Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Law of Unintended Consequences Strikes Grocers 697

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the try-not-to-shed-too-many-tears dept.
netbuzz writes "The law of unintended consequences is taking a chomp out of grocery chain profits as more stores transition from human clerks to self-service checkout technology, thus reducing the time shoppers spend in line and under the temptation of impulse items. That's the upshot of research being released tomorrow by IHL Consulting Group in Franklin, Tenn., which provides market analysis to the retail industry and its IT vendors."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Law of Unintended Consequences Strikes Grocers

Comments Filter:
  • by plover (150551) * on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:47AM (#15774136) Homepage Journal
    Now that they mention it, I know I've never made an impulse purchase at the self-checkout lanes at Home Depot (but I have at the regular checkout lines.) That's the only store I regularly shop at that uses self-checkout.

    However, I refuse to use self-checkout if I have to wait behind any customers. The cashier lanes are always faster, even when they have a line. I can't believe how stupid most people become once they enter the self-checkout lanes. It's scan-scan-swipe, people; in-and-out in about 45 seconds or less; how frickin' hard is that to understand?!? I'm not talking about the people who get stalled because their credit card was rejected, I'm talking about the ones who have to stop and read the full screen after scanning every damn packet of washers in their cart; or who don't seem to understand that the barcodes have to be presented to the lasers, and that no matter how long you stare at a barcode, the scanner won't pick it up. Morons.

    Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

    • I work at Home Depot, as a cashier. I can back up all of parent's statements; people lose about fifty IQ points when faced with the self checkout. That's why ours have a cashier supervising them.

      Think about it. When you're in the self-checkout, you're focused on getting things done, scanning your items (or staring at the barcode wondering what's wrong); when you're at a regular cashier, he's the one doing the work. You sit there and... what? Look around, listen to his dumb jokes, and (more importantly) notice the overpriced altoid knock-offs and useless 37-cent clamps.

      That, or it could have something to do with the fact that there usually aren't any impulse items right next to (or in front of) the self check-out registers. Just maybe.

      • That, or it could have something to do with the fact that there usually aren't any impulse items right next to (or in front of) the self check-out registers. Just maybe.

        Well, you do have stuff in the end caps. And our local store has a folding table set up in the aisle approaching the self-checkouts with clearance merchandise (things like returned circular saws for $15) that I like to look at. I suppose if I were waiting in line for a self-checkout lane I might browse the goods, but like I said, that is

      • by synaptik (125) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:05AM (#15774199) Homepage
        Both you and the GP forgot to mention: the assinine weight scales on those infernal self-checkout machines. I get so tired of hearing "PLEASE PLACE ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA!" when I've ALREADY PLACED THE FRICKIN' SCANNED ITEM IN THE FRICKIN' BAGGING AREA! You also hear this one when you've filled up all the space on the weigh-scale, and need to move those filled bags back to the shopping cart, to make room for the rest of the crap you've still needing to scan.

        Nor did you mention its complement, "PLEASE REMOVE ANOMOLOUS ITEM FROM BAGGING AREA!" just because it thinks the last thing I put there weighs too much.

        Damn, those are annoying! It is impossible to get any reasonable throughput on those $#@! self-checkout stands. It routinely takes 2x-3x longer than necessary-- especially if you're buying those little packages of 5 washers-- because of that stupid weight scale. (Yes, I know about the "skip bagging" button, but (a) that's almost just as annoying, and (b) in many retailers, if you hit that button too often, the machine locks up until a human can come make certain you're not trying to steal.

        Seriously... just migrate to RFID already, and be done with this weight-scale nonsense!

        • by friedmud (512466) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:37AM (#15774285)
          If you are filling up the bagging area then.... YOU ARE TRYING TO BUY TOO MUCH STUFF USING SELF CHECKOUT!

          Self-checkout should be _strictly_ reserved for people who have about 5 things _max_. When I see people with a cart full of groceries pull up to a self-checkout station I just laugh... it will take them _forever_...

          On the other hand, I am almost always the guy that is standing in line with just _one_ thing to buy... I have it in my left hand and my debit card in my right. It takes me all of 30 seconds to whip through a self checkout line. Everyone else needs to get the _hell_ out of the way! ;-)

          Friedmud
          • by vought (160908) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @04:00AM (#15774515)
            On the other hand, I am almost always the guy that is standing in line with just _one_ thing to buy... I have it in my left hand and my debit card in my right. It takes me all of 30 seconds to whip through a self checkout line. Everyone else needs to get the _hell_ out of the way! ;-)

            In most places where self-checkout is available (Home Depot, Albertson's, to name two) you'll find that most people are purchasing many more items than self-checkout was designed for, yet there is no sign indicating a suggested item limit for best results...they've always driven me crazy because I try to move too fast for them - so I hear a lot of "Please place item in the bagging area" and "you have removed an item from the bagging area, then it locks up and the cashier has to come over anyway.

