Hot or Not: Self-Checkout Stations at the Grocery Store

Hot or Not: Self-Checkout Stations at the Grocery Store

Faith Durand
Jan 16, 2009

Are you grocery shopping today for the weekend? When you go to the grocery store, do you pick the self-checkout line? It's that newfangled way of checking, scanning, and paying for your groceries where you do all the work yourself. This is a topic we've been thinking about, and we're curious what you think. Take our survey, then read on for more thoughts on the rise of the self-checkout line.

Self-checkout options have become common at nearly every major grocery store chain, at least in my area. We usually shop at a small local co-op, but when I need to visit a big grocery store, it's usually at night and most of the main checkout lines are shut down. In fact, sometimes I can't find a human checker to scan my groceries at all! It's self-checkout or nothing.

Now, I don't want to be a grump, but while I appreciate the convenience of self-checkout from time to time -- like when I have two canned goods and need to get in and out fast -- most of the time this "option" just makes me cranky. If I have a whole cart of groceries, and I'm paying what seems like way too much money at the grocery store already, the least they can do is give me some help in the checking-out and paying stage!

And let's not even talk about the complicated process of looking up produce on the computer or waiting to have your ID checked for alcohol purchases. This quicker, more convenient option turns into a long hassle any time I have more than a few items. And to be honest, I like to buy a lot of vegetables and other produce. These self-checkout lines seem to be geared more towards shoppers with carts full of soda and frozen pizza than kale and oranges.

Now, in my area it seems like more and more stores have just one or two checkers on duty at any given time, and their queues are inevitably lined up back into the aisles. I am sure that the self-checkout stations are saving the grocery stores a lot of money on wages. And yet I don't see the savings from these self-checkout stations passed on to me on my grocery receipt. Maybe we should call for a 10% off coupon on every order checked out through a self-service station!

But self-checkout isn't always a bad idea; it works well in some contexts. Here's how I rank the self-checkout implementations I've seen so far.

Self-checkout at:

The library: Great idea.
The grocery store: Moderately OK idea...sometimes.
IKEA: Bad idea.
Home Depot: Really bad idea.

What do you think? How have you seen self-checkout implemented, and are you a fan?

(Image: Flickr member RichieC licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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