July 19, 2011

Self-Checkout Luddites

Perspective on decision by Albertsons to go without self-checkout.

Self-Checkout Luddites Are Starting to Damage My Calm

Jack Loftus — Major grocery chains like Albertson's are eliminating self-checkout aisles at their various locations because management claims they're too impersonal. What a crock. That's a polite way of saying some people are simply ill-equipped to use them efficiently.

Having lived where I live for about six years now, I have never once interacted with a person at my local supermarket, which is a Shaw's. Why bother? I know where everything is, what my habits are, and that I want to get in there and out as quickly as possible.

Now, there is nothing even remotely remarkable about this Shaw's, save for the fact that, long ago, the management decided to install four self-checkout kiosks. For a guy like me, who enjoys shopping daily with what friends have told me is a snooty "European style" (i.e. just the items I need for dinner that night), these kiosks are just the thing I need to get in, check my items, pay, and get out fairly quickly. For the 15 Items of Less crowd, these breezy aisles are perfection (When I look at supermarket futurism porn it looks exactly like this subway station, if that helps clarify my thought food shopping thought process a bit more).

To be fair, these machines are imperfect. Sometimes the software crashes. Sometimes the software is slow, almost as if it, too, has been broken by the monotony of scanning some yuppie's Bon Apetite magazine-seasonally suggested kumquat for the umpteenth time. In this regard they are very much like their human being counterparts, so why complain about removing them, right?

Well, my natural inclination to be a snobby tech asshole aside (Biddle can relate, right?), these glitches are rare, and even with them the the kiosks will inevitably save the companies that employ them about "minimum wage/hour," don't get sick, don't get tired and don't complain. Most importantly, they save customers time. That is, they save time until some Luddite comes along and throws a wrench in the works.

Here's a brief list of the situations that I've seen during six years of extensive self-checkout usage and research in the field that have probably led to Albertson's pulling the plug:

Rest of Article -- Self-Checkout Luddites Are Starting to Damage My Calm

Posted by staff at July 19, 2011 07:26 AM