            I think it's fine for it's intended purpose, but trained, competent, (dare I say union) checkers are far more efficient and I'm hoping that will deter grocery chains from deploying too many of these self-checkout lanes. A store with only self-checkout? Well, that'd be a store with a lot of fistfights.
          • Everyone else needs to get the _hell_ out of the way! ;-)

            Good ol' America!
          • by NevarMore (248971) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @06:33AM (#15774911) Homepage Journal
            I would pay a slight premium for a special checkout lane.

            I tend to go grocery shopping once every other day, sometimes daily. It's a habt I got into last year and living in Germany has only reinforced it. I buy a few fresh items, a drink or two, and some essentials (razors, soap, lube etc.). I very rarely have any more than a shopping basket full, I usually can carry what I bought in my hands.

            When I get to the register I already have my cash or my credit card out. I've been paying for things at stores since I was 5, I don't see how people can act surprised (watch them, they do) when the cashier gets done zapping things and asks for some form of payment.

            Let me through. It isn't a personal ego thing, I'm simply going to zip right through the line and be on my way. Its common courtesy.

            On a related note, Wal-Mart shoppers in Northeast Ohio. If you see a man walking to the register and he is carrying a pack of razorblades, 2 boxes of roundnose .45, and a pack of paper targets with his credit card ready, it is exceedingly rude and possibly unwise for you and your troupe of loud running children to cut him off. I had plans this afternoon, relaxing enjoyable plans, that are now delayed for 15 minutes while you sort out what candy your kids threw in the cart and what candy your fat ass bought.
            • by PhoenixPath (895891) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @09:13AM (#15775458)
              (razors, soap, lube etc.)

              Odd group of "necessities" there...

              You weren't perhaps an inmate in the German prison system, were you?
            • "I tend to go grocery shopping once every other day, sometimes daily."

              Try making fewer trips to the store. You must spend most of your week going back and forth to the market. If you know you go through so much lube a month just buy it ahead of time.
              • It's a city culture thing. Many people hit the corner market/grocery on the walk or bike road home. You never keep too much in the house because there's no need with such an availability of options. Personally I hit my local market two to four times a week, each trip taking under 15 minutes and since it's on my way home it's just a natural part of my traveling routine.
      • by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:07AM (#15774205) Journal
        That's why ours have a cashier supervising them.

        Here's an idea...

        CLOSE THE GOD-DAMMED SELF-CHECKOUT MACHINES, AND PUT THAT LADY BEHIND A CASH REGISTER, SOLVING BOTH PROBLEMS FOR FAR LESS MONEY. IT MAKES NO SENSE AT HOME DEPOT, OF ALL PLACES, SITTING THERE FOR 2 FULL MINUTES TELLING YOU TO PUT YOUR (FEATHER-WEIGHT OR GIGANTIC AND MASSIVE) ITEM IN THE BAG ON THE SENSOR, BEFORE LETTING YOU GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE.

        Of course I may just a little bitter. It is, though, almost gratifying to see my local Home Depot's self-checkout lines entirely abandonded, while the lines at the two open (manned) cash registers go winding through the isles. Gratifying to see it once or twice, that is, as the longer lines and moronic self-checkout machines make me shop at Lowes, now, where they have no self-checkout machines, few cashiers (more than two, of course) and yet practically never any waiting lines.
        • the lines at the two open (manned) cash registers go winding through the isles.

          Whoa, those are really long lines! At least here, the lines stay on the mainland. ;)


          *throws 'Hint: aisles' and ducks*
        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @06:44AM (#15774942)
          The local grocery store here has self-scan checkouts, and they STILL have cashiers standing at the bag-area in order to prevent you from shoplifting. The store has also used the existence of the self-scan area to actually reduce the number of cashiers on duty, so the regular lines are pretty long.

          Many times I have been standing in line at the cashier, and the 'wandering' cashier will come up to me and say "You can take your stuff to the self-scan". I use the usual reply:

          "Do I get a discount for using the self-scan?"

          Of course, they say there isn't, "Well, then I'll stay right here then".

          As far as I'm concerned, if you want me to do your job for you, I get a discount. Otherwise I'll stay in line and make you run every piece of crap over that scanner. All the self-scan is is an excuse to not pay cashiers. Demand a discount if they don't want to pay people to checkout your stuff.

        • by lar3ry (10905) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @08:15AM (#15775194)
          Here's a suggestion. Scan a dozen items, and then walk away, throwing up your hands in frustration, saying "I can't believe this store wants me to do their job for them!"

          Don't pay, don't try to take your "purchases" with you. If a manager sees you do this, tell them flat out that their "self checkout" sucks, and you will not waste another second in this store that has no concept of "customer service" and that you are taking your business elsewhere.

          You have every right to decide at the last minute that you don't want to make the sale.

          You now have a self-checkout lane that is effectively blocked until a real live human clears out the items from the machine and from the computer tally. That human will probably also have to restock the items, although those items may simply go into a queue area for people whose job is to restock. Either way, it allows you to vent your frustration and make a point. AND... since a real employee has to get involved, it makes the machine slightly less able to become a cost saver.

