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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."
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Law of Unintended Consequences Strikes Grocers

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  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

  • 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!
  • Cash and Carry (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:14AM (#15774376)
    Self checkouts that basically force you to use some type of plastic and further increase the stored information on my fat tin foil covered head? NO THANKS! Cash and carry only for me please. I don't need a record of me owning a hammer or a nail gun once they confiscate everyone's firearms and I especially do not want to be barraged with advertisements for upholstered covers for the new ceramic throne I purchased for my kingdom. Now excuse me while I run off to the grocery store to buy a new roll of material for my personal haberdashery.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:16AM (#15774383)
    Yea, I am building a vaction home on my spare time, and I am needing to go to the DIY stores at least twice a week. I stopped shopping at Home Depot just for the fact that they only have 1 real cash register open, with 20 people in line. (Ever try to self-check out with a load of 50 different 8' to 16' lumber pieces and a cart full of 90# bags???)

    Lowes has no self checkout things and always has at least 4 people working to check you out. I have averaged at least $500 a week (sometimes a lot more) for the last year to get my stuff. I expect that if I am spending that much money somewhere every week to have some service. Because of this lack of service to save $7/hour, Home Depot has lost my business.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:51AM (#15774491)
    wow. way to overblow something.

    At one Albertson's they actually have a 9 item limit at the self-checkout. also in usual configurations they have 4 self-checkout stations and one person manning them.
    Perhaps the places you've been going to have lower iq's, but I've always managed to get out faster than any of the regular checkout lines.

    I also work at and use several libraries that use the self-checkout machines and these help a great deal as we are always overloaded between checking things in, and out.

    Oh and at the Albertson's there are stands with baskets that have loads of overpriced goodies. I've bought chips, candy, and fruit pies oh my!

  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @04:12AM (#15774546)
    *sigh*

    All money inflows and outflows must balance at the end of the fiscal period.
    There is no money flowing into oblivion as your analysis would suggest. Increased efficiency is better for the economy as a whole regardless of initial distribution. In the long run, the decreased costs from increased efficiency will be passed on to the consumer when companies are forced to compete for business. Also, some people may lose their jobs to these machines, but that does not mean suddenly all that money has gone away.
    For the time being, it travels into the company as profits. (See previous note about eventual passing on of savings to consumer.) What is this company going to do with this money you ask?
    • Hire more R&D people to create newer technologies further increasing efficiency
    • Pay out more dividends
    • Open new stores (and thus hire more people again)
    • Expand/Renovate existing stores (employing new labor in form of construction and additional store personnel)
    • Bonuses to big wigs *gasp* *shock* *horror* - Okay... so then they either invest in stocks, deposit in banks, or buy something... all of which put the money back into circulation

    Anyways.. the point is that money never disappears as a result of a transaction. Every person's and every business's balance sheet has to balance at the end of the day. It's just that simple. You can not spend what you do not have. And you can not use the money you made unless you give it to someone else (Note: burning your money doesn't usually provide good results, though you are helping to reduce inflation).
  • 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 PopeRatzo (965947) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @06:32AM (#15774909) Homepage Journal
    Parent makes a lot of sense here. I mostly see self-checkout at the grocery store, and unlike most of you who live on cheetos and Mountain Dew, I tend to buy at least some produce every time I shop. And the process for self-checking produce just sucks. Personally, I'd rather see more regular checkout lanes. I like to see other people with jobs, even if it costs me a few cents more each time I shop. And it gives me a chance to read the tabloids.
  • by shmlco (594907) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @06:39AM (#15774927) Homepage
    That explains why the local Wal Mart has 4 self-checkout lanes.

    Wait...
  • Re:unpaid labor... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jacksonj04 (800021) <nick@nickjackson.me> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @06:50AM (#15774948) Homepage
    Youth hostels have the right idea though. I don't mind cleaning up after myself, and as a result I get lower prices.

    Perhaps self-checkout should have a 3% price reduction?
  • by NihilEst (976138) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @06:54AM (#15774959)
    OK, Homer. Do me a HUGE favor. Have your hardware geniuses fix those FREAKING SCALES ("bagging area") so they don't vary with barometric pressure or somebody walking by on the floor (no kidding): that's what triggers those "PLEASE PLACE/REMOVE ITEM IN/FROM BAGGING AREA" messages. I know you guys need to stop people from stealing, but please: weighing products to the milligram is just a little extreme. Funny, the conveyor belts at Stop & Shop aren't that sensitive.
  • Re:My experience (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @07:26AM (#15775038)
    part of that money might just go into 50%-off sales on HotPockets or Mountain Dew.

    Too bad none of the sales in a supermarket are ever related to how much money the store is saving. If there is a Buy-One, Get-One sale going on (aka 50%-off sale), the vendor from which the supermarket is getting the product is offering rebates to allow that price. It has nothing to do with how much money they save. And you have to remember, the vast majority of grocery store chains are on the market; if you save them $157,680 dollars, then instead of lowering prices, they're gonna give it to the shareholders to make them happy. Rarely, if ever, will you see cost-cutting come back to reward the consumer.
  • by evilquaker (35963) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @07:43AM (#15775084)
    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. The largest YoY % changes in US GDP in the 20th century happened in the early 40's, as WWII helped pull the US out of the Great Depression.

