. The self check lines were long and slow because of technical difficulties and user unfamiliarity. At the same time, there were only two human checkers. I used to love shopping at Albertsons because I could count on an abundance of checkers and fast, courteous service. Well, that edge over oher markets is gone now and I don't really want to shop there anymore unless absolutely necessary. The very least they could do is have as many human checkers working as normal and decrease their number AFTER the self checkouts had been in place long enough for customers to get comfortable using them and the kinks were worked out.

Home Depot and Albertsons, for what it's worth, I don't believe these automated checkouts are good for business. I think you'll end up losing more revenue from frustrated customers shopping elsewhere than you'll save from salaries and benefits paid.

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