Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Self Checkout

These days, many grocery stores - including our neighborhood Kroger - have self-checkout lanes. These lanes have no cashiers or baggers; instead, you scan and bag your groceries yourself. Sure, it's a little more work for the customer, but the lines are often much shorter in the self-checkout lanes than in the traditional checkout lanes. And, the more people that use self-checkout, the fewer employees Kroger needs to staff at any given time, and that means cheaper groceries, at least in theory. I think Kroger purposely understaffs its traditional checkout lanes in an effort to encourage use of the self-checkout lanes.

Sounds great and all, but unfortunately, almost every self-checkout I've ever used turned out to be a giant pain in the butt. There is a scale underneath the bagging section, and when you scan an item, the scale confirms that everything that's going in the bags is paid for. I guess. Problem is, these things usually doesn't work right. "Please place your item in the bagging area." It's already in the bagging area! Ugh. Many times during my most recent checkout, the system erroneously asked me to either place something in the bagging area that was already there, or remove something from the bagging area that I already paid for, or something. It was a mess. Not exactly efficient. There's also the issue of items not always scanning right away, but that comes with practice.

And it would be a heck of a lot easier if I could put a bag back in my grocery cart as soon as I filled it up, rather than have to leave it in the already-congested bagging area until the very end. I guess that's necessary from a security standpoint. That way, at the end of the checkout, the shopping cart is empty, and Big Brother knows you actually scanned everything you intend on taking out of the store. But there has to be a better way.

If you're going to insist we use self-checkout - which if it were up to Mr. Kroger CEO, everyone would, I'm sure - why not work on making the ultra-sensitive and buggy weight check system work a little better? Or, how about this: designate at least one of the four self-checkout aisles a "reusable bag only" aisle, for people like me who have their own bags and don't need all these plastic bags getting in the way. It can be like an HOV lane, but for grocery stores. Now that's an idea.

So, in summary: I will only use self-checkout if I have a small number of items - say, 8 or less. Otherwise, I'm going traditional. The only benefit I see to self-checkout is to save time, and for high-volume shopping trips, I'd rather leave it to the professionals. (I worked in a grocery store for about three months, but I was a stock boy who worked in the back, not a front end checkout guy.) I think there will come a day when your mainstream, lower-end, "budget" grocery stores will do away with traditional checkout together and go 100% self-checkout. That will be a sad day. I guess there's always Harris Teeter.

1 comment:

bubba said...

I hate that kind too. Luckily, the Weis here uses a different system that is more like a regular checkout. But Wal*Mart and Target have those, and it can be a pain, especially when there is no more room to put things because you can't remove anything from the scale.