  • by indifferent children (842621) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @08:14AM (#15775192)
    You put yourself through the pain of dealing with an innumerate cashier just to punish the store? Actually, there is a discount for using the self-scan. The store adds their profit margin to the top of their total costs to determine their prices. If people steal shopping carts, the store doesn't just say, "Oh well, no profit this year." If people use the self-checkout lanes, thus reducing the payroll for the store, then the store will likely lower their prices (or more likely, the store will be able to cancel or postpone the next round of price-hikes).
  • 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.
  • by AcidLacedPenguiN (835552) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @08:51AM (#15775347)
    man, would it ever suck to be the minimum wager that the manager makes clean out the self-checkout.
    I bet you could also convince the store's cashiers to quit as a form of protest. Then you could even burn down the building in protest! and piss on the ashes!
    Is overboard a strong enough word for this?
  • by Siward (966440) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @09:10AM (#15775437)
    I remember produce scales and a bar tag system in stores here in the States. I think the problem here (as with most of the other complaints in these comments) is that most Americans (and perhaps people in general) aren't observant. What would the cashier do if someone brought this fruit up to the register without a bar code? Call a manager? Wait while the customer goes back to weigh the item again? Neither of those are great solutions. The grocery stores I shop at solve this problem by pre-packaging items that are typically sold by weight (such as grapes) and selling others (such as apples or bananas) as amount per fruit/vegetable, and that suits me just fine.

    I think some of the other problems mentioned in these comments break down into common sense. Do hardware stores really need self-checkout lanes? Did anyone with any training in technical design and usability look this checkout process over? Self-checkout lanes make a lot of sense (to me) in grocery stores where the customer isn't likely to buy extremely light or extremely bulky goods (though both of these exist in grocery stores, I admit), but grocery stores seem prone to placing the change dispenser/receipt printer as far away from the scanner as possible, and in the hardest-to-find places. Sometimes it seems like corporations lack common sense even more than the average person.
  • by SenatorOrrinHatch (741838) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @09:25AM (#15775518)
    BS, those machines are designed like crap. Why not just RFID everything and just let us walk out? I used to get paid for scanning groceries, now they won't even give me a sale price unless I have some stupid card in my wallet (along with about 20 others). Those scanners suck and you have to type in codes for half the shit. Plus if there's any problem it takes 15 minutes to get some dipshit manager to override it.
  • by Chelloveck (14643) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @09:25AM (#15775519) Homepage
    On the other hand, oh yes, oh yes, the people who use those things are slow as turtles.

    The few times I've had the "pleasure" of using the self-scan machines, it was the machine that was slow as a turtle. I scan one item, put it down, scan the next immediately... "Please place the first item in the bagging area." It's there, you freakin' machine! So I have to pick it up and put it back down, then scan the second item again. If I ever scan one item within a second of putting the previous one down, I get to do the dance all over again. The... machine... forces... me... to... go... slow...

    The only time I'll use those stupid machines is when I have exactly one item and there's no line. Otherwise, I'll wait for a human cashier. The human line may take longer on a busy day, but it saves me a huge amount of frustration.

    Of course, at the stores I usually go to I've also learned which cashier's line never to get in, even if it is the shortest. These must be the people the machines are geared for, 'cause damn they're slow!

  • 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 egriebel (177065) * <edgriebel@PARISgmail.com minus city> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @09:40AM (#15775600) Journal
    10 years ago a grocer's cashier had a career

    Surely you must be joking, who would consider hitting buttons like a monkey on Jolt watching crap going by on a moving belt a career? Maybe a "job for life" but certainly not a career. How many little boys or girls say to their parents, "When I grow up I want to be a checkout clerk!"

    But, there is a bright side, unlike software development, cashiering cannot be outsourced.

  • by plover (150551) * on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @10:06AM (#15775738) Homepage Journal
    we weigh them on the fruit and veggie department and get a stick on barcode label that they read on the counter.
    That used to be commonplace here in the U.S. as well. Believe it or not, it's now cheaper to buy a thousand dollar scanner/scale for each cash register than it is to have several self-weighing stations in the produce aisle. Here's why:
    • Reduced theft. It eliminates a temptation for people who might otherwise try to cheat the scales. Not only is theft expensive, but investigation and prosecution are also expensive, and they engender hard feelings amongst everyone involved -- both the alleged thief and any other store patrons who witness store security having to confront a little old lady trying to shave a dollar off the price of grapes.
    • Reduced operational costs. Those stickers that print out are expensive! Thermal stickers can cost over ten cents each for the blank stock. No stickers are needed if the register weighs the merchandise.
    • Reduced maintenance costs. The scales cost almost as much per year to cover on a maintenance contract as a whole cash register. The scanner/scales at the register only add incrementally to the cost of a register's maintenance contract; it's not nearly as much as maintaining a parts depot for a completely different machine. Don't ask me why the service companies price things the way they do, we just take advantage of it when we can.
    • Increased shelf space. Setting aside 6 square feet for a scanner and small work table removes 6 feet of shelf space that could otherwise be offering merchandise for sale. Stores figure their sales on a square foot basis, and those six feet could theoretically be generating something like a thousand dollars per year or more if they held products instead of a scale.
    It's all economics. Someone did the math, so that's where it ended up.
  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @10:12AM (#15775779) Journal
    "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.
  • by CreatureComfort (741652) * on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @10:24AM (#15775852)

