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Law of Unintended Consequences Strikes Grocers 697

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."
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Law of Unintended Consequences Strikes Grocers

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  • by alphasubzero949 (945598) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:46AM (#15774302)
    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?
  • Re:Absolutely... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jonner (189691) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:58AM (#15774331)
    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.
  • by andy17null (831074) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:09AM (#15774362)
    Did this phrase originate in The Path Of Daggers, Book 8 of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan? That's the only place I've seen it.

    "She could still hear Siuan going on about what she called the Law of Unintended Consequences, stronger than any written law. Whether or not what you do has the effect you want, it will have three at least you never expected, and one of those usually unpleasant."
  • by IANAAC (692242) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:24AM (#15774410)
    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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @06:03AM (#15774988)
    Especially considering that the impulse purchases are usually some of the highest margin items in the store. Lettuce and cabbage may give you a few cents profit (think a couple percent profit), but candy bars and cigarette lighters can be marked up 100%.
  • by indifferent children (842621) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @07:10AM (#15775180)
    All of the Home Depots that I've seen in Florida have a separate "Contractor Check-Out". If you are buying 50 pieces of lumber, they probably won't ask to see your 1099 to make sure that you are a contractor. Look into it.
  • by zentinal (602572) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @09:09AM (#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.
  • Re:Cash and Carry (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @09:12AM (#15775775) Homepage
    Every self-checkout I ever used took cash via the same kind of bill acceptor and coin slot found on a vending machine. Even gives you change back...
  • by dmatos (232892) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @09:15AM (#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*
  • by Eric Sharkey (1717) <sharkey@lisaneric.org> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @09:40AM (#15775970)
    In general, natural disasters are net positive for the economy

    It scares me that people out there actually think like this.

    This line of thinking is discussed in The Parable of the Broken Window [wikipedia.org] and is easily dismissed as bunk in any serious analysis.
  • by juuri (7678) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @10:28AM (#15776295) Homepage
    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 LunaticTippy (872397) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:30AM (#15776739)
    Who do you think pays for processing? Surely not your bank! Do a web search for "debit card processing fee rate" or something and you'll find a vast array of bad deals aimed at small businesses. Debit cards are generally cheaper than credit cards, but you'll always pay a per-transaction and a percentage. Big chain stores negotiate down to a floor around $.15+1.5% and for smaller stores you can easily double that.
  • by DrLlama (213075) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:49AM (#15776883) Homepage
    This is one of the reasons I refuse to make use of the self-checkout aisles, and further refuse to do business with stores that are overloading the self-checkout.

    The last time I went into my local Home Depot I had a similar experience, with a sligth twist. I had a handful of items and might have made effective use of self-checkout. The line for the self-checkout was over a dozen people long, as was the line at the one open cashier. When this sort of occurence happens I loudly comment that Lowe's seems to be much more concerned about customers and leave the store to make my purchase elsewhere.

    On occasion I have taken the time to let the store manager know that I find the situation unacceptable and that his store is losing business as a result. In a WalMart world, this probably won't make a lot of difference, but I refuse to waste my time because the store couldn't be bothered to have sufficient staffing.

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato