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Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Self-Service" Checkout

Not too many years ago the local Walmart and the huge grocery chain in this part of Texas, HEB , both instituted “Self-Checkout” counters where a person could scan all their own products, pay through an ATM type machine, bag the products and leave without direct involvement of and clerks or checkout persons. As of November, 2012, however, both these retailers have abandoned these efforts. We are back to “full-service” checkouts or “Express” aisles where those with less than 10 or 15 or 20 items can go. So, what happened to this great technological leap forward? Were the big box companies just too far ahead of their times? Were the customers too inept to handle the multi-tasks involved? Were the exceptions to the rule too much of a challenge? Or did the customers miss the smiling faces and interesting conversational exchanges with the store employees? I have at times used the Self-Checkout without incident. At other times if the scanner didn’t work or the instructions on the screen for paying got too cumbersome, I’ve experienced the frustrations of an unsatisfied customer. Final analysis, I used the Self-Checkout when the manned lines were too long and the Self-Check kiosks were empty. Given an even choice of letting the store employee handle my transaction or doing it myself, I most often opted for the Full-Service. Maybe it’s telling that the only chains that still cling to Self-Checkout are Home Depot and Lowes. Guess the DIYers are less put off than those buying chicken wings & Twinkies.