Automated Checkout

Danger

Kroger annoyed the crap out of me this morning. They’ve been doing it for years (and Home Depot and Publix have followed suit, too) by installing the convenient, time saving, handy-dandy self checkout machines.

This particular phenomenon is something billed as “for customer convenience” but I am personally convinced that if a survey were taken, the vast majority of persons would admit to hating them, or at least that the machines are never as convenient as they should be.

I avoid them if possible, but this morning it was not because there weren’t any lanes open that had people. However (thought I), it’s ok because I’ve just got a bag of coffee to purchase. I plunked it down on the scanner and prepared to purchase some bulk coffee beans.

“Remove item from scanner,” said the pleasant American female voice.

“Whuh?” Why do I want to do that? I just got here. If I am an edge case customer, I’ve got one item and I’m going to put it on the scanner, not the staging area, or whatever they call it. I poked a few buttons on the touchscreen to try and select coffee beans.

“Remove item from scanner,” said the annoying American female voice.

Fine. I removed it, touched the “select by image” button to find where the bulk coffee was hiding, and then put the coffee back on the scanner. I navigated through several menus looking for something that looked like coffee. Nothing.

Fuck it. I’ll search by name. I pushed the BACK button a couple times. One too many it turns out.

“Remove item from scanner,” said the voice which I was starting to hate.

Up goes the coffee; thud goes my finger on the touch screen, pushing “search by name”. Down goes the coffee as I type C-O-F-F-E-E into the touchscreen QWERTY layout. It serves me up with an image of “Deli Coffee”, which is a medium-sized disposable travel cup of coffee with a lid.

No, I’m not buying a cup of coffee, I’m buying beans. Where are the goddamn beans?

I go back and type in B-E-A-N-S. I get several images of beans, some of which are Green Beans or other type of bean that is obviously not made of coffee. There is however, a selection that looks just like roasted coffee beans. Plonk, goes the finger on the “BEANS, BLACK, BULK”.

At this point I almost decided to go ahead and purchase the BEANS, BLACK, BULK instead of coffee beans because their unit cost per pound is way less than coffee. However, I’m a good corporate American drone and instead I used my annoyed American male voice to demand of the automated checkout monitor dude that he “Please let me purchase this fucking coffee so I can get on with my life” (my exact words).

He did some magic mojo thing with his wireless keypad and poof, I was paying for coffee.

  • Question 1: Why was that so hard?
  • Question 2: Why doesn’t bulk coffee come up under a search for “Coffee”
  • Question 3: I hate the automated checkout devices

This system of providing a convenience to the customer has got to be counter productive. You want your customer to leave your store happy about their experience. If the last thing they do is have to struggle with your stupid touchscreen menus, or struggle with trying to get something to scan which is not a task they perform daily, unlike your checkout clerks who [gasp] do it all the time and are good at it, then they’re going to go home and write blog posts about how pissed off they are with Kroger.

And they might not go back to your store for more coffee.

The next time I’m in a situation like this, I’m going to pick the easy route and just pay for the BEANS, BLACK, BULK.

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2 Responses to Automated Checkout

  1. Kristin says:

    I don’t mind using the scanners, in fact I prefer to use them at Home Depot and BJs, provided that I’m only buying a few things, they have bar codes on them (not bulk items), and it’s not a heavy item. If I have a lot, have a bulk item, or a heavy item, it’s way too much of a hassle to use the automated machine, and I won’t do it.

  2. sharonopolis says:

    These things are not for the customer’s convenience; that’s just a post hoc rationale. I’m convinced they were installed to save on labor costs (they pay one person to monitor 4 lanes) and possibly even to bust unions (grocery checkout people had a strong union at one point, but the job description for watching these self serve lanes may get around having to pay union wages).

    In short, I do not like them and use a real person whenever possible.

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