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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 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:12AM (#15774219)
    ...but I like it when people check me out...
  • by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:33AM (#15774265)
    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 have to pay a 15% penality at the coin counting machine.

        I'm the one who can't tell the difference between the different types of lettuce, press the wrong type, get overcharged, and insist that the cashier void just that one item.

        I'm the one who buys one six-pack of soda pop and ends up running one can through the scanner six times, get overcharged, and insist that the cashier void just those six items.

        I'm the one who doesn't know the difference between a credit card and a debit card.

        Now, don't you'all just hate me?
  • 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")
  • 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 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.
  • by Ponzicar ( 861589 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:54AM (#15774325)
    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.
  • I've decided that Hell must be very much like Ikea on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
  • 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.
  • How do you know it was just for a minute? Any fresh and unexplained scars on your body? Have you started having headaches? Trouble sleeping at night? Has your car become magnetized? Just before you spaced out, do you remember seeing anything unusual, such as bright flashing lights from above? Lastly, does your butt hurt?
  • by kt0157 ( 830611 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @04:16AM (#15774558)
    Just another example of RAS Syndrome (RAS = Redundant Acronym Syndrome).

  • 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.
  • Everyone else needs to get the _hell_ out of the way! ;-)

    Good ol' America!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @05:20AM (#15774728)
    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...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @05:39AM (#15774786)
    Don't forget to enter your Personal Identification Number number.
  • 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 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 timelorde ( 7880 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @06:52AM (#15774956)
    A store with only self-checkout? Well, that'd be a store with a lot of fistfights.

    All right, dinner and a show!

  • 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.
  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @08:58AM (#15775385)

    unzip;strip;touch;finger;mount;fsck;more;yes;unm ount;sleep

    This should be:

    unzip && strip && touch && finger & mount && ( ( fsck && more && yes ) ; umount ) ; sleep

    When the next step depends on the success of the previous step, you must check the return value of that previous step. Otherwise your code will behave erraneously and possibly even make the end user switch providers.

  • 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?
  • 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 bshroyer ( 21524 ) <bret&bretshroyer,org> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @10:35AM (#15775933)
    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 Emirates) is exactly the same size as the US quarter dollar. However, it's worth 10% more than the US quarter, so this trick only works in automated grocers in Dubai. Good luck!
  • by cttforsale ( 803028 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @10:40AM (#15775968)
    I'm an asshole. I go through self checkout with a full cart of groceries. Mostly chips and pop and hogies. I like to spend 30+ minutes at the checkout having the cute self checkout runner come help with every second item that has a problem. They're way more talkative and friendly as I have found regular cahsiers too focused on their task. Sometimes, I miss the impulse items too, so half way through my cart, I'll walk over to the regular checkouts and browse what they have for me to purchase. I also like striking up the random conversation with the people in line behind me. I met this one lady and I know she likes me. She had a nervous, almost angry complexion to her. Maybe I'll see her next time! We're destined to be! There's nothing self about self checkout!
    I now have a social life.
    Signed, Slashdot dork
    Parent's Basement
  • by OakDragon ( 885217 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @11:07AM (#15776137) Journal
    You think that's bad? The other day I bought some skin moisturizer. I scanned it, and the machine said "Now it puts the lotion in the basket."
  • by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @09:45PM (#15781057)
    Hey! Be nice! :D
  • All of a sudden, the data mining that Walmart does turns up this:

    "There sure are a lot of people buying nothing but aluminum foil"

The moon may be smaller than Earth, but it's further away.