Will major chains keep self-service checkouts?

Customer and server at a checkout

A UK supermarket chain has announced it intends to remove self-service checkouts. Will Australian chains follow?

Booths Supermarkets in England’s north has announced it will remove self-checkouts and put people behind the tills again, to the delight of loyal customers.

“It’s wonderful to see Booths stores returning to staffed tills, fostering a more personal and engaging shopping experience,” one customer posted on social media.

Supermarkets across the world have embraced self-service checkouts as they are cheaper than hiring staff.

However, they have proven controversial.

Some customers like the lack of human interaction and ability to get through a check-out quickly. Others bemoan the lack of personal service, the expectation to do the supermarkets’ work without a discount and lack of entry-level jobs.

And self-checkouts are expanding all the time. Both my local supermarkets have revamped the self-checkout areas to increase their footprint and my local Coles refuses to open a staffed checkout after 6pm.

But before we get carried away and indulge in speculation about this being the start of a trend, there are only 27 stores in the Booths chain.

In comparison, the UK’s largest chain, Tesco, has 4859 stores. Australia’s largest supermarket chain Woolworths has 1113 stores.

Booths is also a more ‘high-end’ chain and as such is designed to offer a more personal experience.

News.com.au asked Coles and Woolworths if they were considering a similar move to Booths and both confirmed the self-service checkouts were here to stay.

A Woolworths spokesperson said that while there was always the option to be served by a team member, the self-checkouts would remain.

“Customer feedback shows our self-serve checkouts are popular for their convenience and speed.”

Coles basically said the same thing, using different words.

“Over the past year, we have seen greater customer satisfaction and uptake in our self-service options. Of course, if customers prefer to be served by a team member, someone will always be available in the service area to serve them.”

This week’s best deals

Aldi

Sensible: Broad Oak Farm chicken breasts, 9.99/kg. Excellent savings on a weekly staple. Eat them now or bung some in the freezer. It makes my eyes sparkle finding a few frozen chicken breasts when wondering what to have for dinner.

Indulgence: Whole Duck, $19.99. No, that’s not a description, that’s its name. Although, it is also a whole duck. In the freezer section, so buy it now for Christmas. My one duck-cooking tip: pierce it generously with a skewer and cook it on a rack. Ducks are fatties … so much fat. But keep it for duck fat potatoes.

See the catalogue here.

Coles

Sensible: Lipton Ice Tea varieties, half price $2.50. Iced tea very definitely is one of those things I can make myself, but almost certainly will not make myself. A great refresher on a warm day.

Indulgence: Coles Festive Gingerbread House Kit, $16. These are great if you have littlies in the house. Lower your expectations, it will not look anything like it does on the box.

See the catalogue here.

Woolworths

Sensible: Australian yellow and white nectarines, $3.90/kg. First time I have seen nectarines at a sensible price this season. They are probably hard as rocks, but maybe good for cooking. Very long cooking.

Indulgence: Ocean Blue Smoked Salmon, $15.40, 300g, save $2.60. Although 300g doesn’t sound like much, a little bit goes a long way.

See the catalogue here.

IGA

Sensible: Hydralyte Electrolyte Tablets, 10-pack selected varieties, $7.70. These are in the sensible section because with Christmas parties coming up you may need them for the morning after. You can thank me later.

Indulgence: Country Delight Snowballs, eight pack $3.99. Metcash must have a good relationship with Country Delight because these are always on special, but I’m not sure why. I mean, is there a big demand for chocolate-covered marshmallows in your house?

See the catalogue here.

Do you use self-checkouts? Do you like them or do you prefer to be served by a staff member? Why not let us know in the comments section below?

Also read: How to stop parcel thieves taking your Black Friday purchases

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'.

7 Comments

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  1. If there is only self serve checkout I refuse and walk out of the store leaving all my items on the shelf so they still have to replace them back to their shelf. I will not use them and never will.

  2. Self check-outs by Coles and Woolworth has been a bonus for the local IGA’s, who still give excellent customer service. And the prices are really not all that different now to the big three if you include Aldi.

  3. I used to be a checkout operator in the days of the old style checkouts. Now I’m too disabled to use even a self-checkout and even though my local Coles is open 24 hours and I shop usually after midnight, there is still quite a long wait until someone will help me with checking out my few groceries. I’ve noticed there are a few ‘assisted checkouts’ with one staff member at each, that are available before 9pm, but after 9pm there are ONLY self checkouts available and while yes, there is one or the most two customer service people still around, they are expected to serve everyone who needs their help, unlock ‘frozen’ terminals etc of everyone who is shopping at the same time. Only so much can be done by one or two people!

    • The answer ies in large-scale boycott! as the old saying goes: It’s YOUR money Ralph. And THEY want it; where do their billions-of-dollars profits come from?! The internet should, these days, make large-scale boycotts easy to organise. I’m too ancient to be digital-savvy enough; but there must be a couple of nerdy 5 year-olds around who’d LOVE such a ‘game’.

  4. I love the self serve checkouts. It was misery when you had some items and the lines for the manned checkouts were huge and even the 12 items and under. My local Aldi has now put in self serve checkouts which is a huge relief. Everyone bemoans the fact of social interaction, is that why you go there – no, you go to buy groceries. I got sick of the way my bags were being packed and even saying something to teenage boys who don’t understand the weight an older person can lift and carry. When I hear the catch cry of young people won’t be able to be employed because of these machines – piffle – do you not see the staff running around with their big black trolleys doing online shopping orders, that is where alot of young staff are being employed. Sometimes people have to realize that things change. Of course more manned checkouts should be opened, especially during the busy times, but it really isn’t the end of the world to scan a few groceries for yourself.

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