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Law of Unintended Consequences Strikes Grocers

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the try-not-to-shed-too-many-tears dept.

697

netbuzz writes "The law of unintended consequences is taking a chomp out of grocery chain profits as more stores transition from human clerks to self-service checkout technology, thus reducing the time shoppers spend in line and under the temptation of impulse items. That's the upshot of research being released tomorrow by IHL Consulting Group in Franklin, Tenn., which provides market analysis to the retail industry and its IT vendors."

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697 comments

My statistical sampling of "one" matches theirs (5, Funny)

plover (150551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774136)

Now that they mention it, I know I've never made an impulse purchase at the self-checkout lanes at Home Depot (but I have at the regular checkout lines.) That's the only store I regularly shop at that uses self-checkout.

However, I refuse to use self-checkout if I have to wait behind any customers. The cashier lanes are always faster, even when they have a line. I can't believe how stupid most people become once they enter the self-checkout lanes. It's scan-scan-swipe, people; in-and-out in about 45 seconds or less; how frickin' hard is that to understand?!? I'm not talking about the people who get stalled because their credit card was rejected, I'm talking about the ones who have to stop and read the full screen after scanning every damn packet of washers in their cart; or who don't seem to understand that the barcodes have to be presented to the lasers, and that no matter how long you stare at a barcode, the scanner won't pick it up. Morons.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Re:My statistical sampling of "one" matches theirs (5, Interesting)

PresidentEnder (849024) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774156)

I work at Home Depot, as a cashier. I can back up all of parent's statements; people lose about fifty IQ points when faced with the self checkout. That's why ours have a cashier supervising them.

Think about it. When you're in the self-checkout, you're focused on getting things done, scanning your items (or staring at the barcode wondering what's wrong); when you're at a regular cashier, he's the one doing the work. You sit there and... what? Look around, listen to his dumb jokes, and (more importantly) notice the overpriced altoid knock-offs and useless 37-cent clamps.

That, or it could have something to do with the fact that there usually aren't any impulse items right next to (or in front of) the self check-out registers. Just maybe.

Re:My statistical sampling of "one" matches theirs (1)

plover (150551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774186)

That, or it could have something to do with the fact that there usually aren't any impulse items right next to (or in front of) the self check-out registers. Just maybe.

Well, you do have stuff in the end caps. And our local store has a folding table set up in the aisle approaching the self-checkouts with clearance merchandise (things like returned circular saws for $15) that I like to look at. I suppose if I were waiting in line for a self-checkout lane I might browse the goods, but like I said, that isn't going to happen with me. I'm much happier waiting for someone who knows what he or she is doing than to take my chances behind a line full of J. Random Lusers.

Re:My statistical sampling of "one" matches theirs (5, Interesting)

synaptik (125) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774199)

Both you and the GP forgot to mention: the assinine weight scales on those infernal self-checkout machines. I get so tired of hearing "PLEASE PLACE ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA!" when I've ALREADY PLACED THE FRICKIN' SCANNED ITEM IN THE FRICKIN' BAGGING AREA! You also hear this one when you've filled up all the space on the weigh-scale, and need to move those filled bags back to the shopping cart, to make room for the rest of the crap you've still needing to scan.

Nor did you mention its complement, "PLEASE REMOVE ANOMOLOUS ITEM FROM BAGGING AREA!" just because it thinks the last thing I put there weighs too much.

Damn, those are annoying! It is impossible to get any reasonable throughput on those $#@! self-checkout stands. It routinely takes 2x-3x longer than necessary-- especially if you're buying those little packages of 5 washers-- because of that stupid weight scale. (Yes, I know about the "skip bagging" button, but (a) that's almost just as annoying, and (b) in many retailers, if you hit that button too often, the machine locks up until a human can come make certain you're not trying to steal.

Seriously... just migrate to RFID already, and be done with this weight-scale nonsense!

Re:My statistical sampling of "one" matches theirs (4, Interesting)

friedmud (512466) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774285)

If you are filling up the bagging area then.... YOU ARE TRYING TO BUY TOO MUCH STUFF USING SELF CHECKOUT!

Self-checkout should be _strictly_ reserved for people who have about 5 things _max_. When I see people with a cart full of groceries pull up to a self-checkout station I just laugh... it will take them _forever_...

On the other hand, I am almost always the guy that is standing in line with just _one_ thing to buy... I have it in my left hand and my debit card in my right. It takes me all of 30 seconds to whip through a self checkout line. Everyone else needs to get the _hell_ out of the way! ;-)

Friedmud

Re:My statistical sampling of "one" matches theirs (5, Insightful)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774205)

That's why ours have a cashier supervising them.

Here's an idea...

CLOSE THE GOD-DAMMED SELF-CHECKOUT MACHINES, AND PUT THAT LADY BEHIND A CASH REGISTER, SOLVING BOTH PROBLEMS FOR FAR LESS MONEY. IT MAKES NO SENSE AT HOME DEPOT, OF ALL PLACES, SITTING THERE FOR 2 FULL MINUTES TELLING YOU TO PUT YOUR (FEATHER-WEIGHT OR GIGANTIC AND MASSIVE) ITEM IN THE BAG ON THE SENSOR, BEFORE LETTING YOU GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE.

Of course I may just a little bitter. It is, though, almost gratifying to see my local Home Depot's self-checkout lines entirely abandonded, while the lines at the two open (manned) cash registers go winding through the isles. Gratifying to see it once or twice, that is, as the longer lines and moronic self-checkout machines make me shop at Lowes, now, where they have no self-checkout machines, few cashiers (more than two, of course) and yet practically never any waiting lines.

