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Will Grocery Stores Get Rid of the Self-Service Checkout Lanes? Plus Links

July 10, 2011 · 29 comments

in Life, Link Round Up

I read a funny thing this week.  The grocery chain Albertson’s is considering removing the self checkout lanes in their stores in an effort to provide the best shopping experience they can for their customers. I applaud Albertson’s for making this move.   So often, a company will invest in new techology and stick with it because of the amount of money spent or the plain refusal to admit a mistake. It is refreshing to see a company that is willing to rethink their operating model in order to provide better service.  I hope other stores (especially ones I frequent) follow suit so I don’t have to rant about how at night, the only lanes open where I shop are the self-checkout lanes, no matter how full my cart is.

Reading about self-checkout lanes reminded me of how grocery shopping has evolved since I was a kid.   I have fond memories of the entire family piling into the car to go to the grocery store on Thursday nights.  Back then, you could see the bucher cutting up meat through a giant panel of glass, and watch him send the package of meat down a belt to be placed on shelves.   (Not sure I miss seeing bloody meat.)  Every item in the store had a price sticker on it, and I don’t think there were any large price labels posted by anything except for sale items.  (Information like cost per ounce was not posted anywhere!)   Bar codes meant nothing at the checkout- the cashier had to speedily type in the price for each item, and the registers weren’t even electric at the time.   I would stare at how quickly those buttons could be pressed, and so accurately too!  I was so impressed with the skill of the cashiers that when I was eight years old, my goal was to be a cashier at Farmer Jack one day.

My dream was never to be realized though since technology removed the need for prices to be manually entered.  I am not saying we should ever go back to the days of the manual cash register.   Bar codes have sped up the checkout process immensely, and bar codes also aid in inventory control.   However, I do like that at least one supermarket chain is recognizing that entirely removing the human component might not be the right thing to do.

Now that I have shared my joy about the possible slow demise of the self checkout line, I would like to share some links from the past week you may enjoy!

101 Centavos has a great round up featuring garden photos from his fellow PF bloggers.  There are some great pictures in this post, along with some gardening information.

Barb Friedberg Personal Finance hosts a guest post from Invest It Wisely about how he tracks income, expenses, assets, and liabilities.   I think tracking all these items is so important so you can have realistic expectations for your future. If you don’t know how much you spend, you won’t be able to accurately forecast what you will be able to save for the future.

Broke Professionals has the most comprehensive compilation of posts about saving money that I have ever seen.   This is a great resource for saving money that should be bookmarked, especially since it is conveniently broken down by different saving categories such as dining out, fun, etc.

Budgeting In the Fun Stuff hosts a guest post from Ashley at Money Talks about how Ashley’s budgeting process has evolved over time, and seems to really have come full circle.

Financial Samurai has decided that Hawaii is indeed the best place on earth (especially for those entrepreneurs that can work from anywhere).  He also has big plans for February, 2018, although we will have to wait almost 7 years to find out what the plans are.  I have never been to Hawaii, but this post (and his guest post at Untemplater) sure make Hawaii sound like a wonderful place to be.

First Gen American wants to know if having a bigger house results in a bigger waistline.   I really enjoyed this post as it made me think, a lot.  The theory is, bigger house means more time spent on upkeep, which results in less time for leisure activities like bike riding and such.   I hadn’t really thought about it in those terms, but I do know where I lived growing up, there weren’t nearly the number of overweight kids as I see today. I grew up in a neighborhood of smaller bungalows that did not have air conditioning. Therefore, kids ran around and played outside instead of sitting in a stuffy house.   I now look around at my kids (and myself), and we stay inside if it is hot and humid out.   Overall, there are a lot of variables when it comes to weight, but I like First Gen’s thoughts on the subject.

Grumpy Rumblings of the Untenured share an ‘ode to coffee’.   Thought it needed to be shared since it is full of truths, and it aligns with my new love of coffee.

KrantCents shares the steps he has taken to reach where he is at today.  This is a fascinating post because KC has taken some risks, reaped a lot of rewards, and has enjoyed multiple careers through his life so far.