          Heck, have a group of friends "slam" all the self-checkouts this way as a form of organized protest. Include people from a variety of backgrounds, ages, etc. Do it a few times to a store before the management refuses to let you enter the store, and then go on to the next store. Or... do it to a bunch of stores, round-robin, returning to a store a week and a half later when some other manager is on duty. Lather... rinse... repeat. If possible, tell the local news station what you are doing, and see if you can get other people similarly frustrated to join your cause. (The more people doing this, the better!)

          It's called "customer feedback."

          "This is Carlotta Dryspeckle from WUTM at the local FoodMart, where Ms. Emmageek is staging an unusual protest against the dehumanizing and staff-reducing 'self checkout' system that the FoodMart has recently installed. She and her friends are engaging in what they describe as a harmless demonstration of their dissatisfaction with the system and what the installation of this system says about the FoodMart's view of their customers."

          "Hi, Carlotta. We're staging this protest here, and a few of my friends will be going to the HomeGoods Warehouse to do the same thing there next week."

          "I'm now speaking to Mr. Mertz, the manager on duty here at FoodMart. Tell me, Mr. Mertz, what is your reaction to this groups' protest?"

          "This is a protest? That's incredible. I know we lose a few customers who get frustrated with the machines, but I never figured that anybody might do something like this..."

          (Meanwhile, Ms. Emmageek and her friends are singing _Kumbaya_ or _We Shall Not Be Moved_ in the background...)
          • by everett (154868) <efeldt&efeldt,com> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @09:16AM (#15775469) Homepage
            I wouldn't try to do this in America. Any group action that tries to make any sort of societal change is likely to be labelled as terrorism. I suppose in some twisted and sick way this is terrorism of a sort against the store. They're afraid of you causing their customers to leave because you're clogging up their machines, so they make changes (preferably it would be to have people like yourself be requried to pay for your purchase or to restock the shelves yourself as most places only have 'stockers' working three days a week.)

            I never understood why people in America feel they have to make someone else's life shittier just to express some point. How about you write a letter, and you get all your friends to write letters, talking about how displeased you are with the service you received. Likely you will be sent some coupons, and maybe exact some changes. However causing me to have to either A) Wait in a regular check-out lane to make my purchase or B) wait for some minimum wage employee to clean up your mess so that I can use the self-check out will likely lead to me becoming very unhappy with your 'cause' and doing my best to see you all arrested for disturbing the peace.

            -Everett, no longer a grocery store employee.
            • by jahudabudy (714731) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @09:39AM (#15775593)
              I never understood why people in America feel they have to make someone else's life shittier just to express some point. How about you write a letter, and you get all your friends to write letters, talking about how displeased you are with the service you received.

              Mostly, b/c people in America have no faith that rational, reasonable complaint will receive any attention whatsoever. It is an inherent part of the culture that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease". If you don't make people, corporations, government, etc. pay attention to you, they will not. And to be honest, sometimes this is true. The problem is that mouth-breathers dimly grasp this truth, and then go and misapply it in inappropriate situations in inappropriate manners.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        useless 37-cent clamps.

        You know, those are great nipple clamps...
        Home Depot is a deviant's best friend - I'm sure you know that already. It doesn't take a genius to figue out what a couple is up to when they come up to the counter (giggling sometimes) with 50 feet of cotton rope, a 1/2" wooden rod and assorted short lengths of chain...
      • I work at Home Depot, as a cashier. I can back up all of parent's statements; people lose about fifty IQ points when faced with the self checkout. That's why ours have a cashier supervising them.

        No. You just think that is the reason why the cahsiers are there. The real reason why is those machines fail pretty often. It's a pretty common occurance where the machine thinks that I didn't place an item into the bag but I did. Usually happens where the item's weight is pretty variable from item to item(ie Ba

      • by maillemaker (924053) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @09:39AM (#15775597)
        >I work at Home Depot, as a cashier. I can back up all of parent's statements;
        >people lose about fifty IQ points when faced with the self checkout. That's
        >why ours have a cashier supervising them.

        I always thought the reason you have a cashier supervising them was because the FUCKING SELF CHECKOUT MACHINES DON'T FUCKING WORK.

        I've all but given up on "self-check out".

        Self check-out means wagging your purchase over the scanner at 15 different angles waiting for the "beep" of success, and then putting the thing in the bag only to have the computer continue to ask me to put it in the bag. Or randomly being told to "please wait for assistance" so the supervising cashier can come blindly type in some code and overwride the error. And all for the joy of then walking out the door and setting off the shoplifting alarm.

        Further, if I'm going to do the job that used to get done FOR me, I should get some benefit for it, like a discount.

        Steve
    • by ejdmoo (193585) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:54AM (#15774161)
      I always proposed a training and certification program for self-checkout lanes. You have to scan your membership (which works at different stores of course) then you can checkout. That way granny won't be wondering why she can't place her items right back into her cart.
      • by zentinal (602572) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @10:09AM (#15775761) Homepage

        Stop & Shop [boston.com] here in New England has exactly that. You have to prove that you could successfully use the system, including having your purchases quickly double checked by a human, before you could use the system unsupervised.

