Two days ago we were at one of the larger supermarkets (for all my Americans, think of it as a Target in terms of size), and nothing really stood out to me. We did our shopping as usual, browsing aisles and working off our Todoist grocery list. Again, nothing spectacular about all of this.
Then, after having checked off our last item we headed towards the cashiers, and is in any large store they are all lined up one after the other. We are talking about at least 40 aisles of cashiers. Now, it didn’t catch my eye at first until my wife mentioned it to me.
They had taken the middle section where cashiers use to be and converted them to self-service checkout machines. We have been to this place dozens of times and they had self-service lanes as well. Somewhere around six, if I recall correctly. However now, they replaced at least half the normal cashier lines with self service. There were at least 30 self service machines. The reason being is that one “normal” cashier lane could now fit two self service machines and utilize a smaller space. So, on a square meter basis, your utilizing more space, hence more machines.
Now, this may seem like a nutty topic, but let me explain my logic.
I am all for progression and advancement. I love efficiency at any time, any place. I love when things work well and easy. However, the whole supermarket thing is two fold.
The classical method of going grocery shopping, throwing everything into your cart and heading towards the cashier, waiting in line, putting your items on the conveyor belt, waiting for everything to be scanned while your packing up and than paying does seem like quite a nuisance, no? Perhaps the cashier is really slow, loves talking to people and doesnt get on with the job. Your annoyed. The lady behind you is huffing and puffing as if the line will than move faster, however that was the experience and thats what we knew until recently.
Now, you have the option to head towards a human-less machine. Put all your items from your cart inside a box to ensure the machine captures every article. Scan the items yourself. Pack them and pay. Now you dont have to deal with a slow or talkative cashier, as it all depends on you, your tempo and your understanding of how the check out machine works. Is this really more efficient? Not sure.
Efficiency to me, if I want to move quickly is simply walking through a scanner with my cart or whatever items I may have. Similar to an airport, all items are scanned at once. A display shows my total and payment options and off I go. Perhaps we aren’t that far yet. Which would surprise me!
However back to the human-less machine. If the supermarket is now saving X amount of personnel because where they use to have 20 cashiers they needed to pay and now they only have two folks helping everyone and making sure everyone is doing what needs to be done (and not stealing), they can utilize more space for inventory and are now asking shoppers to do everything themselves – shouldn’t we receive a discount? Like an incentive to want to use these things? The only real benefit is if you have 1 or two items. Those “rapid cashier lines” are in fact really worthless anyways – especially if you have to wait because there are only two lines in total and 20 people with up to 10 items waiting as well. That’s the only benefit I see when it comes to these machines. If I have a cart full of things. Its still going to take a similar amount of time for me to get everything done on my own. Regardless of how fast I move. Especially if you have children – picture that.
That being said. I want a discount or some form of real incentive to be using those things, because if I find a cashier lane thats open and free – thats where Im heading. While Im placing items on the conveyor, they are already being scanned and my wife is already packing. Progress doesn’t always mean better, faster or more efficient. That’s my take on this gist.
Have you had any experiences as such? What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s just the way these segment of business moves forward?