Re:My statistical sampling of "one" matches theirs (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774383)

Yea, I am building a vaction home on my spare time, and I am needing to go to the DIY stores at least twice a week. I stopped shopping at Home Depot just for the fact that they only have 1 real cash register open, with 20 people in line. (Ever try to self-check out with a load of 50 different 8' to 16' lumber pieces and a cart full of 90# bags???)

Lowes has no self checkout things and always has at least 4 people working to check you out. I have averaged at least $500 a week (sometimes a lot more) for the last year to get my stuff. I expect that if I am spending that much money somewhere every week to have some service. Because of this lack of service to save $7/hour, Home Depot has lost my business.

Re:My statistical sampling of "one" matches theirs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774352)

I agree, for I use to work at Home Depot and was a backup cashier (until I reported bait and switch to the companies ethic hotline and got fired because of it). People are dumb. At the self check out, they will have the largest items that they can hardly pick up and try so hard to scan them. It is a sight that is aumsing to watch, and if I felt bad for them I would offer to scan it using a portable gun scanner. Some people refuse the directions that the machine tells them and other people try so hard to find barcodes when they do not exist (like dealing with single bots, washers, etc) and somehow rather just stare at it or the screen instead of asking for help. At the store I worked people ignored the impuse buys that were placed around the self-checkout, unless they are gift cards.

Re:My statistical sampling of "one" matches theirs (4, Insightful)

ejdmoo (193585) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774161)

I always proposed a training and certification program for self-checkout lanes. You have to scan your membership (which works at different stores of course) then you can checkout. That way granny won't be wondering why she can't place her items right back into her cart.

in the case of washers.. (4, Interesting)

512k (125874) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774162)

self checkout doesn't work well, because the system checks to see if you honest by weighing what's in your bag.
Washers are so light, that it often doesn't recognize that they're there. So you have to see that it didn't work; read the screen to find out what happened, read the screen to see what to do...rescan, or pick the bag up and put it down on the pad again, read the screen to see if that worked,

wash rinse repeat

I don't buy washers from home depot, but I do buy a packet or two of screws, and this happens all the time.

Re:in the case of washers.. (1)

CMRichar (610129) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774191)

you think washers are bad? go to a local megamart that uses self-scan lanes when they're having a huge special on say, kool-aid.

*disclaimer*: i work as a cashier at a local megamart. i've run the u-scans. people are only slightly smarter than the ground upon which they stand while using uscan.

the scale has problems picking up kool-aid, greeting cards, light packets of sauce mixes, anything that weighs 2 oz. and yet, people will try to go through with 30 packets of kool-aid "because it's faster."

Re:My statistical sampling of "one" matches theirs (5, Funny)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774211)

I refuse to use them because of the above-mentioned need for your single cotton ball to register as exactly .000001 ounces before it'll let you move on, as well as the equally annoying deafening voice telling me to scan my next item every damn time. Girl-that-lives-in-the-machine, I know where the frigging change is dispensed. And if you're so worried I won't see it, move the damn change dispensor, and stop yelling at me!

Your BLAME is Misplaced (5, Insightful)

DumbSwede (521261) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774235)

Actually as a computer programmer I lay most of the blame on the bad design of the scanning systems. The scanner in one location the scale in another, often far flung, location, the credit card swipe in still another location, even down below eyesight. Worse yet as with many ATMs machines there are TOO MANY BUTTONS for what should be only ONE OPTION enter PIN and PAY! Not only are there too many buttons, but the onscreen instructions often are worded differently than the keys you have to press. "PRESS YES" out of the extra 10 buttons only an "OK" seems to map to "YES." It may seem obvious to you that OK is YES, but you have to read each key to eliminate the possibility that YES is an Option, this takes time, not just to read, but to double check you are doing it correctly. I don't know how many stores I have shopped at that put those kindergarten silver or gold stars by the keys, then verbally tell you to ignore the instructions and hit the "GOLD STAR". Often the screen will have option layout that would map to 4 function keys, but the keypad doesn't really have function keys in that location. Add to this that at auto-checkouts there's usually no one there to assist you, you usually have to figure this all out on your own. It is a money transaction, so if you are like me with an unfamiliar interface, you double, triple, quadruple check what you are doing.

BUT worst of all, instead of one crappy layout system used by all stores, THEY ALL SUCK, BUT DIFFERENTLY. Name me one chain that has these machines well made? In time, someone will come up with a decent layout and everyone will adopt it and it will seem silly we had these problems but we're not there yet.

HERE's an idea, put stick on scan labels by all the veggies so once bagged they can just be weighed and scanned instead of having to key in the code by HAND -- WTF???. Make the labels big with not just the code but large with print of what the veggie is so people aren't too tempted to cheat the system. A computer voice should also echo the entry (I believe most systems already do this).

Many systems I have seen seem cobbled together from unrelated discrete components -- THIS WILL NOT DO.

I WORK IN SQA AND I WOULD NEVER SIGN OFF ON THIS SHIT! Forgive my language, but its us, the IT professionals to blame here -- NOT EVERYDAY FOLK who

Re:Your BLAME is Misplaced (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774314)

Worse yet as with many ATMs machines...

The proper phrase you're looking for is: automated ATM teller machines.
 

Re:Your BLAME is Misplaced (1)

Jonner (189691) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774395)

The proper phrase you're looking for is: automated ATM teller machines.

The addition of "machine" after the acronym "ATM" is one of my pet peeves. Why does is it so inevitable? If people must add "machine," why not call them "AT machines"?

Re:My statistical sampling of "one" matches theirs (4, Insightful)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774237)

I'm not a professional grocery clerk, so don't bitch about my speed. I often have to look at the package to see where the UPC symbol is located, or unwrinkle it so it will scan properly. Sometimes I have to key in the barely readable number below the UPC symbol when it doesn't scan. Then there's the produce. I picked up several onions, and, no, I'm not an expert on onions. The computer wants to know which of eight types of onions I'm buying. Hell if I know, the round ones.