        You scan as you shop. Checkout consists of placing your scanner into the holster. Relatively painless. I wish more stores had it. My local Hannaford's doesn't.

        I do agree, however, that shoppers should get a discount for using the system, because we're saving the store labor costs.
    • by 512k (125874) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:54AM (#15774162)
      self checkout doesn't work well, because the system checks to see if you honest by weighing what's in your bag.
      Washers are so light, that it often doesn't recognize that they're there. So you have to see that it didn't work; read the screen to find out what happened, read the screen to see what to do...rescan, or pick the bag up and put it down on the pad again, read the screen to see if that worked,

      wash rinse repeat

      I don't buy washers from home depot, but I do buy a packet or two of screws, and this happens all the time.
    • by CosmeticLobotamy (155360) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:09AM (#15774211)
      I refuse to use them because of the above-mentioned need for your single cotton ball to register as exactly .000001 ounces before it'll let you move on, as well as the equally annoying deafening voice telling me to scan my next item every damn time. Girl-that-lives-in-the-machine, I know where the frigging change is dispensed. And if you're so worried I won't see it, move the damn change dispensor, and stop yelling at me!
    • by DumbSwede (521261) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:18AM (#15774235) Journal
      Actually as a computer programmer I lay most of the blame on the bad design of the scanning systems. The scanner in one location the scale in another, often far flung, location, the credit card swipe in still another location, even down below eyesight. Worse yet as with many ATMs machines there are TOO MANY BUTTONS for what should be only ONE OPTION enter PIN and PAY! Not only are there too many buttons, but the onscreen instructions often are worded differently than the keys you have to press. "PRESS YES" out of the extra 10 buttons only an "OK" seems to map to "YES." It may seem obvious to you that OK is YES, but you have to read each key to eliminate the possibility that YES is an Option, this takes time, not just to read, but to double check you are doing it correctly. I don't know how many stores I have shopped at that put those kindergarten silver or gold stars by the keys, then verbally tell you to ignore the instructions and hit the "GOLD STAR". Often the screen will have option layout that would map to 4 function keys, but the keypad doesn't really have function keys in that location. Add to this that at auto-checkouts there's usually no one there to assist you, you usually have to figure this all out on your own. It is a money transaction, so if you are like me with an unfamiliar interface, you double, triple, quadruple check what you are doing.

      BUT worst of all, instead of one crappy layout system used by all stores, THEY ALL SUCK, BUT DIFFERENTLY. Name me one chain that has these machines well made? In time, someone will come up with a decent layout and everyone will adopt it and it will seem silly we had these problems but we're not there yet.

      HERE's an idea, put stick on scan labels by all the veggies so once bagged they can just be weighed and scanned instead of having to key in the code by HAND -- WTF???. Make the labels big with not just the code but large with print of what the veggie is so people aren't too tempted to cheat the system. A computer voice should also echo the entry (I believe most systems already do this).

      Many systems I have seen seem cobbled together from unrelated discrete components -- THIS WILL NOT DO.

      I WORK IN SQA AND I WOULD NEVER SIGN OFF ON THIS SHIT! Forgive my language, but its us, the IT professionals to blame here -- NOT EVERYDAY FOLK who
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:50AM (#15774314)
        Worse yet as with many ATMs machines...

        The proper phrase you're looking for is: automated ATM teller machines.
         
    • by Detritus (11846) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:19AM (#15774237) Homepage
      I'm not a professional grocery clerk, so don't bitch about my speed. I often have to look at the package to see where the UPC symbol is located, or unwrinkle it so it will scan properly. Sometimes I have to key in the barely readable number below the UPC symbol when it doesn't scan. Then there's the produce. I picked up several onions, and, no, I'm not an expert on onions. The computer wants to know which of eight types of onions I'm buying. Hell if I know, the round ones.

      The store is wasting my time so they can cut their head count. Fuck them.

      • by LoudMusic (199347) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @08:28AM (#15775239)
        I'm not a professional grocery clerk, so don't bitch about my speed. I often have to look at the package to see where the UPC symbol is located, or unwrinkle it so it will scan properly. Sometimes I have to key in the barely readable number below the UPC symbol when it doesn't scan. Then there's the produce. I picked up several onions, and, no, I'm not an expert on onions. The computer wants to know which of eight types of onions I'm buying. Hell if I know, the round ones.

        The store is wasting my time so they can cut their head count. Fuck them.


        I completely disagree and find your closing statement to not only be ignorant but assinine.

        If you have items in your basket that you know you will have difficulty with at the self-check line don't use the self-check line. It's not like they're forcing you to. It's there as a convenience to the shopper.

