Has Coles gone too far with self-checkouts?

Coles checkouts

A trip to many Coles sites will demonstrate their latest innovation and it’s not going to make everyone happy.

It’s a self-service checkout unit that is a kind of hybrid between the usual checkout and the self-service checkout.

It’s considerably larger than the smaller self-checkout stations, with room for several bags at once but is situated in the self-checkout area. Some have a conveyer belt.

You are expected to check your own groceries out, but an attendant will help you if you ask.

One Melbourne store has completely eliminated checkout operators.

There has been a mixed reaction from customers. While some people prefer them, the reaction has largely been negative, with customers describing the experience of using them as ‘chaos’ and customers describing being ‘sick and tired’ of doing Coles’ work’ for them.

There has also been criticism about how difficult it would be for elderly or disabled customers to use.

Lost a customer

I’m afraid it’s the final straw for me and Coles.

I turned up at 5.45pm on a Friday after work to do my weekly shop for a family of four, peak time at a grocery store and there was not one normal checkout open.

Instead, I was directed to this new style of self-checkout.

Of course, some people prefer the self-checkouts, and I do use them, but not when I have $200-plus of groceries in my trolley.

A worker offered to help me put them through, but if there was someone there to help do that, why couldn’t they just open a regular checkout?

There were clearly plenty of staff in the store.

Apart from a few convenience items, I have not shopped there since.

According to Yahoo News, Coles justified the changes by saying: “Currently, two-thirds of supermarket customers prefer to use self-checkouts instead of main lanes and we continue to see that number increase.”

Coles would not provide any figures to back up that claim.

Dear Coles, do we prefer to use them, or are we forced to use them?

This week’s best deals


Sensible: Knoppers NutBar, three-pack, $1.99. Not much to choose from this week but you can always rely on Aldi for some weirdly named European product line. Knoppers NutBar fulfills the brief perfectly.

Indulgence: Pork Knuckle, $10.99/kg. While we are on silly names, I give you pork knuckles. The packaging helpfully pictures it on a bed of sauerkraut. I’m fighting indigestion just thinking about it.

See the catalogue here.


Sensible: Odd Bunch Capsicums, $3.90. I have been giving these a thrashing lately. Let’s face it, there are very few dishes that require beautifully perfect capsicum. Maybe stuffed capsicum? After that, my interest drops off. Yes, like most capsicums, mine get cut up and tossed around a bit so who cares what they look like before that process?

Indulgence: Lamb leg roast, $12/kg. ’Tis the season to be sticking things in the oven to heat the kitchen up. Also a winner for Christmas in July dinners.

See the catalogue here.


Sensible: Cadbury Drinking Chocolate varieties, 250g, $3.95. Winter is always a good enough excuse for a few cheeky hot chocolates.

Indulgence: Connoisseur Gourmet Ice Cream 1L varieties, $9.90, save $3.30. A good special on one of the best supermarket brand tub ice creams. I respect how Connoisseur is always coming out with new flavours even if they do spoil the mood by calling them ‘artisanal’.

See the catalogue here.


Sensible: Mayver’s Dark Roasted Peanut Butter, $4.60 each, save $1.20. There are a lot of new peanut butter brands out there and I’m loving it. Mayver’s is one of the better ones. Made from Australian ingredients by a small Australian family company. Eat it with no small amount of national pride.

Indulgence: Lavazza Qualita Oro Coffee, beans or ground, 1kg, half price $19. I’m sure there’s a smug coffee snob out there who is going to tell me this is rubbish coffee (I don’t drink it myself), but sometimes you just need a coffee without all the hoo-ha. Plus, $19 off appeals to my inner cheapskate and almost makes me want to take it up.

See the catalogue here.

Do you like self-service checkouts? Have you been forced to use the new larger self-checkouts? Why not share your opinion in the comments section below?

Also read: What links comfort food and stress in your brain?

Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


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  1. I don’t mind self checkouts if I only have a few things, but no way would I go through one with a weekly shop. Which is why I shop at IGA, except for a few items that I can’t get there. Haven’t shopped at either Coles Or Woolies for years

  2. For 3-4 items I love self checkouts, but for a bigger shop I HATE self checkouts. For a bigger shop it is such a slow process self checking out. The checkout operators are trained to pack the groceries quickly and easily and they have the room to process the shop speedily and efficiently. Once checkout operators cease to be employed I will shop online. When I do a home delivery order I do spend less money as it takes away the temptation to ‘impulse’ buy.

  3. Hey Coles spokesperson, the reason the majority of two thirds of your customers use self service is because they don’t have time to wait for your store managers to put staff on a checkout. You are forcing people to use them.

    We should all front up to our local store, fill a trolly to the brim and then leave it at the front of the store at an unmanned checkout. Then the store manager can go replace all the items back on the shelves.

    I am not employed by either Coles or Woolies to act as a checkout operator, we are paying you to provide a service. If you cannot do that you need to reduce your prices and profit margins.

    Disgruntled Coles shopper.