The store is wasting my time so they can cut their head count. Fuck them.

Re:My statistical sampling of "one" matches theirs (2, Funny)

Simonetta (207550) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774265)

It's scan-scan-swipe, people; in-and-out in about 45 seconds or less; how frickin' hard is that to understand?!?

    I'm always the person who messes up in the self-checkout line.

    I'm the one who presses the Spanish language button by mistake instead of the English. No big deal; but I don't know any Spanish. I'm learning grocery line Spanish, though.

    I'm the one who has a jar with 300 pennies that I'm feeding into the coin slot one at a time because I don't want to have to pay a 15% penality at the coin counting machine.

    I'm the one who can't tell the difference between the different types of lettuce, press the wrong type, get overcharged, and insist that the cashier void just that one item.

    I'm the one who buys one six-pack of soda pop and ends up running one can through the scanner six times, get overcharged, and insist that the cashier void just those six items.

    I'm the one who doesn't know the difference between a credit card and a debit card.

    Now, don't you'all just hate me?

And lest I forget... (1)

Simonetta (207550) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774296)

I almost forgot,

    I'm the one who buys the day-old 'red-band' bananas and find that the automatic cashier hasn't been updated with today's 'red-band' price. So I insist that the cashier at the auto checkout stand leave the station, walk back a half-kilometer to the produce section, and verify that the price of the day is two pennies less than the machine says that it is.
    And as soon as the auto-checkout attendent cashier begins their merry journey, your machine has locked up because it is demanding that you show your driver's license to the cashier in order to buy a beer.

    Now ain't that just the worst of them all?

Re:My statistical sampling of "one" matches theirs (1)

adavidw (31941) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774350)

Now, don't you'all just hate me?


No, not really. All of the things you mention ('cept one) are totally legitimate consequences of poorly designed man-machine interfaces.

I'm the one who has a jar with 300 pennies that I'm feeding into the coin slot...


This one, however, just makes you an ass.

Re:My statistical sampling of "one" matches theirs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774270)

The best part about your comment is the replies, wherin we hear from all the smart people. The self-checkout experts. I'm bettin that at least quite a few of them are the retards that frustrate me when I'm in line behind them.

You know, the everybody else is the problem types. Nothing is perfect. I've memorized every screen of the stupid thing and can hit the buttons faster than the machine can speak the first word of its statement, but you don't see me calling for a redesign of the machine or society to accomodate me. Jesus freakin' Koresh, man. Just buy your stuff and leave. Quit overanalyzing.

Re:My statistical sampling of "one" matches theirs (1)

ThousandStars (556222) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774287)

I can't believe how stupid most people become once they enter the self-checkout lanes. It's scan-scan-swipe, people; in-and-out in about 45 seconds or less; how frickin' hard is that to understand?!?

Apparently I'm one of the stupid people, because I've come to avoid these self-checkout lanes at the grocer. It takes a long time of digging through menus to find the proper fruit; the loyalty cards (I use a phone number I found in the phone book, BTW) don't always specify whether they want the leading digit 1 or not, and I've never had a problem at the regular cashiers' stands; when I try to put an item I've just scanned into my bag or backpack, the machine instructs me not to; when I'm ready to pay, it frequently won't accept my cash. Using credit cards -- which I don't do with loyalty cards, BTW -- is also sometimes a pain in the ass if the machine won't accept a swipe or the location of the credit card slot isn't obvoius. At QFC's it isn't.

For me, the efficiency of these systems is often questionable, particularly because of fruits. So I guess I am one of the people you describe. Personally, I think the designers of the systems are morons -- shouldn't they be making it easier for me, rather than me make it easier for them?

OUTGOING (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774140)

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K-BYE

unpaid labor... (5, Insightful)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774143)

The law of unintended consequences is taking a chomp out of grocery chain profits as more stores transition from human clerks to self-service checkout technology

They're also taking a chomp out of grocery chain profits since I refuse to shop at a store that forces me to do their work for them. What's next, stores that make you stock their shelves?

Re:unpaid labor... (2, Interesting)

walnutmon (988223) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774181)

They are not forcing you to do anything, they are offering you a choice. Wait in line while the vapid clerk checks you out, or BE THE VAPID CLERK.

I agree that self check outs suck, because they are used to cut back on staff, but I don't see it as a grocery store trying to stick it to you. People want them there, because it's their chance to play god, or checkout person. Same thing, really...

Re:unpaid labor... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774219)

...but I like it when people check me out...

Re:unpaid labor... (3, Insightful)

Aadain2001 (684036) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774183)

If they pass the savings on to me, sure. Food ain't free after all.

Re:unpaid labor... (1)

slowbad (714725) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774184)

I refuse to shop at a store that forces me to do their work

It is forcing customers, at the places with multiple under-20 item checkout lanes that offer ZERO traditional cashier choices. The old fashioned queues would have people lined up five people deep if offered as an alternative.
The alternative, of course is a professional who processes 40-45 rings per minute instead of the persons fumbling around ten times slower than that. So we've gotta stand in line at least five minutes longer than necessary? No thanks.

Re:unpaid labor... (1)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774185)

They're also taking a chomp out of grocery chain profits since I refuse to shop at a store that forces me to do their work for them. What's next, stores that make you stock their shelves?

Hell yeah! I wouldn't mind so much if they gave some kind of discount.

Re:unpaid labor... (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774201)

"They're also taking a chomp out of grocery chain profits since I refuse to shop at a store that forces me to do their work for them. What's next, stores that make you stock their shelves?"

This would be funny if it weren't so damned likely.

Re:unpaid labor... (1)

dagoalieman (198402) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774220)

This is of course, the model of the youth hotels in Europe. Pay less for customer labor. Would it be that bad, if it worked that way you propose?