        I for one love the self-check lines. Yes there are people who create bottlenecks, but the longer these devices are in service the more customers who will become accustomed to useing them. And I believe the reason why they often appear abandoned (as someone else mentioned) is not because they're not being used but rather because they are so fast that people spend very little time there. Stand for an hour and watch for yourself during a busy time (perhaps around 6pm on weekdays? I honestly don't know their highwater times) and I'm sure you'll find that a lot of customers breeze through the self-check lines. Someone with more initiative than myself could even check to see the 'rate of items scanned' by the cluster of self-checks monitored by one employee versus an employee-operated checkout line. Our Kroger (grocery store) has four self-checks with one employee - I would imagine during busy hours the throughput of four self-checks is about 50% faster than a single lane employee-operated checkout. In self-check you're dealing with a bunch of smaller quantities, less nimble operators, and a bunch more transactions which take roughly the same amount of time no matter who's operating the machine. But it's all going four at a time.
    • It's scan-scan-swipe, people; in-and-out in about 45 seconds or less; how frickin' hard is that to understand?!?

      I'm always the person who messes up in the self-checkout line.

      I'm the one who presses the Spanish language button by mistake instead of the English. No big deal; but I don't know any Spanish. I'm learning grocery line Spanish, though.

      I'm the one who has a jar with 300 pennies that I'm feeding into the coin slot one at a time because I don't want to ha
      • I almost forgot,

        I'm the one who buys the day-old 'red-band' bananas and find that the automatic cashier hasn't been updated with today's 'red-band' price. So I insist that the cashier at the auto checkout stand leave the station, walk back a half-kilometer to the produce section, and verify that the price of the day is two pennies less than the machine says that it is.
        And as soon as the auto-checkout attendent cashier begins their merry journey, your machine has locked up be
    • I can't believe how stupid most people become once they enter the self-checkout lanes. It's scan-scan-swipe, people; in-and-out in about 45 seconds or less; how frickin' hard is that to understand?!?

      Apparently I'm one of the stupid people, because I've come to avoid these self-checkout lanes at the grocer. It takes a long time of digging through menus to find the proper fruit; the loyalty cards (I use a phone number I found in the phone book, BTW) don't always specify whether they want the leading digit 1

    • by mgkimsal2 (200677) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @08:40AM (#15775284) Homepage
      The self-checkout lanes need 'done this before' aisles and 'new to tech' aisles. Not sure how best to word it, but that's a far better indicator of how quick you're going to get through vs. how many items someone has. I almost feel cheated when I go through self-service lanes (or ATMs) because I never get to take much time. I swear people in front of me at ATMs must sometimes be trading stocks or applying for a mortgage considering how long it takes them to insert the card and get $20 out.
  • unpaid labor... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macadamia_harold (947445) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:48AM (#15774143) Homepage
    The law of unintended consequences is taking a chomp out of grocery chain profits as more stores transition from human clerks to self-service checkout technology

    They're also taking a chomp out of grocery chain profits since I refuse to shop at a store that forces me to do their work for them. What's next, stores that make you stock their shelves?
    • Re:unpaid labor... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by walnutmon (988223)
      They are not forcing you to do anything, they are offering you a choice. Wait in line while the vapid clerk checks you out, or BE THE VAPID CLERK.

      I agree that self check outs suck, because they are used to cut back on staff, but I don't see it as a grocery store trying to stick it to you. People want them there, because it's their chance to play god, or checkout person. Same thing, really...
    • Re:unpaid labor... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Aadain2001 (684036) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:59AM (#15774183) Journal
      If they pass the savings on to me, sure. Food ain't free after all.
    • They're also taking a chomp out of grocery chain profits since I refuse to shop at a store that forces me to do their work for them. What's next, stores that make you stock their shelves?

      Hell yeah! I wouldn't mind so much if they gave some kind of discount.

    • "They're also taking a chomp out of grocery chain profits since I refuse to shop at a store that forces me to do their work for them. What's next, stores that make you stock their shelves?"

      This would be funny if it weren't so damned likely.
    • This is of course, the model of the youth hotels in Europe. Pay less for customer labor. Would it be that bad, if it worked that way you propose?

      Sadly, for me, in corporate USA, I'd have to pay for the privledge to stock the shelves. Some money hungry people miss the point so much they miss the money.

      *sigh*
    • by bit trollent (824666) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:51AM (#15774318) Homepage
      Am I the only one who still wonders to himself, "How the hell did this happen to us?" as I scan and bag my own groceries. I mean, I really feel like someone got the uperhand on me.

      If we ever conquer Iraq, I hope someone puts self checkout lines in their supermarkets. Then they will know what slavery really is.
    • Just got back from Europe where they have a supermarket chain called LIDL that simply rips off the tops of the boxes and that is their shelving system. Cuts prices, and works well IMHO.
  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:49AM (#15774146)
    10 years ago a grocer's cashier had a career, now he's a 'Courtesy Clerk' earning $6 bucks/hr.
    • Maybe this isn't typical, but I know someone who works at a national grocery chain - and he's pulling in 48K a year, working 34-36 hours a week. Granted, he also does other things, such as stock shelves, inventory, etc. (He's not a manager. His title is "Checker").