    You just got me all hot.

  • by TonyGreene (6523) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @10:28AM (#15775888) Homepage
    If there are lines at the cashier lines, an available self-checkout, and I have only a few simple items, I'm going with the self-checkout. I count those 5-10 minutes (and the associated aggravation) as part of the price I pay to get things from that store. Okay, so I'm impatient. I don't lash out, I mind my own business, and I make choices about where & when I shop with both my impatience and finances in mind. There have been plenty of times when I spent a little more for convience.

    One thing I'm definitely not going to do is stand in a long line in order to "force" the store into giving discounts for self-checkout. My time is more valuable to me than that.

    --Tony
  • Mystery solved! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LunaticTippy (872397) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:22AM (#15776247)
    Here is how it happens:

    They cost less to install.
    Management doesn't use self-checkout.
  • by _Swank (118097) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:35AM (#15776345)
    where the hell do you get your fresh food that it goes bad within a day of purchasing it? because you've got to start shopping somewhere else.

    additionally, if you're buying a weeks worth of fruit, it's a good idea to buy at varying levels of ripeness. that way you can eat them when they're properly ripe.
  • Re:Rarely (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:48AM (#15776440)
    I've always preferred the term "percussive maintenance" :)
  • by flipmack (886723) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:54AM (#15776484) Homepage
    a few years ago here in Southern California, all of the major grocery/supermarket chains had their unions go on strike...which resulted in MONTHS of long lines. the result of the strikes? the unions got to keep their jobs, get more benefits, not fire anyone, AND have the self-checkout counters made available. SO, less work for the union folks but with the same if not more benefits. a LOT of people became angry because of this...so many more people decided to find other non-union grocery chains, i.e., Trader Joe's. The funny thing is that it's actually CHEAPER to shop at Trader Joe's, the people who work there are nice and helpful, and the food is healthier, granted, the selection is limited. Nowadays, *IF* I ever have to step inside a union-staffed grocery store, even if I buy just a pack of gum, I'm going to make a checker scan it for me...and I'll insist that someone bag it. if you're going to strike for months and cause a big uproar, then you're going to check my single item and bag it.
  • by kabocox (199019) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:23PM (#15777134)
    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.

    Wait until Wal-Mart does RFID right. There won't be any checker because you just push the entire cart straight through an RFID reader and swipe your ATM card through it. That's what people what to use self-check out for not for some stupid 10 or less items. We want to use it for a cart load of stuff at a time.
  • by gregmac (629064) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @01:42PM (#15777328) Homepage
    Why don't they make the card readers have a magnetic stripe reader in BOTH SIDES? There are so many people (including me) that get it backwards, or even just spend a few seconds looking at it trying to decipher which way the picture is showing to slide the card. Every machine has a different picture, and sometimes the pictures are so bad that it's impossible to tell anyways, or even after you study it, you get it backwards.

    Of course, the other way to solve the problem is to put a magnetic strip on both sides of the debit card.. but I haven't seen that done yet either.

  • by nuzak (959558) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:32PM (#15777738) Journal
    > There won't be any checker because you just push the entire cart straight through an RFID reader and swipe your ATM card through it.

    Then the parking lot robot will help you load it into your flying car.

    Seriously, they will never allow batch checkouts like that because it's simply too easy to take the tags off some items and pass it through in a full cart. People also want bags (you can't take the cart home), and unless you shop at Costco, someone else is going to do it. So what'll happen probably is that you'll get a bagger that bags stuff coming off a conveyer belt that you put your items on (and thus pass through a scanner), and that they'll probably have to manually intervene every dozen items or so. My bold prediction is it won't get any more advanced than that for at least 20 years.
  • by kchrist (938224) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:41PM (#15778482) Homepage
    unlike software development, cashiering cannot be outsourced.

    Wouldn't you consider replacing human cashiers with self-checkout machines a form out outsourcing? The end result is the same.
  • by Zerbs (898056) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @05:42PM (#15779668)
    I know someone who 3 years ago tried to get a job at a conveniece store as a cashier, they wouldn't take her though because they were in a union, and she had left a grocery store 11 years before that and they said she had to pay 11 years in back dues to the union. What did the union do for her those 11 years? diddly squat!

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