Sadly, for me, in corporate USA, I'd have to pay for the privledge to stock the shelves. Some money hungry people miss the point so much they miss the money.

*sigh*

look into a ... (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774386)

...food co-op. The usual arrangement is working members at x-hours per month labor (stock, sweep floors, unload trucks-whatever) get their stuff as near to wholesale as possible.

Re:unpaid labor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774230)

Whats next, a store that doesn't have a butler to grab the items on your shopping list, drive them to your house, and put them in your house for you?

My god, the arrogance of these people!

Re:unpaid labor... (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774300)

The butler did it! [amazon.com]

KFG

Re:unpaid labor... (1)

Neuronwelder (990842) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774232)

You are exacly right! What? They want you to to their work?! You have had a long day and now have to play the part of an unpaid cashier.

Did we lose a war? (4, Funny)

bit trollent (824666) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774318)

Am I the only one who still wonders to himself, "How the hell did this happen to us?" as I scan and bag my own groceries. I mean, I really feel like someone got the uperhand on me.

If we ever conquer Iraq, I hope someone puts self checkout lines in their supermarkets. Then they will know what slavery really is.

Re:unpaid labor... (1)

grrrl (110084) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774320)

Just got back from Europe where they have a supermarket chain called LIDL that simply rips off the tops of the boxes and that is their shelving system. Cuts prices, and works well IMHO.

Re:unpaid labor... (1)

timrichardson (450256) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774323)

Well, you are quite happy to deliver the goods to your house; doing "their work for them" is a matter of definition.

Re:unpaid labor... (1)

Remillard (67835) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774398)

You have to be kidding me. I LOVE the self-checkout. I can get through them faster than it would take me to make eye contact with the human cashier. Beep, Beep, Beep. I do not want to be asked how my day is. I do not want to be asked paper or plastic. I do not want to be asked if I found everything alright. I don't want to watch them sit around waiting for someone to come bag the damn groceries. I don't want to tell them debit or credit. I just want to buy the groceries in as little time as possible and get on with my life. My wife feels the same way. She can checkout a whole cart faster than a regular cashier. The only snag is that the self-checkouts force a few things to go slower and sometimes she goes fast enough to confuse the machine.

Long live self checkout. Saves me time, headache, and irritating personal contact with labor union cashiers.

Breaking Unions is priceless (4, Insightful)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774146)

10 years ago a grocer's cashier had a career, now he's a 'Courtesy Clerk' earning $6 bucks/hr.

Re:Breaking Unions is priceless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774177)

If you call $17.50 an hour a career, I have news for you.

Re:Breaking Unions is priceless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774382)

$17.50 an hour is a career for alot of people in the USA.

Re:Breaking Unions is priceless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774223)

I wouldn't cry over it. I would rather destroy cashier as a career in order to maybe *gasp* give that person a reason to learn a real skill. High minimum wage does this too... why do we want to encourage people to never learn real skills?

A real skill? (1)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774387)

What, so they can go into college student loan debt only to find that the industry they're learning a skill for, has gone overseas?

MBA's, I'm talking to you. Come back in 5 years and see if you aren't next. 5 years. Mark this post.

Re:Breaking Unions is priceless (0, Troll)

hab136 (30884) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774337)

earning $6 bucks/hr.

Six dollars bucks per hour? Does he deposit that money into his ATM machine using his PIN number?

Re:Breaking Unions is priceless (2, Informative)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774410)

Maybe this isn't typical, but I know someone who works at a national grocery chain - and he's pulling in 48K a year, working 34-36 hours a week. Granted, he also does other things, such as stock shelves, inventory, etc. (He's not a manager. His title is "Checker").

I would say that the Union to which he belongs plays a significant role in what he makes.

Over-paranoid machines (4, Interesting)

Majik Sheff (930627) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774159)

The self-checkout lanes at my local grocer have a sensor system that basically demands staff intervention for every customer. If you don't place the item in just the right spot after scanning, the damned thing is automatically convinced that the user is trying to pull a fast one. The self checkout lanes stand empty most of the time because of it.

Condoms and Twinkies (5, Insightful)

walnutmon (988223) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774164)

Put condoms and twinkies right next to the self check counter... Sit back and reap the benefits!

Re:Condoms and Twinkies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774212)

I don't understand, how do you eat a twinkie when it's in a condom?

Re:Condoms and Twinkies (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774218)

Is that a "cover all the bases" impule buy? I mean, stereotypically, either you're in great shape and getting some from women you are not married to, meaning you need lots of condoms, or you just don't care and want the twinkies.

Re:Condoms and Twinkies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774305)

I just want to fuck the Twinkie.

Re:Condoms and Twinkies (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774307)

Well, yeah, if I could actually impulse buy a twinkie in the supermarket I guess I'd pick up the condoms then too. Only makes sense. You don't know where she's been, but you can imagine.

I'm afraid we have laws against that around here though.

KFG

Absolutely... (4, Funny)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774165)

I have no time to look at impulse items... I'm too busy slamming my fist against the screen, trying to get the dammed thing to work.

And I'm still waiting to recieve my paycheck for my part-time job as a bag-boy and cashier...

It's not a xenophobic thing. It's a "Those fucking things never work right" thing.

Re:Absolutely... (2, Informative)

Jonner (189691) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774331)

Actually, it would be xenophia if you didn't like to use a cashier lane staffed by a foreigner. If you were afraid of the machines, it would be technophobia.

A few solutions: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774166)

1. Marginally increase the time between the self checkout's stages, such that customers will spend, on average, a few seconds more while checking out. This has a two-fold benefit: 1) the longer the customer takes, the more potential there is for a line to develop at the self checkout line, forcing some of them to revert to a standard issue checkout, and 2) the customer checking out will have more time to idle, look around, and potentially pick up something else, which leads me to ....