      I would say that the Union to which he belongs plays a significant role in what he makes.

    • by symbolic (11752) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @04:52AM (#15774653)
      That depends - I have a friend who was introduced to the world of grocery not too long ago, and who filled me in on some of the details. For career cashiers (and yes, they do exist), they can be making 2-3 times that. If you happen to get into a "key" position (which typically aren't cashiers), the starting pay can be anywhere from $9/hr or so, up to around $16/hr. That may vary of course, depending on which part of the country you happen to be in.
  • by Majik Sheff (930627) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:52AM (#15774159) Journal
    The self-checkout lanes at my local grocer have a sensor system that basically demands staff intervention for every customer. If you don't place the item in just the right spot after scanning, the damned thing is automatically convinced that the user is trying to pull a fast one. The self checkout lanes stand empty most of the time because of it.
  • by walnutmon (988223) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:54AM (#15774164)
    Put condoms and twinkies right next to the self check counter... Sit back and reap the benefits!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:12AM (#15774218)
      Is that a "cover all the bases" impule buy? I mean, stereotypically, either you're in great shape and getting some from women you are not married to, meaning you need lots of condoms, or you just don't care and want the twinkies.
  • by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:55AM (#15774165) Journal
    I have no time to look at impulse items... I'm too busy slamming my fist against the screen, trying to get the dammed thing to work.

    And I'm still waiting to recieve my paycheck for my part-time job as a bag-boy and cashier...

    It's not a xenophobic thing. It's a "Those fucking things never work right" thing.
    • Re:Absolutely... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jonner (189691)
      Actually, it would be xenophia if you didn't like to use a cashier lane staffed by a foreigner. If you were afraid of the machines, it would be technophobia.
    • Rarely (Score:5, Funny)

      by Atario (673917) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @04:25AM (#15774584) Homepage
      I'm too busy slamming my fist against the screen, trying to get the dammed thing to work.
      As a technical-type guy, I should add that machines of any kind (indeed, any things of any kind) rarely can be made to operate any better by slamming one's fist against any part thereof.

      You know, just for future reference.
  • wait a minute... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jimfinity (849860) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:56AM (#15774170)
    are they implying that those self-checkout lanes are faster?

    it seems that every time i go through one of those things i have to get some manager over there to "ok" my purchases. whether it's a "violent adult videogame" (half-life 2) or isopropyl alcohol to keep my car's gas lines freeze free (recreational drinking?).

    they've been such a hassle for me i don't even use them anymore.
  • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:57AM (#15774178) Journal
    Hell a few TV sets with moving content would do it for most of the ADHD cattle out there. Oh look it's my favourite show....oh now it's moved to that screen over there, I think I'll follow...oooohh look a pretty shiny thing. I want to take that home. I'll just add that to my trolley.

    Perhaps I should patent this and make a bundle ;-)
  • by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:04AM (#15774195) Journal
    The easy solution for this is to follow the lead of Las Vegas casinos. Basically you want to make it as hard as possible to leave the store with money. Hide the registers behind a wall of mirrors. Funnel the customer through a gauntlet of racks of impulse buy goods before the can get to the check out*. Put speed bumps on the floor. Offer free cocktails and a $5.99 prime rib buffet.

    *Fry's Electronics already uses this technique.
  • by Empty Yo (828138) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:06AM (#15774202)
    The clerk in my grocery store remembered my name, twice, and flirted with me every time I went in. I took the plunge and asked her out and it turned into quite the summer romance while she was in town. Try that with some self-checkout and you'll be arrested within the minute.
    • John Updike fucking loves you.
    • by mctk (840035) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:21AM (#15774397) Homepage
      This machine in my grocery never learned my name, but was always checking me out. It was always exceedingly patient; its politeness was automatic. It weighed a bit much but had a good interface. Our interactions were always intuitive and natural; I rarely pushed her buttons.

      One day, while buying an oversized cucumber, I realized it was flirting me the second time asked me to put the item in the bag. I took the plunge and tried to take it out, but the machine remained unmoved. When I inserted my membership card, she had an exception. Apparently I wasn't endowed with enough capital for her as I was denied and discarded.
  • by Bobartig (61456) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:07AM (#15774204) Homepage
    If I wanted to handle my own cart/checkout, I'd have bought it online. When I go to a grocery store or retail outlet, I always use a checkout clerk because the dozen or so times I used self check out, it didn't save me any time. Also, my grocery shopping consists of about 75% fruits and vegetables, and doing those on your own (numeric touch screen that doesn't always recognize the fruit code) definitely doesn't save you time.

    There was also a 6 month period where I went to Home depot about twice a week, and bought lumber every time (I was building a lot of stuff). Their self checkout system doesn't (or at least didn't) allow for construction materials purchases, so the self checkout was NEVER an option.