  4. I WON’T EVER GO THRU THE SELF-CHECK registers! At all! No matter what incentives they may give me – like a quicker service. To me it’s not quicker to self-check.

    I’m not paying good money if I can’t get served by a ‘check-out chick or guy’.

    Doing self-check won’t give you any discounts at all.

  5. I refuse to use self checkouts. As a matter of fact I’ve even walked out of a homewares business because they no longer take cash only card. We have to stand up for our rights against all this type of rot.

  6. every supermarket that continues down this path is one more that i will not shop at.
    it can be frustrating, and confusing inconvenient, AND how many people are being deprived of an income because of it.

  7. Makes me laugh that Coles can say that the customers want these self serve checkouts but can’t produce any figures, that’s because it’s not true. I don’t know anyone who wants to put their groceries through the checkout, who in their right mind wants to come home from a hard days work & put through their groceries. If they want me to put through my groceries they should give me a minimum of 10% discount off my groceries as I’m doing their job. It’s disgusting how they force you into these things & say the customers want this. Just like how banks force you to use cards not cash but look how much extra we pay for using a card & see how much banks profit every year from these fees. Don’t get me started with all this so called technology of the future.

  8. Good thing I don’t have shares in them because everyone I speak to is if possible going to shop elsewhere. I mainly shop at Aldi, the local fruit shop and get my fish and meat fresh from the market in bulk

  9. Self check outs are okay if you only have a few items. But I shop only once a week, usually around $230 – $300 and NO WAY will I use a self check out for that!!
    Thankfully we live in the country in a town that has a higher than average community of older people who PREFER to use the normal check out, where people are being EMPLOYED to serve us.
    Our local Coles has recently been totally refurbished and, yes, the self check out area is larger than before but there is still 4 check outs and a quick check out area.

  10. Mt. Ommaney has reduced its manned checkouts to two and got ride of the express register. This mad fit of Americanism has gone too far. We don’t work for coles, why should we do their job for them. I’m moving most of my shopping to Fresh and Save and Woolworths where we get a better level of customer service. The coles store is also moving ever section of the product selections to different areas of the store. confusing customers an making us all travel to every isle to find what we need.
    An absolute shame by what is supposed to be a customer conscious company. very poor customer service all in the name of “PROGRESS”
    Lets all use our feet to other shops and show coles what a bunch of money grabbing drongos they are

  11. Quite frankly, I believe it is some peanut at home office the new millenium variety or younger who can work off a bloated salary and can race into a shop to get a handful of things before ordering takeaway for dinner. They don’t live in the real world and live in the new apartments that have virtually no kitchen space and live in takeaway or microwave meals. Real people shop for meals they plan out for the weekend, cook them in a real kitchen with stoves, dishwashers, and a pantry. Not just a kitchen bench without drawers or cabinets below.

  12. Good luck to all here announcing they will no longer shop at Coles or any other supermarket that has these self-service checkouts only. Unless you are fortunate enough to have the old-style small individual shops (remember them the fishmonger, the butcher, the baker, the greengrocer etc etc) then I’m afraid you are going to go hungry (not to mention all the other things like personal hygiene products, cleaning products, pet food etc). ALL the supermarkets are going this way and much like the banks that no longer deal with cash, no threats made on fora such as this, will make the slightest bit of difference.

  13. The odd thing is that not long ago Coles was restricting self- service to small quantities only due to theft, the must have put in some very sneaky surveillance to now increase it to all sizes of purchases!

    The way to overcome this is if very large numbers of customers do all their bulk shopping at Aldi and just buy a few needed specialty items at Coles or whoever else insists on self checkout. They will soon change their tune if their big supermarkets become nothing more than convenience stores.

  14. Send a message to these supermarkets by filling your trolley with just anything. Go to the self checkout and scan 50% of the items. Then glare at the staff members watching your every move and in a loud voice say to them. THIS IS TO HARD, BUGGER IT. and walk away.
    How much is it going to cost them to cancel the items and have them put back on the shelves.
    The store may blacklist you for doing this but so what. You could start another campaign by telling everyone the store blacklisted you for not playing their game.
    Just a thought.

  15. They are loading all the work onto the customers, sacking staff – and it could be your teenager earning a few dollars a week sacked next – and think they are saving money. Well I have news for them – I can buy gluten free products elsewhere thank you.

  16. Doesn’t bother me at all. I usually use the self checkout, & occasionally go through the regular checkout. Really doesn’t matter. There is always someone in the self checkout area to help if assistance is needed.

  17. I am 81 and have to use a walking stick so using one of these is just OUT for me and sometimes I cannot find a normal checkout. I do my shopping for just 2 me and my husband so only do it every 2nd week. But if they try and make me use a self checkout I will just walk out.

  18. I have despised those checkouts from day 1 when both Coles & Woolies started them.
    I refuse to use them.
    They are purely there to raise their bottom lines with no advantage to the shopper.
    The do nothing to save the shopper at the register.
    As prices still continue to rise or packaging sizes drop to maintain profitibility.
    They are taking valuble jobs from people,impersonal, taking away that customer service interaction

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