2. Near the end of the transaction (after swiping his or her credit card), ask the customer if he/she would like to add any last minute items. The customer can press 'NO' and the transaction will just complete. If they press 'YES' (after seeing that oh-so-tasty snickers bar), they'll go back to the scanning screen where they can scan their snickers bar. The checkout button will then be replaced with a 'Complete Transaction' button which will charge the card, print the receipt, and send them off. The store could even go so far as to offer a special 'last minute' discount (like a couple of cents off said snickers bar) to further entice the customer.

3. Close all self checkouts, return to 1995.

Re:A few solutions: (1)

walnutmon (988223) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774187)

Why don't you just stick the "target" with consumer syrum and start depositing shit they don't want into their cart for them... It would be less annoying than your "prompt for shit you don't want idea", and probably more successful.

Am I the only person who wants to open fire on school children when I am about to pump gas, I swipe my card at the fuel pump, and then it asks me "Would you like a car wash?"...

FUCK YOU MARKETING SWINE!

Offtopic - Gosh Thanks Oregon! (1)

DavidRawling (864446) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774236)

<rant>Hmph - at least you CAN pump gas. I'm on a business trip in Portland, OR (I'm an Australian native) and I was told today that "You can't pump your own gas in Oregon it's illegal". Say WHAT?!

So instead I have to wait for the SINGLE GUY looking after 8 pumps to get back to me, and having asked first time for a full tank and second time for "fill it up as much as you can" I get about 15 gal in the 18 gal tank. Yeah that will sure make it easier for me. NOT!</rant>

This is one case where self service is far easier and definitely preferred, (but I agree about the Marketing Dweebs).

Re:A few solutions: (1)

plover (150551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774216)

Marginally increase the time between the self checkout's stages, such that customers will spend, on average, a few seconds more while checking out

Uhh...no. Even with only one cashier per four lanes, it's in the stores best interersts to push people through the lines faster, not slower. First, cashiers have a per-hour cost. Dividing it by four allows a store to be a bit slower, but not much. Besides, "slower checkout" just pisses people off these days, and they're likely to drop their purchase on the floor and walk out if they have to wait too long. Those former-customers are tough to get to come back, too. While it might work fine at a Bose speaker store, intentionally slowing down the checkout process is not a good business practice in a high-volume chain-store.

Re:A few solutions: (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774319)

1. Marginally increase the time between the self checkout's stages . . .

They do. Have you noticed why people here say they don't use them?

KFG

wait a minute... (5, Interesting)

jimfinity (849860) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774170)

are they implying that those self-checkout lanes are faster?

it seems that every time i go through one of those things i have to get some manager over there to "ok" my purchases. whether it's a "violent adult videogame" (half-life 2) or isopropyl alcohol to keep my car's gas lines freeze free (recreational drinking?).

they've been such a hassle for me i don't even use them anymore.

Re:wait a minute... (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774189)

I think that "suicidal drinking" would be a more apt description if you're imbibing isopropyl alcohol.

LK

Re:wait a minute... (1)

Jonner (189691) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774340)

It's probably not healthy for either your car or body to ingest isopropyl. Ethanol in moderate amounts is unlikely to be harmful to either.

They'll just add more machines to distract/amuse (4, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774178)

Hell a few TV sets with moving content would do it for most of the ADHD cattle out there. Oh look it's my favourite show....oh now it's moved to that screen over there, I think I'll follow...oooohh look a pretty shiny thing. I want to take that home. I'll just add that to my trolley.

Perhaps I should patent this and make a bundle ;-)

Re:They'll just add more machines to distract/amus (1)

wjsroot (732775) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774364)

Some of the supermarkets near me have started doing something this. They added (often lcd) TVs to the checkout lanes. They play (the same) short 'ad' on each. It is usually a fake cooking show or the like, trying to inspire the shopper to buy this or that. And not only is it video, but they each have a speaker pointed at the checkout line. Talk about in your face marketing!

Solution: Take a Cue from Vegas (4, Funny)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774195)

The easy solution for this is to follow the lead of Las Vegas casinos. Basically you want to make it as hard as possible to leave the store with money. Hide the registers behind a wall of mirrors. Funnel the customer through a gauntlet of racks of impulse buy goods before the can get to the check out*. Put speed bumps on the floor. Offer free cocktails and a $5.99 prime rib buffet.

*Fry's Electronics already uses this technique.

Re:Solution: Take a Cue from Vegas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774224)

Ah, I see you've been to Ikea.

Re:Solution: Take a Cue from Vegas (3, Funny)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774353)

I've decided that Hell must be very much like Ikea on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Re:Solution: Take a Cue from Vegas (1)

waferhead (557795) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774240)

"...Offer free cocktails and a $5.99 prime rib buffet.

*Fry's Electronics already uses this technique."...

You.....Lieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Nobody told me! ARRRRHHGHGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Seriously, The Frys in Plano, Tx at least has a really nice "coffee house" stuck right in the middle.
It's a dangerous, dangerous place to lose a few (hours) with a book, drinking coffee and munching sandwiches.
The prices are even not too bad.

Re:Solution: Take a Cue from Vegas (1)

waferhead (557795) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774244)

After taking my meds, I now think the maze-lined-with-goodies is the technique the parent was referring to.
My bad.

Re:Solution: Take a Cue from Vegas (1)

friedmud (512466) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774326)

Even before I read your footnote I knew you would be referring to Fry's.

For me, the funny part about Fry's is that it _works_. Every damn time I'm in there to buy an ink cartridge or whatever electronic equipment... I _always_ end up buying candy on the way out. I _know_ what they are doing, and I think about it as I pick up the packet of candy... but I just can't help myself... sigh.