    I encourage others not to use self check outs, and spend a few extra minutes in line. That way, the big expensive machine that they replaced two humans with doesn't provide them any utility.
  • cashiers are better (Score:5, Interesting)

    by focitrixilous P (690813) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:10AM (#15774214) Journal
    I have the unfortunate honor of working in a retail position to support my education. A Target namebadge in plain view from my desk at school serves as a very good reminder to stay focused.

    I never really saw the attraction of the self checkout as a serious shopper. When I went out for food with college buddies we'd all hit the self checkout if there was no line as a competition, too see who could avoid having the machine flip out at you for doing something wrong. Because we went so fast, we had to have an attendant come bail us out a couple times. Without fail, someone who had gone through a normal checkout was standing at the door waiting for us. I could probably do it now with my 1337 retail skills, but really the self checkout is a joke. It's boring conversation, and you have to bag your own stuff, just so some company makes an extra dime that you'll never see.

    Support college students. Go through a normal line.

    • by jayloden (806185)
      I used to work as a cashier at a grocery store, and I've worked as a cashier in a department store as well. I'd like to think that I was a pretty good one (fast and efficient), too. Unfortunately, I can attest to the fact that this does not imbue one with any inherent speed at the self-checkout lane.

      It's a question of familiarity. When I was a cashier, by the end of the first day or two of training, I was pretty familiar with the setup; I was using it all day. You start scanning as fast as it will go, hitti
  • by Ethan Allison (904983) * <slashdot@neonstream.us> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:34AM (#15774276) Homepage
    Why not use those 5 cent RFID tags?

    Place your shopping cart in the scanner and hit a button.

    "But what about produce?" you ask? Well, how about RFID-enabled bags with specific tags for each kind of produce?

    Sure, it's not perfect, but it could be refined.

    Plus people could return the tags for store credit, and information embedded in the tags could be used to manage inventory and tell robotic machinery how to bag and/or stock the items.

    Also, if you steal my idea, I will hunt you down.
  • by walnutmon (988223) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:36AM (#15774282)
    X80: "Good Day Sir, Please Scan First Item"
    Consumer: (Scans taco mix)
    X80: "Ah, Taco Mix, very nice, I noticed that you seem to have chosen the generic taco mix, are you sure you have thought this through?"
    C: (Selects "yes")
    X80: "Have you given much thought to the consequences involved in buying generic taco mix? What will your children say?"
    C: (Selects "I don't have any children")
    X80: "Ah, I see, single guy, living it up, not too concerned about the quality of your taco mix. Are you in a relationship?"
    C: (Selects "Not really, Girls don't like me very much")
    X80: "I am sorry to hear that sir, it probably makes you feel pretty bad at night, trouble sleeping?"
    C: (Selects "Yeah, some times my mind wanders at night")
    X80: "How about some tylenol PM? Also, I would like to recommend this issue of Maxim, it has some great advice on picking up women in the clubs, and also some great pictures to jack off to, you know, if things are a bit slow to start"
    C: (Selects "OK")
    X80: "Great Sir! I'd say this is probably working out to be one of the better shopping experiences you have had recently. Not going to want to make a mess out of that magazine though.... Tisues?"
    C: (Selects "Absolutely! I want the ones with lotion.") (Then mumbles to himself) "This thing is great, so much less embarrasing than dealing with those pretty young checkout ladies."
    X80: "Your additional Items will be here in one moment"
    Beautiful Checkout Assistant: "Hi... uh... this is your girly mag, and tissues for masturbation sir... and here is the tylenol... so your depressed ass can get to sleep at night... you are a pretty sick person, you know that?"
    C: "..."
    X80: "Women can be pretty damn cruel, don't you think sir? How about a rope?"
    C: (Selects "no thanks, get me out of here")
  • Every time I go to do self checkout I must be behind the idiot who can't check himself/herself out! This means I actually spend my time in line making fun of the products they're trying to get me to impulse buy, especially at walmart (they shove a ton of 'as seen on tv' crap right there). When I have time to consider the pros and cons of a product and research the alternatives in all the various magazines on display there, it's no longer an impulse.

    Plus when there's a human at the scanner all day they kno
  • Working in a grocery store, I thought of an idea that would possibly drive up little purchases like this: advertisements on the monitors, perhaps with arrows point to the merchandise while advertising the sale price (if any). Perhaps if you spend more than a certain amount, an ad offering a special price comes up before you pay...something like that. I know the last thing some of you want is more advertising in a grocery store, but you're already submerged and bombarded enough as-is inside of them ... a qui
  • I absolutely detest self-checkout machines for many of the reasons already discussed here, but my biggest pet peeve happens when you run out of room in the bagging area. If you dare remove something the machine will throw a fit until it is put back. If you barely scoot your already scanned items over, the machine will think that something was pulled out and will nag you.

    And how is fighting with these machines like this supposed to save time?
  • Self checkout lines are never any faster than regular checkout lanes.