Little House In the Valley shares where she stands on her goals for 2011.   I think she is doing a great job, and I love that she is trying to ride her bike a certain number of miles for the year.   If I made a similar biking goal, it would have to be a low estimate given that I can never predict Michigan weather.

Money Reasons wonders if he isn’t being as cheap as he thinks he should be (or is).  I definitely have gone through phases where I am suddenly spending money on things I normally would not have because life was just so busy.

MoneyCone went and wrote the post I was hoping to write this year.   He went through and creatively reduced some of his fixed expenses by evaluating cell phone carriers, the need for a landline, and other areas of spending.   The good news is, he can still watch Star Trek, even without cable!

Retire By 40 is back at work and shared his June cash flow.   It is great when you emerge at the end of the month with an extra thousand dollars!!   (And RB40 wasn’t even back to work until July.)

Squirreler’s has a ‘gone wild’ post, and he is the squirrel!   As soon as I read the first sentence I thought ‘this squirrel is going to collect multiple starter cards!’  What do you think of his sandwich-punch-card plan?

Hope everyone had a fantastic weekend!


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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Moneycone July 10, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Absolutely agree about the need to use and not abuse technology. I’m glad Albertson’s recognizing this as well.

Now if only companies stopped using voice recognition for customer support calls and put in a real human instead! 🙁

Thanks Kris for the love!


Kris July 11, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Oh my gosh, I think you raised my blood pressure by about 30 points just making me read about automated voice systems. I just hit zero as soon as I hear it, hoping it will send me to a customer service human.


Nicole July 10, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Thanks for the links!


Krantcents July 10, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I used a self service aisle at Home Depot a few years ago. I remember no one used it. Where are all the early adapters? Apparently not at the grocery stores or Home Depot!

Thanks for the mention. I am in good company.


Kris July 11, 2011 at 9:13 pm

I don’t mind the self checkout at Home Depot because I usually am just buying a can of paint or something, and I don’t have coupons!


Heather July 11, 2011 at 1:04 am

I love the self-checkout lanes and am sad that when I shop at night, the only lanes open are the regular check-out. (The Safeway I shop at closes the self-check lanes, but I’m not sure at what time.) Since they have very few cashiers on duty at night — often just one, and never an express lane — I have to stand in line forever behind people with full carts to buy just a couple of items.

Instead of getting rid of the self-check lanes, why not just open a regular lane?


Kris July 11, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Heather, your situation sounds like a bummer too. I think that stores should always have a regular lane and an express lane open at all times.

In the case of Albertson’s, I think they feel that the human experience is the preferred way to shop, so they are just getting rid of them period. I tend to agree actually. Then I don’t have to wait for the person that manages all the self checkout lanes to come scan my coupons or hit some button because my self checkout is beeping endlessly.


Money Reasons July 11, 2011 at 2:38 am

Thanks for the mention! Hope you had a great weekend!!!


Kris July 11, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Loved my weekend, and loved the rain we finally got today.


101 Centavos July 11, 2011 at 6:02 am

Thanks for the mention, and hope the weekend was great!
I’m also hoping for a little backwards progress in grocery retailing. I was never a fan of self-checkout.


Kris July 11, 2011 at 9:07 pm

The weekend was great. I don’t mind if there is a self-checkout available or two, but my store tends to shut down the human lanes and force you to use the self checkouts. I wonder how much is just the decision of the manager on duty at the moment so they can all take a little time off.

I used to like the days when I got to know the different cashiers. Although one at our local store just complains and complains….


Benjamin July 11, 2011 at 8:36 am

I’ve tried those “self service” counters before and I hate them. In most instances I would rather wait in line than have to fight with these machines!

Even worse, there is usually AT LEAST one sales associate nearby that is walking you like a hawk to make sure you don’t steal anything!

Nice collection of links too!


Kris July 11, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Oh I hate the hawk that stands there staring at you. It almost makes you feel like you are stealing or something.


First Gen American July 11, 2011 at 9:19 am

I feel that way about those scanning guns. At first I thought it would be cool to keep track of my spending as I go, but it took way longer than I anticipated. I especially didn’t like looking for produce and some things that were marked on sale didn’t scan correctly (although I may not have noticed it at the checkout but did when the price was in front of me). I don’t use them anymore.

