A major UK supermarket chain has bid adieu to self-service checkouts, replacing the automated kiosks with good old-fashioned human cashiers.
News of the retailer’s decision has now sparked a nationwide debate closer to home, with many Aussie shoppers wondering if they, too, will soon be waving goodbye to self-checkouts.
British supermarket chain Booths recently decided to pull the plug on self-service checkouts, citing customer demand as the reason for the change.
Booths’ managing director Nigel Murray told BBC Radio Lancashire that “our customers have told us this over time, that the self-scan machines that we’ve got in our stores they can be slow, they can be unreliable, they’re obviously impersonal.”
“We stock quite a lot of loose items – fruit and veg and bakery – and as soon as you go to a self-scan with those you’ve got to get a visual verification on them, and some customers don’t know one different apple versus another for example,” Murray said.
“We are a business that prides ourselves on the high standards and high levels of warm, personal care.
“We like to talk to people and we’re really proud that we’re moving largely to a place where our customers are served by people, by human beings, so rather than artificial intelligence, we’re going for actual intelligence.”
With the UK supermarket scene undergoing a checkout metamorphosis, Australians are left wondering whether their local grocery stores will follow suit.
Advocates of the change took to social media to argue that a return to human-operated checkouts will boost jobs and customer satisfaction.
— myworld (@Barbara37134341) November 10, 2023
Oh wow! Please follow other supermarkets!!
— Alan Small (@AlanSma63491732) November 11, 2023
Good… They do nothing but put people out of jobs.
— Lee Duffy (@Leeno382) November 11, 2023
Resisting AI takeover 😂😂 But also good to see human interaction 👍🏼
— Becky Green (@BecksGreeny) November 11, 2023
On the other hand, tech-savvy consumers expressed concerns about potential delays and longer queues.
Can’t think of anything worse 😅
— Matt (@hodsonated) November 11, 2023
A loss for introverts
— Max (@MaxiWestie) November 10, 2023
Silly move. Just need the correct number of both
— Comfortably Numb 💎 (@derfdj2) November 10, 2023
I prefer self check outs as I’m not into making small chat.
— McGill 🟧 (@mcgill1975) November 11, 2023
Back to queuing, then waiting for slow people to move 🙄
— Clive (@Clive1942502) November 11, 2023
Can’t wait to queue up behind trolley loads with one item to buy…
— Socrates (@469_socrates) November 10, 2023
While some may welcome the prospect of returning to the ways of old and doing away with self-service checkouts, Professor of marketing and consumer behaviour at the QUT Business School Gary Mortimer told The New Daily that he didn’t believe Australia’s major supermarkets would adopt a similar approach.
“There’s certainly some smaller grocers, in South Australia particularly, that don’t use self-service registers,” he said.
“When you are dealing with fast-moving consumable goods, when you’re dealing with thousands of customers every day, sometimes these types of technologies do expedite that service process.”
Only time will tell if Australian supermarkets will jump on the bandwagon and bid farewell to self-service checkouts. Until then, shoppers on both sides of the globe will be watching the checkout lanes with keen interest, wondering if the future holds a friendly cashier or a touchscreen kiosk.