Also... have you noticed that Best Buy has gone down this same road? BestBuy used to have multiple queues (atlest the one in my hometown did)... but now they have gone to the single queue with the maze through the impulse stuff... for some reason it doesn't work as well as Fry's (on me anyway!).

Friedmud

Intended Consequences (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774198)

Sorry liberals, making the grocery logistics more efficient is what this game is all about. That means reducing both Union Employees and Impulse Buying. Two very nasty, unprofitable habbits...

Who is cutting the fat? Evil managers? No, dummies, its consumers and their holy wallets. Learn this lesson or die in my new economy... Mwahahaha!!

They are missing the human touch ... (5, Funny)

Empty Yo (828138) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774202)

The clerk in my grocery store remembered my name, twice, and flirted with me every time I went in. I took the plunge and asked her out and it turned into quite the summer romance while she was in town. Try that with some self-checkout and you'll be arrested within the minute.

Re:They are missing the human touch ... (1)

Arivia (783328) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774263)

John Updike fucking loves you.

Re:They are missing the human touch ... (5, Funny)

mctk (840035) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774397)

This machine in my grocery never learned my name, but was always checking me out. It was always exceedingly patient; its politeness was automatic. It weighed a bit much but had a good interface. Our interactions were always intuitive and natural; I rarely pushed her buttons.

One day, while buying an oversized cucumber, I realized it was flirting me the second time asked me to put the item in the bag. I took the plunge and tried to take it out, but the machine remained unmoved. When I inserted my membership card, she had an exception. Apparently I wasn't endowed with enough capital for her as I was denied and discarded.

boycott self check out. (2, Insightful)

Bobartig (61456) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774204)

If I wanted to handle my own cart/checkout, I'd have bought it online. When I go to a grocery store or retail outlet, I always use a checkout clerk because the dozen or so times I used self check out, it didn't save me any time. Also, my grocery shopping consists of about 75% fruits and vegetables, and doing those on your own (numeric touch screen that doesn't always recognize the fruit code) definitely doesn't save you time.

There was also a 6 month period where I went to Home depot about twice a week, and bought lumber every time (I was building a lot of stuff). Their self checkout system doesn't (or at least didn't) allow for construction materials purchases, so the self checkout was NEVER an option.

I encourage others not to use self check outs, and spend a few extra minutes in line. That way, the big expensive machine that they replaced two humans with doesn't provide them any utility.

Re:boycott self check out. (1)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774373)

If you're buying *just* lumber (or at least mostly lumber). Go to the contractor's checkout if it's not busy. Those girls are fast and the doors are conveninent. If that's busy, go to the self-checkout and snag the girl that manages all four checkouts. She'll have to do everything (except process your payment), but you won't have to wait in line, because nobody uses those stupid things.

Best of both worlds!

cashiers are better (4, Interesting)

focitrixilous P (690813) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774214)

I have the unfortunate honor of working in a retail position to support my education. A Target namebadge in plain view from my desk at school serves as a very good reminder to stay focused.

I never really saw the attraction of the self checkout as a serious shopper. When I went out for food with college buddies we'd all hit the self checkout if there was no line as a competition, too see who could avoid having the machine flip out at you for doing something wrong. Because we went so fast, we had to have an attendant come bail us out a couple times. Without fail, someone who had gone through a normal checkout was standing at the door waiting for us. I could probably do it now with my 1337 retail skills, but really the self checkout is a joke. It's boring conversation, and you have to bag your own stuff, just so some company makes an extra dime that you'll never see.

Support college students. Go through a normal line.

Re:cashiers are better (1)

friedmud (512466) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774343)

Being employed at Target as you are... do you know if they have plans to use self-checkout?

The Super Target just down the road has lately become my favorite place to shop (both for groceries and everything else)... it's clean and the people are friendly... and reading this just reminded me that I've never seen any Target store with self-checkout... but then I've never really had much of a wait at Target either (well... compared to most other stores) because they always seem to be well staffed... so maybe there's no need.

Ah... one more thing Target did right is the credit card reading machine... the fact that it takes your card from you to read it is genious... let's me keep all the precious minutes of my life that would have been wasted by grandma _trying_ to swipe her card....

Friedmud

Ever been in line when the monitor goes? (1)

gettingbraver (987276) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774217)

The customer using the machine totatlly freaks!

The technology needs refinement (1)

Krolley (65102) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774243)

Traditionally we think of computers as things that are meant to make our lives easier and faster, giving us more time to do the things we really want to do (which for most of us is playing with computers!) In this case it appears that computers are benefitting us as consumers to the detriment of the company that has implemented the technology. How long will it be before this new 'technology' is only employed to give the illusion of efficiency, but in reality will keep us hovering around those impulse items for far longer than we should?

Grab your tinfoil hats, people, here it comes. Shopping habits of consumers could be analysed to determine who is more likely to impulse spend, and these consumers could be held at the checkout longer while the computer 'processes' the items that they wish to purchase. However, I suppose that when that becomes feasible, RFID chips will intercept our thoughts and send them to McDonalds anyway.

RFID (0, Redundant)

Ethan Allison (904983) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774249)

Why not use those 5 cent RFID tags? Place your shopping cart in the scanner and hit a button. "But what about produce?" you ask? Well, how about RFID-enabled bags with specific tags for each kind of produce? Sure, it's not perfect, but it could be refined. Plus people could return the tags for store credit, and information embedded in the tags could be used to manage inventory and tell robotic machinery how to bag and/or stock the items. Also, if you steal my idea, I will hunt you down.

self-checkout is fine by me (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774262)

There are a lot of comments "proving" that self-checkout is a waste of time. I have to disagree, at least for me. My method is to cruise by, see if theres a self-checkout already open and hit it. If not, I'll go stand in line (if it's reasonable). I generally fly through the self-checkout with no problems. Then again, I don't buy a ton of produce or anything that requires anything other than the old barcode. I have maybe one problem every 100 checkouts this way. What does this prove? Self-checkout is great for ME. Maybe not for everyone, but definitely for me.