    Of the 5 times I have tried to use self checkout, I made it through without needing assistance exactly zero times. Items won't scan, the item doesn't come up in the database, the sensor won't recognize that you've put it in the bag, the touch screen is so far out of alignment that the bottom buttons won't work, the money thing won't read a nearly perfect bill. There's so much that can go wrong or not meet the system's expectations that thi
  • I scan an item and put it on the scale; PLEASE REMOVE OBJECT FROM THE COUNTER. I take it off; PLEASE RETURN ITEM TO THE COUNTER. BEEP BEEP BEEP PLEASE REMOVE ITEM FROM THE COUNTER. I then walk to the normal line and get checked out while the machine is still throwing a temper tantrum from my anomalously weighted loaf of bread.
  • by CTalkobt (81900) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:55AM (#15774327) Homepage
    If they'd lower the prices of my groceries I'd go through the lines but since they don't / won't - I won't.

    The more efficiencies that you put in the market the less you cycle the money: IE: Spend $100 paying an individual. That person will then spend $50 of that $100 on something. The 3rd person will then spend $5 of that $50 spending something. Fourth person spending $1 - total money in circulation for spending money is $156.

    In real life the multipliers for money are much higher (8x I think). The more you cut individuals at low-end jobs the more you decrease the overall US economy, or at least drive the profits into the higher income segment.

    Again, lower the price to get me to go through the lines. I shouldn't have to do the grocery store's work for them.
    • by Sloppy (14984) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @04:21AM (#15774574) Homepage Journal
      By that reasoning, what the economy really needs is more terrorism, war, and natural disasters. What a boon it must be to the economy, for a destructive hurricane to wreck a city and create a bunch of contracting jobs. If only someone would press the big red button and launch all the world's nuclear missiles -- it would circulate so much money that poverty would be virtually eliminated.
      • By that reasoning, what the economy really needs is more terrorism, war, and natural disasters. What a boon it must be to the economy, for a destructive hurricane to wreck a city and create a bunch of contracting jobs.

        I know you're trying to be clever, but your argument is indeed correct. In general, natural disasters are net positive for the economy, as the temporary loss of economic activity is offset by the future rebuilding and enhanced productivity. War (that doesn't happen on your soil) is similar

  • They don't mention (Score:5, Insightful)

    by antifoidulus (807088) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:02AM (#15774342) Homepage Journal
    All types of random currency the self-check out machines end up with. Pro-tip: 1 yen coins work as pennies in the wal-mart check out line!
    • Pro-tip: 1 yen coins work as pennies in the wal-mart check out line!

      That's one of the more absurd tips I've ever heard.

      At the current spot exchange rate, 116 yen per USD, I stand to save a MAXIMUM of 14% (1/1.16) by using Yen coins in place of pennies.

      Not to mention the fact that, for purchases larger than, say, a pack of gum, the opportunity cost of time spent on line feeding coins into the slot quickly eats up any gains I may have enjoyed in the transaction.

      Here's a better tip:

      The 1AED coin (United Arab E
    • A long time ago, in a galaxy far aw... err... a few years back, when Germany's currency was still the DM, I remember using a vending machine in a railways station. And getting a Polish 10 Zloti coin instead of a 1 DM as part of the change. The coin was remarkably similar to 1 DM in size and weight.

      The difference between the two was bigger than between the yen and cent, though. A DM was (later) worth half an euro, while the 10 Zloti... well, let's just say that the difference between 1 DM and 10 Zloti was 1
  • Okay, the customer goes and gets a few scoops of some stuff, putting it into a baggie. He slaps a UPC code on the bag for the bin he got the product out of, and takes it to the checkout for weighing...

    Except... how, in an automated checkout, does the system know that what the UPC code says is in the bag is really in the bag? What if he made a mistake a grabbed the wrong UPC code for the product, or worse... what if he was deliberately trying to swap codes with another, cheaper product?

    A human teller can identify the mistake right then (and in all fairness, should give the consumer the benefit of the doubt, assuming it was a mistake), but a computer will just blindly allow it.

  • by jmv (93421) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @10:11AM (#15775770) Homepage
    more stores transition from human clerks to self-service checkout technology, thus reducing the time shoppers spend in line and under the temptation of impulse items

    Don't worry, soon you'll be waiting forever in line just to go through the self-service checkout
  • by dmatos (232892) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @10:15AM (#15775799)
    That's what bugs me the most. I have cloth shopping bags so I don't have to keep throwing out those horrible plastic sacs that always rip on the way home. Is there any reasonable way to bag while you're scanning? No. I have to stack the items on the scale, then when I've paid, pack them into my bags. Can't put the bag on the scale (Please remove unauthorized item), can't place items into bag on the floor (Please place your item in the bag). Most of my shopping is done by bicycle, so I just want to throw everything into my backpack or panniers.

    This is just one of the reasons (that loud, annoying voice is another) that I won't use the self-checkout if I'm buying more than two items. In fact, I also lodge complaints about them with the cashiers and store managers while I'm at it. Not that it makes any difference, I'm sure. *sigh*

The world is not octal despite DEC.

Working...