I usually shop with my kids and babci, but before they came into the picture I’d shop with my husband. I like shopping with others.


Kris July 11, 2011 at 9:04 pm

My husband and I used to shop together. Then it became more my job as we had to divide and conquer to get everything done we needed to.

What scanning guns? I am not sure I have seen those.


The Biz of Life July 11, 2011 at 9:45 am

I’ve never been able to get through a grocery self-service checkout line without assistance….. so seeing them go won’t make me shed any tears….. sometimes some human interaction is required to make customers feel special and connected to the store.


Kris July 11, 2011 at 9:02 pm

I totally agree Biz. I almost always have coupons too, which always requires a human. Plus, the machine always randomly beeps at me and I have no idea what I did wrong. It is almost stressful!


Financial Samurai July 11, 2011 at 11:06 am

I can’t believe you haven’t gone to Hawaii yet. Gotta do it! You’ll get there and wonder “where have you been all my life, love?”

Btw, the Yakezie Gamma Class Sign-Up Post is now live. Hope we get some great new Members!


Kris July 11, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Believe me, I would love to go to Hawaii. Paying for a trip like that for 5 just isn’t in the budget at the moment though.


Jeff @ Sustainable life blog July 11, 2011 at 12:55 pm

I’d have to say I hope they get rid of those damn things – they just make me angry. They are making me do something they used to pay someone to do, therefore when I do it, i’m basically an employee – and I do it because I just want to get out of there.


Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager July 11, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Thanks for the weekend reading list! And personally, I like the self check out lanes. They always seem quicker (unless you are buying beer).


Kris July 11, 2011 at 8:50 pm

I actually bought beer at the self checkout once. It let me go right ahead and buy. Maybe the attendant was hiding somewhere and saw I looked ancient, so it somehow let me buy without supplying ID of any kind.


Squirrelers July 11, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Thanks for including my post in your recommendations!

As for the self-checkout issue, I noticed this story too. Personally, I like the idea of emphasizing the human aspect of shopping. We’re all different, but I like interacting with people in that way – even it’s just quick small talk. These days, that might be a differentiation opportunity for supermarkets, who knows?

The only thing that would get me to see it differently would be if they got rid of the self-checkout but left the number of attended checkout lanes the same, thus increasing wait times.


Kris July 11, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Wow, I would really be in trouble if they left the checkout lanes open the same if they closed the self-checkout. I would never be checked out at all! 🙂


Kaycee July 11, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I love the self checkout lanes too. The fact that they are the only lanes open are the fault of YOUR store’s management, or lack thereof, not the self checkout machines.


Kris July 11, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Kaycee, this is very true. I complained about the ‘human’ checkout lanes being closed to a manager, and I also wrote a letter. Of course, when I went shopping in the evening a month later, all human lanes were closed still. I would love to go to another store, and I do for the most part. But sometimes, I only have time to run to our store that is 5 minutes away.

The self checkout lanes are still a pain for me. It always beeps, saying I need someone to come help me. There is never enough room. Ick.


Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter July 12, 2011 at 11:21 am

I have to admit I like the self checkout. I find it faster than going through the regular lines and when I am in a hurry this is great. My beef is that they don’t have large enough counters to put your scanned items on. I always run out of room.


Susan July 14, 2011 at 4:23 pm

I don’t shop at Albertsons, but I really do like the self-checkouts at Winn-Dixie and the Home Depot. I use them mainly when I am picking up a few items. The good thing about this is that the employees at Albertsons will have more job stability. The self-checkouts can be a pain in the behind sometimes, but I would miss them if they were removed from the stores that I shop at.


Kris July 14, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Susan, I think it depends on what type of shopper you are. I usually have a pretty full cart and have coupons, so self checkout is a major pain for me. However, when I see someone in the ‘full service’ line that has a bottle of pop and chips, I went them to go to the self checkout! (I think they call that a double standard. I just wish both options were available all the time, unlike how it is in my store.)


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