Plus I prefer buying the 36 pack of condoms (cheaper per condom and avoids me having to buy them as often) at the self-checkout, especially when combined with some other random purchase like peanut butter.

Re:self-checkout is fine by me (3, Interesting)

friedmud (512466) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774370)

I'm with you... I hardly ever have problems as well.

Like I said in an earlier post... people just need to realize when and when not to use self-checkout. When buying produce I almost always realize this and stand in line. But, that's the odd occasion, I'm almost always just picking up that _one_ item my wife forgot... and for that self-checkout is a life-saver.

Also... you are spot on about the condoms. I can remember being a teenager when self-checkout first came to our Wal-Mart (we were one of the first to trial it)... I thought that God himself had answered my prayers with a discrete way to purchase personal items... to this day I still use self-checkout for those purposes (only now I'm usually buying feminine products in _HUGE_ quantities instead ;-)

I think it's interesting that so many geeks don't like self-checkout. With our leet computer skills you would think that we would be drawn to it like moths to a flame... but that doesn't appear to be the case.

Friedmud

RFID (forgot to go to plaintext before) (3, Interesting)

Ethan Allison (904983) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774276)

Why not use those 5 cent RFID tags?

Place your shopping cart in the scanner and hit a button.

"But what about produce?" you ask? Well, how about RFID-enabled bags with specific tags for each kind of produce?

Sure, it's not perfect, but it could be refined.

Plus people could return the tags for store credit, and information embedded in the tags could be used to manage inventory and tell robotic machinery how to bag and/or stock the items.

Also, if you steal my idea, I will hunt you down.

Up-Sell X80 Autmoted Checking Machine (5, Funny)

walnutmon (988223) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774282)

X80: "Good Day Sir, Please Scan First Item"
Consumer: (Scans taco mix)
X80: "Ah, Taco Mix, very nice, I noticed that you seem to have chosen the generic taco mix, are you sure you have thought this through?"
C: (Selects "yes")
X80: "Have you given much thought to the consequences involved in buying generic taco mix? What will your children say?"
C: (Selects "I don't have any children")
X80: "Ah, I see, single guy, living it up, not too concerned about the quality of your taco mix. Are you in a relationship?"
C: (Selects "Not really, Girls don't like me very much")
X80: "I am sorry to hear that sir, it probably makes you feel pretty bad at night, trouble sleeping?"
C: (Selects "Yeah, some times my mind wanders at night")
X80: "How about some tylenol PM? Also, I would like to recommend this issue of Maxim, it has some great advice on picking up women in the clubs, and also some great pictures to jack off to, you know, if things are a bit slow to start"
C: (Selects "OK")
X80: "Great Sir! I'd say this is probably working out to be one of the better shopping experiences you have had recently. Not going to want to make a mess out of that magazine though.... Tisues?"
C: (Selects "Absolutely! I want the ones with lotion.") (Then mumbles to himself) "This thing is great, so much less embarrasing than dealing with those pretty young checkout ladies."
X80: "Your additional Items will be here in one moment"
Beautiful Checkout Assistant: "Hi... uh... this is your girly mag, and tissues for masturbation sir... and here is the tylenol... so your depressed ass can get to sleep at night... you are a pretty sick person, you know that?"
C: "..."
X80: "Women can be pretty damn cruel, don't you think sir? How about a rope?"
C: (Selects "no thanks, get me out of here")

Re:Up-Sell X80 Autmoted Checking Machine (1)

Suzuran (163234) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774351)

I honestly believe this is the first time ever that I have wished for mod points.

Re:Up-Sell X80 Autmoted Checking Machine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774396)

bwaaaaaaahahahahahaha!!! My stomac!

Are you kidding me? (1)

CtrlPhreak (226872) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774286)

Every time I go to do self checkout I must be behind the idiot who can't check himself/herself out! This means I actually spend my time in line making fun of the products they're trying to get me to impulse buy, especially at walmart (they shove a ton of 'as seen on tv' crap right there). When I have time to consider the pros and cons of a product and research the alternatives in all the various magazines on display there, it's no longer an impulse.

Plus when there's a human at the scanner all day they know exactly when it gets dirty and clean it right then, keeps people from doing the 'I don't understand why it won't scan through this dried on milk' thing. I used to be a cashier, just taught me how stupid humanity is.

//how can an old lady lift a box of dried milk into her cart in the store and onto the conveyer, but not lift it off the cashier station when she's bought it?

Um... (1)

Rie Beam (632299) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774288)

Working in a grocery store, I thought of an idea that would possibly drive up little purchases like this: advertisements on the monitors, perhaps with arrows point to the merchandise while advertising the sale price (if any). Perhaps if you spend more than a certain amount, an ad offering a special price comes up before you pay...something like that. I know the last thing some of you want is more advertising in a grocery store, but you're already submerged and bombarded enough as-is inside of them ... a quick flick of the wrist and press of the "No Thanks" button will become automatic.

"Item Removed From Bagging Area" (2, Informative)

alphasubzero949 (945598) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774302)

I absolutely detest self-checkout machines for many of the reasons already discussed here, but my biggest pet peeve happens when you run out of room in the bagging area. If you dare remove something the machine will throw a fit until it is put back. If you barely scoot your already scanned items over, the machine will think that something was pulled out and will nag you.

And how is fighting with these machines like this supposed to save time?

It's not about saving time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774415)

Its not about saving the customers time, its about adding $0.27 cents x 10,000,000,000 customer transactions to the CEO's bonus check...

Thats what its all about.

