In theory, self-service check out machines are designed to make our lives easier, reduce lengthy queues and, ultimately, push a higher volume of customers and their laden trolleys through the supermarket using minimal staff.
But a marketing expert yesterday told ABC Radio most people would prefer to be served by a checkout person than operate a self-service checkout.
“Five out of six people would much rather be served by a human being than to actually administer their own automated checkout,” said Barry Urquhart. “The problem is that 40 to 60 per cent of checkouts are now automated”.
Mr Urquart says his research shows customers feel resentful about the situation, and that they are being forced to use the automatic machines despite their preference.
As more self-serve checkouts replace actual people, queues get longer meaning customers are still having to wait, then get no service at the end of the line.
“I think some stores are going to learn a basic lesson in customer relations. Technology should complement, not replace, people,” said Mr Urquhart.
According to the marketer most people are happy to choose the automated checkout when they have just a few items, but when it comes to the big shop, they want a smiling face. Or even a surly face, but a face nonetheless.
Of course, there are those who love self-serve as they don’t have to rely on a teenager to think through the allocation of items to bags (cold goes with cold, people) and can control the number of plastic bags used. And sometimes, you just don’t feel like talking to anyone.
One person who visits the supermarket four times a week told 720 ABC Perth: “I love automated supermarket tellers. I will go out of my way to go to a supermarket that has them, as it is so much quicker than lining up behind people with big trolleys.”
But one caller said she felt the supermarkets were engaging in “commercial bullying” by forcing people to use the automatic machines.
Let’s talk: which do you prefer? Automatic checkout machines or being served by a person, and why?