Shoppers lash Coles’ trolley trial

Coles is the most trusted supermarket, according to the Readers’ Digest annual list released in June. But it has taken a hammering in recent months, with more angry customers having their say about the latest move yesterday.

First came the 1 July ban on single-use plastic bags – that was flagged well in advance yet upset customers who in turn upset staff and was postponed for close to two months.

Now comes the trial of a trolley ban in self-service checkout areas at select stores throughout Australia.

There is merit in the idea as self-service checkouts are built for speed; shoppers with a trolley full of goods can use the manned checkouts. But therein lies the problem. There are fewer manned checkouts meaning wait times might be considerable. That makes the allure of the self-serve area strong.

Explaining the aims of the trial, which was initially believed to be about an increased incidence of theft from self-serve checkouts, a Coles spokeswoman told news.com.au: “Assisted checkouts are a preferred choice of checkout for many customers and offer convenience and efficiency in their shopping experience.

“To improve service to customers and ease congestion, in a small number of stores we are accepting baskets only through the (self-serve) checkouts.

“Team members are available to serve customers with trolleys in the main lane registers, and if there is not one vacant, the store can open a register to assist customers with their shopping.”

So it would seem that a bid to ease congestion – for some – not theft is the motivator.

However, will sales take a dive as a result? On one hand, many angry customers are saying on social media they will go elsewhere;, and on the other, a basket can carry only so much so some customers, particularly older customers, may make fewer purchases.

In response to criticism posted on Facebook, a Coles moderator said: “We understand a speedy checkout experience is important to our customers and all of our stores are required to monitor weekly and daily customer volumes to ensure we have enough team members rostered on.

“Trolleys are usually not taken through our assisted checkouts to assist with customer flow … the bans on trolleys in our assisted checkouts are different store to store and can change depending on customer flows.”

Fairfax Media readers did not hold back with their feedback:

“Coles can’t have it both ways. People use the self-service checkouts because there’s usually not enough normal checkouts open. If you can’t use those with trolleys then they need to put more staff on.”

“Get rid of the self-service checkouts and replace them with staffed checkouts, as used to be the case. More employment, less theft, PROBLEM SOLVED!”

“So, first the supermarkets want customers to save them money by self-checking, then they have us save them more money by paying for grocery bags, and now this. Personally, I’m already weaning myself off supermarkets where possible – there are plenty of growers’ markets with fresher produce and plenty of small businesses that welcome our support.”

“I use a trolley for all my shopping – I have a bad shoulder and cannot carry any weight. I loathe self-service – but all too often it’s quicker than standing in a queue – so I do it.”

Will the trial affect the way you shop? Do you support the move or will it inconvenience you?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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