Checking-Out

Our local Tesco had it easy for too long. Located on St John Street in Farringdon, it has lapped up all the custom in recent years being the only supermarket within a lunchbreak walkable distance. Now though they’ve got to up their game, a flash new Waitrose has opened right next door.

So what has their retaliation been? Not cheaper prices (as far as I can tell), not more staff, not even new produce to rival their neighbour. No, instead they’ve installed self-checkouts where perfectly good manned checkouts used to be.

Now whilst studying I spent a hellish few years working in my local supermarket (job title: barcode analyst) so I’m quite the expert when it comes to “checking out”. My fellow shoppers obviously did not carry out this rite of passage though as my queuing time has tripled.

It is understandable Tesco wanting to demonstrate progression but this particular addition seems rather odd. Very rarely is the average man-on-the-street going to be faster than the trained checkout staff.

The obvious answer for supermarkets doing this are to save on staff, but could there be a more web related answer? Are supermarkets taking advantage of the web-savviness of their average shopper? By replicating the experience of shopping (or just paying) online are we settling for a lesser service in place of a sense of control?

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