Self checkout = shorter line waits? Not likely (1)

SmokeSerpent (106200) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774317)

Self checkout lines are never any faster than regular checkout lanes.

Of the 5 times I have tried to use self checkout, I made it through without needing assistance exactly zero times. Items won't scan, the item doesn't come up in the database, the sensor won't recognize that you've put it in the bag, the touch screen is so far out of alignment that the bottom buttons won't work, the money thing won't read a nearly perfect bill. There's so much that can go wrong or not meet the system's expectations that this is possibly the worst application for self-service technology one could imagine.

Yeah it only takes one checker to manage 4 stations, but in the same time he or she has managed to get one person through each station, he or she could have checked all four through a traditional register setup.

PLEASE SEE EMPLOYEE FOR ASSITANCE (2, Funny)

Ponzicar (861589) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774325)

I scan an item and put it on the scale; PLEASE REMOVE OBJECT FROM THE COUNTER. I take it off; PLEASE RETURN ITEM TO THE COUNTER. BEEP BEEP BEEP PLEASE REMOVE ITEM FROM THE COUNTER. I then walk to the normal line and get checked out while the machine is still throwing a temper tantrum from my anomalously weighted loaf of bread.

I hate self checkout lines (3, Interesting)

CTalkobt (81900) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774327)

If they'd lower the prices of my groceries I'd go through the lines but since they don't / won't - I won't.

The more efficiencies that you put in the market the less you cycle the money: IE: Spend $100 paying an individual. That person will then spend $50 of that $100 on something. The 3rd person will then spend $5 of that $50 spending something. Fourth person spending $1 - total money in circulation for spending money is $156.

In real life the multipliers for money are much higher (8x I think). The more you cut individuals at low-end jobs the more you decrease the overall US economy, or at least drive the profits into the higher income segment.

Again, lower the price to get me to go through the lines. I shouldn't have to do the grocery store's work for them.

Re:I hate self checkout lines (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774402)

Spend $100 paying an individual. That person will then spend $50 of that $100 on something. The 3rd person will then spend $5 of that $50 spending something. Fourth person spending $1 - total money in circulation for spending money is $156.

See? It's things like this that made me get a C in economics. Where the hell do they come up with this stuff?

They don't mention (4, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774342)

All types of random currency the self-check out machines end up with. Pro-tip: 1 yen coins work as pennies in the wal-mart check out line!

losing money, making money, losing business? (1)

SpectralDesign (921309) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774348)

If the grocer is losing money from impulse purchases (oh boy, $0.10 profit from that pack of gum) they're making it back in reduced labor & overhead... I don't have solid figures, but even a minimum-wager with no benefits has a higher overhead than an autonomous system with a low maintainance requirement.... certainly enough to offset that $0.10 profit per customer....

But regarding self-checkout: the systems I've used are all a major pain in the arse; the only time I'll use them is if I have very few items to purchase, the self-checkout lines are clear, and the regular checkout lines are overflowing. Why?.... self-checkout systems are uusually crap, with terrible user-interfaes, buggy scales that constantly put you into "wait for assistance" mode because they think you're trying to steal something, staffed by a single "associate" who is busy talking to a co-worker or otherwise unattentive to your self-checkout system being in locak-down mode... I could go on, but basically until they rqadivally improve the efficiency of self-checkout I generally avoid it.

(and I don't impulse-buy in the regular checkout lines... the only thing I'll grab there are batteries or phone-cards that I actually need.)

"Law of Unintended Consequences" origin? (2, Informative)

andy17null (831074) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774362)

Did this phrase originate in The Path Of Daggers, Book 8 of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan? That's the only place I've seen it.

"She could still hear Siuan going on about what she called the Law of Unintended Consequences, stronger than any written law. Whether or not what you do has the effect you want, it will have three at least you never expected, and one of those usually unpleasant."

Cash and Carry (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15774376)

Self checkouts that basically force you to use some type of plastic and further increase the stored information on my fat tin foil covered head? NO THANKS! Cash and carry only for me please. I don't need a record of me owning a hammer or a nail gun once they confiscate everyone's firearms and I especially do not want to be barraged with advertisements for upholstered covers for the new ceramic throne I purchased for my kingdom. Now excuse me while I run off to the grocery store to buy a new roll of material for my personal haberdashery.

Slower, more annoying = progress? (1)

payndz (589033) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774391)

My local Asda just installed four self-checkouts. In the few times I've used them, I've only once gone through without needing the attending cashier to come and authorise something. Since there's only one cashier attending all four machines, if he's handling somebody else's problem you have to stand there and wait while the machine screeches "UNRECOGNISED ITEM IN BAGGING AREA! PLEASE SEEK ASSISTANCE!" over and over again. The only way it speeds things up is if there's no queue, you have at most two items, they don't require weighing, and you're not buying anything that needs an age check (ie, alcohol).

Also, because of the way they're set out, you end up with a milling clump of people blocking the main aisle, none of whom know whose turn it is next. If they'd put the machines at the *end* of the line of checkouts they would have had the space to set up a single-queueing system like at a bank, but noooo...

The really annoying thing is that the place used to have five basket-only lanes. Now it only has two. So you have to wait around for longer whichever you use. Yes, that's progress.

Let's see automated checkouts handle bulk foods... (3, Interesting)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#15774394)

Okay, the customer goes and gets a few scoops of some stuff, putting it into a baggie. He slaps a UPC code on the bag for the bin he got the product out of, and takes it to the checkout for weighing...

Except... how, in an automated checkout, does the system know that what the UPC code says is in the bag is really in the bag? What if he made a mistake a grabbed the wrong UPC code for the product, or worse... what if he was deliberately trying to swap codes with another, cheaper product?

A human teller can identify the mistake right then (and in all fairness, should give the consumer the benefit of the doubt, assuming it was a mistake), but a computer will just blindly allow it.

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